The Outsider Ch. 29bycaligula97236©
Chapter 29 -- June in Davenport
Parking Officer # 036's life at work returned to normal as soon as the summer semester started. There were not quite as many students crowding the campus during the summer, but there were more visitors, which meant meter payments continued unabated. Mike kept himself very busy, trying to keep up with the pace of meter collections, replacing defective meters, doing the paperwork needed for repairs, and issuing tickets to chase the freeloaders away from his source of income.
Once he moved off campus, Mike's illicit earnings became more important to him than ever, because there was no way he could have afforded his apartment on just his normal salary. Additionally, there were tuition, dentist bills, car maintenance, food, and trips with Ruthie. His lifestyle was not extravagant; to him his daily life seemed comparable to most of his classmates. However, very few of Mike's peers were able to live a "pay as you go" existence. Either they had to borrow, or they had to rely on their parents for spending money. Mike was one of the very few students who were able to pay for everything on their own, without going into debt.
Mike continued to change as the weeks passed and he continued to steal his daily bucket of coins. It was ironic that he was working very hard and became good at his job precisely because he was stealing. He never missed a day of work; no matter how sick he was, because the last thing he wanted was for someone else to touch "his" meters. Sometimes he worried about his boss deciding that maybe he should have some help. However, the manager was such a cheapskate that he was content to leave Officer # 036 working his shift alone, given that he seemed to have everything under control and there were no problems.
As much as he could, Mike stayed out of sight and never complained about anything. He was reserved around his co-workers, listening to gossip but never contributing anything to the rumor mill. Whenever he was with the other student employees, he was constantly on the lookout for signs that someone might suspect what he was doing. He was careful to monitor all radio traffic when making his rounds. As for the campus police, he viewed them as a threat. When he was around the campus cops he was nervous, but learned to hide it. He bought a pair of sunglasses to wear with his cap: having his eyes covered always helped him stay calm when around the cops.
Apart from constantly being on the lookout for any sign that he might get in trouble, Mike changed in another way. He had decided that he would stay with the Parking Department as long as he could. He would not worry about a TA position, or internships, or scholarships, or anything else related to his major. To hell with political science. That was a fool's major, guaranteed to force him into a life of poverty. He would continue with his studies, but only to maintain his status in the university so he could hold onto his job and continue raiding the meters.
Parking...that's where the money was, and where his future lay. Mike's experiences convinced him that the only way he could ever have wealth would be to take it from someone else. The days of a little honest hard work being sufficient to pay one's expenses had passed. He knew that because being honest had gotten his father nowhere. The US had become a zero-sum society that had "haves" and "have-nots". The "haves" were the people who learned how to exploit and extract money from the "have-nots". So...what was a good way to take money from other people? Parking. Having seen first-hand how lucrative parking was, he decided that he wanted a piece of that action. As Sam had said, it was "It's 'money for nothin' and your chicks for free.' You don't have to build anything, make anything, feed anyone, do nothing useful...just pave over some Mother Nature and start taking money."
As abruptly as he had reappeared in Ruthie's life, Jake Burns vanished again. Ruthie did not hear from him after telling him that she wanted to stay in California. It was possible that she had offended him but, knowing him, it was much more likely that his current girlfriend was the culprit. She suspected that his newest girlfriend was making demands on his time and money that he had not anticipated when he made the offer for his daughter to study in Lincoln. She suspected that his interest in her already was waning when they had their last phone conversation.
Ruthie had been badly hurt by her father six years before, so she did not trust him. She tried to figure out his "game" by discussing the situation with Dr. Hartman. The counselor heard her out; then made some observations that allowed Ruthie to assess Jake's behavior. She knew that her father was a very spontaneous person, which attracted a certain type of woman to him. That spontaneity made him "fun" to go out with, but it also made him unpredictable and caused him to be inconsiderate of his family, especially of his kids. He would see the newest "shiny object", whether that be a new woman or a new motorcycle, and chase it, not worrying about the needs of his family. Knowing that about him explained a lot, including the relationship he had with Ruthie's mother. It also explained what happened to Ruthie herself. Jake kicked her out because she was inconveniencing him. Ruthie felt bad for her half-brother because undoubtedly he would get the exact same treatment. It would suck to be that kid, thought Ruthie to herself, because neither Jake nor Debra really wanted him. Each had their newest partners and Jake Jr. had no place in either relationship. Ruthie realized that she was luckier than Jake Jr. When her father kicked her out, at least she did have a place to go and a parent who wanted her.
