Chapter 1

Caution: This Fantasy Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Ma/Ma, Consensual, Romantic, Magic, BiSexual, Heterosexual, Science Fiction, Group Sex, Interracial, Safe Sex, Slow, School, .

Desc: Fantasy Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Ed Biggers, bully and cowboy, meets John Carter and changes into a much better man. This is a story about becoming the best person that you can be.

... come forth to define himself as a man, yet he knows not what it means to be a man.

What he knows is useless. Big boys don't cry. Big boys don't sit around dreaming nonsense. A man is strong and does not allow others to push him around. A man will fight for what is his. A man does what he must. Add those trivial statements together and you get nothing useful for defining yourself as a man.

Is a man defined by the cock between his legs? He does not know, but does not believe so. He works to mold himself into the image of his father, big, strong, callous, and loud. That is his only model on which to base his idea of a man. Yet the father defined himself in the same fashion, following in the footsteps of his father. Generations of men, none of whom knew what it meant to be a man. Unless he learns, generations of men to follow will not know what it means to be a man.

Ed watched as a man pulled up to the house across the street in a jeep. Hoping this guy was better than the wimp that lived there before, he watched as two trips were all that were required to unpack the jeep. A backpack, a bag of groceries, a walking stick, a couple of lawn chairs, and a computer were all that the new neighbor had with him. Talking to himself, he said, "He travels light."

For days, he checked the house across the street. He was waiting to see the moving van arrive, but the only thing that arrived was a beat up truck carrying a used desk in the back. Manuel and his son unloaded the desk and carried it into the house.

The stranger had gone into the house and remained inside. It bothered Ed more than he could express in words. In his mind, the stranger should have come out and established himself as a presence in the neighborhood. This kind of behavior suggested his neighbor was just another wimp. Of course, Ed enjoyed teaching wimps what a real man was like, maybe this wouldn't be so bad.

Maria, the neighbor across the way, came out to watch her son play soccer in the front yard. Ed, not yet ready to go down to the bar, picked up a beer and went across the street to talk to her. Stepping across the road, he shouted, "Hello, Maria."

Looking at him with dread, Maria answered, "Hello, Ed."

Taking a big sip of the beer from the bottle, he asked, "So what about the new neighbor?"

Maria shrugged and answered, "I don't know. I see him sitting out back on a lawn chair occasionally. Keeps to himself."

Ed shook his head in derision. Finally, he said, "It just isn't right."

Pleased to have a quiet neighbor, Maria wasn't about to complain. She had hoped that Ed would have moved out rather than the previous occupant of the house next door. Ed was a loud braggart that chased off every nice person in the area. She shrugged and said, "It's the quiet ones that will surprise you."

Ed took another sip of his beer and looked over at the house in time to see the man exit from it. The man, using a walking stick, strolled slowly down the street, greeting the other neighbors as he went. Getting a better view of the guy reinforced his judgement that the man as a wimp. He said, "He looks like a hippie with that long hair and beard."

Maria watched Ed as he stared at the man walking down the street. She cringed when he took a last sip of his beer and followed the guy down the street with his typical swagger With a negligent gesture, he threw the empty beer bottle in the front yard of the house next door. As she picked up the bottle, she muttered, "One day that man is going to meet his match."

Ed entered the bar and saw his new neighbor sit down at the counter. Stepping behind him, he put a hand on the man's shoulder. Much to his surprise, the man didn't cringe, but turned to look at him with a steadiness that was most unexpected. Ed said, "Howdy neighbor."

The stranger replied, "Hello."

"You moved in across the street from my place," said Ed, irritated that the man didn't know this fact. He felt like this was supposed to be something that the other guy should already know.

"Oh. Let me introduce myself. I'm John Carter." John extended his hand.

Ed grabbed the hand and squeezed as hard as he could. John just squeezed back. Ed said, "I'm Ed Biggers."

"Nice to meet you Ed."

"Nice to finally meet you. Let me buy you a drink," replied Ed. It was time to get a measure of the man. He offered the drink as a challenge to see what the man would order.

"That would be very nice of you. I'll have a coke."

Ed stared at John, fully expecting him to order a beer at least. He asked, "Coke? What are you? Are you some kind of wimp?"