So...why, after six years, would Jake suddenly want Ruthie back in his life and pay several thousand dollars for her to stay in school? It seemed that for a few months he was sincere about wanting to get back together with her. Ruthie simply thought that he wanted her to become his house-keeper and babysitter. However, Hartman pointed out that his brief resurfacing fit the pattern of his personality. Yes, at the moment he was sincere about reconciling with Ruthie, because he was between relationships and had enough time to think about her. However, he did not anticipate that Ruthie at age 18 was not the same girl he had sent away at age 12. She was an adult with different needs and a life of her own, and thus more complicated to deal with than her father had expected. Jake did not like complicated situations. In the meantime he got more involved in his new girlfriend and eventually lost interest in his daughter.
Ruthie realized that it was very fortunate that she never seriously considered leaving California, because her life would have sucked had she gone to Nebraska. She would have given up her studies, her relationship with Mike, and the small freedoms that made her life somewhat bearable. She would have been forced to re-enter the grim existence that she endured over the six months that followed her grandmother's death, living in competition with the woman who shared her father's bed. It would have been life with Debra all over.
There were times that she hugged Mike and held onto him, not out of love but out of gratitude. It was only because of him that she had not been forced to return to that messy and unpleasant situation in Nebraska.
By the middle of the summer, Mike knew that there was not a chance Ruthie could afford to pay her tuition in the fall if she had any other expenses whatsoever. If she was going to stay enrolled in school, he would have to help her. He had no idea whether or not she would simply let him pay her tuition or "lend" her the money. If he had asked her directly, she probably would have reluctantly accepted, but such an arrangement would have made both of them very uncomfortable. He decided that the best way would be to help her indirectly, by giving her a free place to stay and paying for things such as food. That would give her the chance to save her paychecks and allow her to pay her fall tuition on her own account.
At the end of June, Ruthie nervously asked her boyfriend how much she owed for her portion of the rent. He replied that she owed nothing. He lied by telling her the rent was not any more than his dorm room and that he already had budgeted for the following year. Actually the rent was a lot more than his dorm room, but as long as he could continue raiding the meters on campus, he would have no problem paying it.
At the beginning Ruthie objected to not having to contribute to the rent, but Mike told her that if she kept up the place while he was gone and cooked for them, then they would be even. Mike paid for all the groceries as well, and for Internet service, and for Ruthie's text books. Freed from having any living expenses, yes, Ruthie would be able to afford tuition. She quietly deposited each week's salary to her bank account and calculated that she would have what she needed to pay for fall enrollment, given that she didn't have to pay for anything else. Being able to write her own tuition check gave Ruthie the illusion of being self-sufficient.
Ruthie was relieved that living with Mike did not mean that she was forced to have sex with him round-the-clock, as she had feared. He was no more demanding of sex than he had been in the dorm. It seemed that he needed to have an orgasm once every 48 hours. She liked the massages she shared with him and tolerated being entered. His muscular, sweaty body was a turn-off for her, but she kept that to herself.
About once every three weeks Mike spanked his girlfriend with the leather paddle. Being spanked was the one sexual activity she did very much enjoy; something that was guaranteed to arouse her. She liked the sharp sting of the leather, the intensifying heat on her bare bottom, and the fact the paddle never left any bruises that lasted more than a day or so. When she was being spanked Ruthie closed her eyes and was able to fantasize about submitting to Mrs. Peters or to Jen. She bit her lip and escaped into her own world as she endured the sharp smacks and hot sting coming from the leather.
Mike enjoyed spanking Ruthie, but he never approached her about it. She was the one who always told him that she wanted a spanking. There were a couple of times that she simply went into her dresser (actually it was a dresser from the Sinclairs' house) and took out the paddle. Then she handed it to him and waited for him to tell her to bend over his bed or a chair. There were other times she did do a minimal amount of play-acting, usually by pinching him or doing something to irritate him, and then smiling and asking him what he was going to do about it. When she became "naughty", Mike knew that she was asking him to spank her.