"No. I just don't drink alcohol," replied John.

There was a sternness in his voice that Ed found unsettling. It made him wonder if he was going to have to beat the guy and pour the drink into him. Deciding it was time to put the man in his place, Ed shouted out to the bar, "Hey, folks. We got us a wimp. He doesn't drink like a real man. He doesn't even drink a woman's drink. He actually wants a coke without the rum!"

Ed knew he had scored a point over the man when the majority of people in the bar burst out laughing at the announcement. Turning to Shirley, he said, "Hey Shirley, set us up with a couple of whiskeys with beer chasers."

"Don't forget my coke. Plain with no rum."

Shirley set a whiskey with a beer in front of Ed and a plain coke in front of John. Angered, Ed looked at Shirley feeling like she was undermining his efforts to put this guy in his place. He told her, "I said a couple. I'm buying the wimp here a man's drink."

Shirley shot back, "Ed, don't do this."

Ed repeated himself, "I said a couple. Now hop to it little lady before I loose my temper."

She relented and set the drinks in front of John. John picked up the shot glass with the whiskey in it. He sniffed it, nodded, and then set it down. With a smile on his face, John calmly stated, "I heard that some men drink in the hope that it will make their pecker bigger. I don't know if that's your reason for drinking. Since I'm already hung like a horse, I don't drink in the hope that it will shrink down to the size a woman can handle."

Furious at the implication that he had a small cock, Ed glared at John. This was a very real challenge and he was going to put that hippie in his place. Cocking his arm back, he was shocked when his balls suddenly felt like they were in an iron gripe. As he bent over, paralyzed in pain, he saw that the man had hold of his balls. Slowly, he collapsed to the floor as the desire to vomit washed over him.

He never realized when John left, all that he knew was the pain in his balls was slowly disappearing. With great effort, he stood up and leaned on the bar. Taking a couple of deep breaths, he picked up the shot of whiskey and shot it back. He followed that with the second shot and then both beers. The look Shirley gave him only angered him. He spat out, "Don't say a word."

As he opened the door to leave, a number of people laughed. Glaring, he turned and looked over the room seeking the source of the laughter. The room got very quiet as no one wanted to become his next target. A very angry Ed left the bar and made his way home, swearing the whole trip that he would get revenge.

Ed woke the next morning feeling like hell from drinking too much the night before. Leaving the bedroom in his boxers, he glanced out the window at the house across the street and said, "You'll pay for that, you bastard."

Scratching his stomach, he entered the kitchen to grab a beer. After opening it, he took a sip from the bottle. The pounding in his head slowly eased and he returned to the bedroom. He slowly dressed, taking a sip of the beer between each item of clothes. As he was putting on his boots, he heard terrified screams coming from outside. Grimacing at the noise, he decided to check it out as he swore to himself, "Damn kids."

Walking out of the house, it was impossible to miss Maria's kid screaming. Heading in his direction, Ed stopped when he saw hundreds of rattlesnakes on the ground. Heart thumping, he stared at them in fear. He looked up in time to see John walk in amongst the snakes calmly and deliberately. The desire to shout out a warning died on his lips as snake after snake struck the man. Amazed at what he was seeing, he looked at John, noticing for the first time the huge red scar that ran down his back and the scars on his legs. This was the bravest thing that he had ever seen in his life.

He came out of his trace when John set the boy down next to Maria and turned to him saying, "Ed, would you please drive me to the hospital?"

The effect of those words staggered him as hard as a solid blow to the chin. This was the guy that he had tried to fight the night before and now he was trusting him to take him to the hospital. As he turned to get his truck, he shouted, "Sure, I'll get my truck."

Running back to his house, he realized that this guy was probably going to die before they got to the hospital. He fished in his pockets for his keys as he ran. Jumping in the truck, he started the engine and pulled out of the driveway. He opened the passenger- side door once he reached the entry to Maria's front yard. Hobbling, John slowly made his way to the truck.

Ed looked at all of the bites on John's legs. There was no way this guy could survive so many bites, but he sat there calmly in the truck. The ropes tied above and below the bites caused the section of the leg between the knots to swell. It was hard driving while watching the man, seated next to him, cut himself with the knife. The wounds oozed yellow and red. The yellow was the venom.

When John wrapped the rope about his legs to force the poisons out of the cuts, Ed nearly swerved off the road. John didn't even flinch at what appeared to be a very painful procedure. Awed by what he was seeing, Ed said, "You're the bravest man I've ever seen. I know, I've seen quite few when I was in the army."

"That's nice of you to say. I feel more stupid than brave. I could have done this without a single bite, but I left my walking stick in the house."

Ed pressed the accelerator down a little more. The truck edged up to eighty miles an hour. Ed drove silently for a minute as he thought about how he had treated John the night before and then said, "I'm sorry about last night."

"Same here. I hope that we can become good friends." John was silent for a minute. Ed took his silence as a sign that he didn't really accept the apology. It was with relief that he heard John asked, "Can I ask you to do a favor?"

"Sure."

"Don't tell anyone what you see or hear in the hospital."

Wondering what he would hear, he answered, "Is that it? No problem, I won't say a word about it. Let's just hope the hospital is just as quiet about it."

John laughed and then said, "I've dealt with hospitals before. They are usually pretty good when they know that you desire a little privacy about such things."

When they reached the hospital, Ed stopped the truck right in front of the emergency entrance. After John stepped out and was in the care of a nurse, Ed parked the truck in the visitors section of the parking lot. He made his way to the emergency room trying to figure out what kind of guy he had just driven here.

Ed arrived just in time to follow John into the examination area. The doctor closed the curtain leaving John, Ed, herself, and the nurse crowded together in close quarters. Ed watched as the woman doctor examined the cuts on John's legs. She smiled and nodded, "Good job. It looks like you cut in the direction of the fangs and deep enough to get to where the toxin was deposited. Single cuts rather than X cuts. You did a very good job. Of course, I expected that of you after reading your record."

"Thanks."

She examined the tourniquet trying to place where she had seen that before. It took her a minute to remember a story about the Chinese miners working on the railroad and looked up surprised, "Chinese rope?"

"Yes."

"I doubt you really need the anti-toxin, but with that number of bites it's better to be safe than sorry."

Ed watched the exchange fascinated by the calm manner in which they discussed the treatment John had given himself. While he had worried about John dying before getting to the hospital, the doctor was doubting the need for the anti-toxin. He stared at John, disbelieving what he was hearing.

She reached behind her and removed a syringe from a tray carried by the nurse in the examination area. She injected John without major comment or warning. John asked, "Aren't you supposed to warn me that this is going to sting a little?"

"You've had more than enough of these to know what is going on!"

"True. I was just wondering if you had failed bedside manner in medical school."

Ed laughed at the joke, perhaps a little harder than appropriate, but he was still overwhelmed by all that he had seen. Nonplussed, the doctor stood there for a moment and consulted the folder containing his medical records. She asked, "Would you mind standing up for a minute and allowing me to examine you?"

"No problem."

"Could you please drop your towel so I can see all of you."

"No problem." Dropping the towel, John stood there completely naked. The only thing left was a medallion hanging around his neck. Sitting slightly off to the side, Ed realized there were scars he hadn't seen before. He caught himself looking at the guys cock and felt a little embarrassed at examining another man's body.

The doctor proceeded to point out scars and recite the situations in which they were created. As she recited each situation, she paused for an acknowledging nod from John. Ed stared wide-eyed as he heard the causes of each scar. That horrible scar and burn had been the result of running twice into a burning building to rescue two kids. He had died as a result of the gunshot taken while protecting a total stranger.

Ed's attention returned to the conversation when he heard John say, "Darn, I was hoping for that. The least you could do for me is dress up in a sexy doctor outfit."

The nurse started laughing so hard that tears were coming from her eyes. Ed didn't understand what was so funny. The doctor explained, "Some people here think I'm an ice bitch."

John looked at her very seriously and shook his head. He said, "No, I don't think so. You aren't an ice bitch. You are a consummate professional at work. At home, I bet you are a very focused and considerate lover. I would bet that you are a natural submissive."

Ed looked at her speculatively for a moment and then discounted the possibility that a doctor would be interested in an old cowboy like himself. She was an attractive woman and any man would be happy to have a woman that looked like her.

Ed perked up when John asked, "Will I be confined to bed?"