Ruthie resumed her counseling sessions with Dr. Hartman during the summer. According to the rules of the counseling office, Hartman should have concluded her sessions with Ruthie a long time ago. However, the girl's suicidal fantasies gave the counselor justification to grant several extensions. Hartman had a very bad scare the day that she diagnosed her client with non-verbal communication disorder. Ruthie openly admitted that the only reason she did not commit suicide was because she didn't have enough time to write a decent goodbye note to Mike. Her state of mind remained fragile and subject to outside events, none of which were going well for her. There was the ongoing issue of both her parents. There were the constant slights and frustrations she had to endure at her barista job. There was the reality that she had no friends and was totally dependent on Mike. Finally there was another difficult issue: her sexual orientation.
Hartman was not about to risk being too direct about Ruthie's sexual orientation, because she did not want to risk another suicide attempt. Instead, she took a more indirect approach by encouraging the student to talk about her sexual fantasies. Over time it was obvious that Ruthie's sexual fantasies focused exclusively on other women, never on men. It wasn't hard to figure out what that meant. However, Hartman understood that her client was in an impossible situation. The girl had failed to connect with anyone apart from her boyfriend, a boyfriend who clearly loved her and was the only person who cared about her. It was only by pure luck that she managed to connect with a person as caring as Mike. She just as easily could have ended up in another disastrous encounter like the one she had in high school.
Hartman's job included trying to help her clients find alternatives for their lives, but Ruthie Burns really didn't have any alternatives. She was in a stable situation for the time-being, so the counselor had no motivation to encourage her to attempt to develop other relationships at the expense of the only one that seemed to be working. Given her personality and her past experiences, there was no reason to expect that she would connect with anyone else, especially when she was having a bout of depression. Perhaps Hartman would have wanted her to not be so dependent on her boyfriend and, in an ideal world, seek out a partner who was more compatible with her sexuality. However, to hope for such a change would be unrealistic. Ruthie could not reach out to other potential partners because she was trapped inside her personality.
Ruthie talked at length about her boyfriend's father during her counseling sessions. Her pessimistic outlook on life made her certain that there was no hope that Mr. Sinclair's situation could possibly have a happy ending, an assessment to which Hartman agreed. That was another reason Hartman never brought up her thoughts that Ruthie should reconsider her relationship with her boyfriend, because undoubtedly Mike would face a severe crisis of his own the moment his father's house was foreclosed upon. When Hartman asked Ruthie what she thought was likely to happen when the notice was served, with no hesitation she responded:
"I think Mr. Sinclair's gonna kill himself."
The conversation shifted towards Mike and how Ruthie thought he would react. Ruthie gave an assessment that very much impressed the counselor. She explained that Mike was too close to his father to see to what extent he had given up hope of ever having a useful life. Other people might have been able to adjust, but not Mike's dad, because his entire identity was wrapped up in the lost family business. Mike didn't really comprehend what that year of unemployment did to his father. That desperate and frustrating year of job-hunting was topped off with the humiliation of working at a Fast-Mart under a Pakistani immigrant, for only a fraction of what he had been earning before Sinclair Pharmacy closed. It wasn't just the debt or the loss of his business or even the loss of his marriage that had taken the life out of Mr. Sinclair. His entire world had disappeared, leaving him with no hope for the future. Ruthie concluded:
"I never had anything, except my grandma, and that was a long time ago. So even if my life sucks, it's not any worse than what I've always been used to. But Mr. Sinclair did have a decent life, and it's gone, and he's never gonna be good for anything again, and he knows it. Maybe my life sucks, but his REALLY sucks, and...I really don't think Mike gets it...and I don't know how to tell him what's going on, 'cause he gets pissed at me...and I can understand where he's coming from, 'cause it sucks to see something like that happening to your dad and know you can't do anything about it."
"Have you thought about what you'd do if Mr. Sinclair does do something drastic?"
"Be there for Mike. Listen to him. Maybe try to get him to calm down. He's done it enough times for me...so...I guess...I'd try to pay him back...I guess that'd be what I'd try to do for him. What else would there be for me to do?"