"Only if you start to feel sick. Why?"

"Well, I was wondering if there were any kids in here that might appreciate having a story read to them," explained John. He looked over at the doctor in hope that he would be able to do that.

Ed couldn't believe what he was hearing. This guy was hurt, yet he was still thinking of others. How could he ever have believed this guy was a wimp? Ed knew that if he were in that position, he'd be bragging about how brave he had been and how much pain he had to endure. To quietly ask if he could read stories to kids was incredible.

John, in response to the permission granted by the doctor, laughed. "Great. I'll need a hospital gown and robe. I would hate to have to walk around like this or in my towel."

The nurse reached around and handed him the requested items. As John put them on, the doctor asked, "So how did you get so many bites?"

"A child found himself in a little difficulty. I did what little I could."

A child found himself in a little difficulty? That was a lame description of what had actually happened. Ed felt like he had to clarify things a bit. He said, "Bullshit. This kid had walked into an area of rattlesnakes sunning themselves. There must have been a hundred of them. He was terrified and screaming. John came running out the house just dressed in that towel. Then he just walked in as calmly as can be, picked the kid up, and walked back out. You'd have thought he was just taking a stroll through a park. Bravest damn thing I've ever seen. Everyone else, myself included, was just standing there too afraid to move."

The doctor wrote that down into the medical record. She nodded at Ed and replied, "Sounds like John according to what I've read in here about him."

Turning to John, Ed felt like he had to apologize once again. He said, "I have to apologize for last night. I hope you can forgive me. I'll buy you a coke anytime you want."

This was the second time that Ed had apologized to him. John smiled and extended his hand in a warm handshake. He said, "I'll be proud to call you a friend."

The doctor looked up at Ed. She asked, "what was that about?"

Ed looked up at the ceiling for a minute and then replied, "I met him the first time last night and offered to buy him a drink. When he requested a coke, I'm afraid that I didn't react very nicely. I called him a wimp. When he made a smart-ass comment, I lost my temper and went to hit him. Let's just say, he won quite handily. I'll admit I was trying to think of some way of getting back at him, but damn he's no wimp. He's a better man than I am. I was a real jerk last night and I'm man enough to admit it."

The nurse looked at Ed with more than a little interest. She had never heard a man give such an honest appraisal about himself in public like this. It turned her on and she moved a little closer to Ed so that her hip touched his.

Ed had never felt so uncomfortable in front of others and decided it was time for him to get out of there. Turning to John, he said, "Look, you're gonna be in here until tomorrow morning. I'll head out now and be back to pick you up in the morning. If you don't mind, I'll pick up some clothes for you to wear home."

"Thanks, I'd appreciate that. My clothes are in the backpack. You can't miss it."

The nurse led Ed out of the examination area. Once out of hearing of the others, she said, "I'm Kelly. I have to tell you that no man has ever impressed me as much as you."

Shocked, Ed looked down at her and asked, "What?"

Smiling at this handsome man, Kelly said, "You're so honest. I've never met a man that would admit so honestly that he had done something wrong. Don't tell anyone, but that turns me on."

He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Never had a woman that was so beautiful ever said anything like that to him. Swallowing with difficulty, Ed said, "Look. I've got to be honest with you. I've always been a bully and until today I had no idea what a real man was like. John in there is a real man."

Licking her lips, Kelly walked out of the hospital beside Ed. As they approached his truck, she summoned her courage and said, "I have to tell you something and you might freak. I want to have two husbands and a wife. Today I realized that I want Dr. Hayes as my wife. If it doesn't bother you that I'm interested in that, I'd like to see you again."

Ed stood there for a minute considering what she had just said. The idea of having two wives wasn't that bad. He wondered what it would be like to have a husband, but set aside the idea for later thought. For now, he was interested in knowing this spunky lady a little better. With a shaky voice, he replied, "I'd like that. Would Friday night be okay?"

Looking through her purse for something to write on, she said, "I'll give you my number. Call me and I'll give you directions to my apartment."

He watched as she wrote down her name and number. Realizing that he had never told her his name, he said, "My name is Ed Biggers."

She slipped a piece of paper in his hand as she hugged him. Stepping back, she winked and said, "Call me, Ed Biggers."

Watching her walk back to the hospital, Ed stood there for several minutes thinking about the events of the morning. He slowly got into the truck and drove away from the hospital. Normally, he would have sped home, but this time he drove at a leisurely pace thinking furiously. He had never met anyone as brave as John. The guy was a hero and yet didn't boast or brag at all. His whole concept of manliness was turned upside down.

Reaching home, he parked the truck. There was the knife in the front seat that John had used to cut open his wounds. He didn't know who the knife belonged to, but thought that Maria would know. Picking up the knife, he headed over to Maria's house to check on Juan. As he walked up to the front door, he realized that he had never called upon her before. Rapping on the door sharply, he waited for Maria to answer. He wasn't sure what to say to her.

Maria opened the door and looked startled to see Ed standing there. She said, "Hello, Ed."

"Hello, Maria. How's Juan?"

Surprised that Ed even knew the name of her son, she replied, "He's fine. How is the guy next door?"

Ed answered, "John is doing very well. They wanted to watch him overnight so I'll pick him up from the hospital tomorrow morning."

Not entirely trusting Ed, Maria didn't like the idea of him going to pick him up. She said, "I can get him tomorrow."

Looking off to the horizon, Ed answered, "No. I'll do that."

With increasing nervousness, Maria said, "I heard that you had a fight with him last night."

Laughing, Ed answered, "Yes, I did. He won it quite easily. Don't worry about me taking revenge on him. He's a far better man than I."

Maria looked at Ed, puzzled by his statement. She had never heard Ed say anything nice about anyone in her life. She shifted nervously and said, "Oh."

Ed held up the knife, only then realizing that it was still bloody. He asked, "Do you know who this belongs to? John was using it to cut the bites to remove the poison."

Making a cross, Maria looked at the knife and the blood on it. She answered, "It belongs to Jorge. I'll take it to him."

Ed handed the knife to her, handle first. With a hesitance that was rooted in not trusting him and not wanting to touch the bloody knife, there was an uncomfortable delay before she took it from him. Turning to leave, he stopped and said, "Do you know that he's reading stories to the kids in the hospital right now?"

"Who? Jorge?"

Realizing that he hadn't been very specific about who was doing the reading, he clarified it by saying, "No. John. I drove him there terrified that he was going to die. He gets there and right after that he's reading to the kids. Can you imagine that?"

Watching Ed carefully, Maria was unable to hide her confusion concerning his behavior. Ed didn't seem to notice and just walked off to the house next door. The front door was still wide open. In this town, that wasn't a problem unless a snake crawled into the house. Crime was almost unheard of around here. Everyone knew everyone and everything that went on in town.

The water was still running in the shower. He went in and shut off the water. The quiet in the house seemed unnatural. It took him several minutes to realize that there wasn't the normal hum of an air conditioner running in the background. He stepped into the bare living room. He went into a bedroom expecting to find John's stuff in there. The bedrooms were empty. He went into the dining room, finding the desk with the computer on it. The sleeping bag and back pack were on the floor next to the desk. Speaking out loud to himself, he said, "This guy must be poor as dirt."

He knelt over the backpack and pulled out a fresh change of clothes. When he reached for the underwear, he felt a little weird about it. As he headed towards the door, he realized that he had forgotten to get some shoes for the guy to wear. He stopped and looked around some more before he spotted the hiking boots next to the desk. When he went to the desk, he looked at the papers spread across it. He couldn't even read the titles on some of the papers and said, "Shit, this guy must be smart as hell."

He grabbed the boots and headed out of the house. When he entered his house, he opened the refrigerator and pulled out a beer. As he twisted the top off it, he realized what he was doing. Looking at the clock, he swore, "It's not even eleven in the morning and I'm drinking my second beer of the day. What is wrong with me?"

He poured the beer out of the bottle and looked around for something else to drink. There wasn't anything else to drink in the entire house except for the water from the tap. Letting the tap run for a minute, he filled a glass with the clear liquid and drank it down. It wasn't as bad as he remembered it, but he'd get tired of drinking in soon. He settled in a chair and called his boss.

His boss answered the phone, "Livestock Auctions."

Ed replied, "Hello, Nevada. This is Ed."

His boss answered, "Oh, Ed. I heard about this morning. You done at the hospital?"

"Yes, sir." It didn't take long for news about an event like this morning to spread out over the whole county. That was one aspect of living in the country that most city folk didn't realize.

There was a moment of silence. Nevada asked, "Anything wrong?"

"No, sir," replied Ed. He looked out the window at the house across the street. The guy that lived there surely knew something that he didn't.

"We've got an auction tonight. You'll be here to help with the cattle, won't you."

Distracted, Ed answered, "I'm leaving for there now."

The drive to work passed quickly. He made his normal stop to pick up something to drink and left after purchasing a six pack of soft drinks. A look of disbelief spread across the face of the clerk as he rang up the purchase. He had never seen Ed buy anything except beer.

Ed pulled into the auction yard and parked his truck in his normal spot. Going over to the corral, he caught his horse and saddled it. Settling into the saddle, he went to work pushing cows around the lot. The work was easy and he went through the motions automatically. Nevada had to call him twice to get his attention. Riding the horse over to where his boss stood next to his pickup truck, he asked, "Nevada, what can I do for you?"

Nevada looked around the lot, noticing the amount of work Ed had already done. He replied, "I didn't hear you come in."

Ed reached into the truck and pulled out a Coke out of his foam cooler. Worked the tab to open the can, he took a sip as Nevada stared in disbelief. Ed said, "Oh, I've been here for a while. What's up?"

"Are you feeling okay?"

Ed climbed off his horse and tied it to the fence post as he answered, "I'm feeling fine."

Nevada looked at Ed for a minute without saying a word. His eyes flicked to the can of soda and then at Ed. This was the first time since Ed had started working here that he hadn't come screeching into the lot with tires spinning. He had never seen Ed drink a can of soda. Even on the day that Ed had interviewed, he hadn't been half as respectful as he was today. He said, "I'll take your word for it. How long will it take you to finish up cutting the cattle into the pens?"

Looking over the yard, Ed answered, "About an hour, maybe less."

"You sure?"

Nodding to indicate his confidence, Ed answered, "Yes, sir."

Nevada said, "When you get done, you might as well get some food in you. We have a lot of work to do tonight."

"Sure thing," replied Ed as he mounted up. Turning his horse, he went back to work. Nevada watched as Ed deftly cut out four head of cattle and drove them into a holding pen. There were times when he had wanted to fire Ed so much that he could taste it. The problem was that Ed was the most reliable of the men that worked for him. It was a fact that Ed angered everyone at the lot, but he did show up. Shaking his head, Nevada went back into the office to prepare the papers for the auction.

It was about an hour later that Ed filled the last pen. He rode his horse over the to corral and took the time to unsaddle it and brush it down. Putting out some feed for the horse, he went over to his truck. He opened another Coke and drank it down. It tasted a lot different than beer, but it wasn't half bad despite the fact that it was too sweet.

Driving off to a diner of a truck stop down the way, Ed took his time getting there. Entering the diner, he seated himself at a table near the back. The waitress was rather surprised since Ed usually sat at the counter and flirted outrageously with the waitresses. Most of them detested the man since he was a small tipper and never said anything halfway nice other than to comment on how much they would enjoy going to bed with him. The waitress asked, "What will it be today?"

Ed looked up at her and answered, "I'll have the stew tonight and a glass of iced tea."

Raising an eyebrow, she asked, "Sweet or unsweet?"

"Sweet, please," replied Ed.

Standing there, the waitress waited for his normal come on line. When he didn't say anything, she went off to submit his order. She decided that he must be feeling ill today. Turning to the other waitresses, she shrugged her shoulders and made a face that conveyed her surprise at his behavior.

Ed turned and looked outside lost in thought. John walked through a hundred snakes for a kid he didn't even know. That was a brave enough, but then he heard all about the other things the guy had done. It was impossible that anyone could be so brave that he would regularly risk his life for total strangers, but he had seen the evidence.

The waitress set a glass of iced tea in front of him. He glanced over at her and said, "Thank you."

She stared at him for a minute and then went back to her station. The other waitresses joined her there and talked among themselves. When the stew was ready, one of the other waitresses carried it to the table. She set it in front of Ed and waited for a comment. Ed looked at the stew and said, "Looks good. Thank you."

After unwrapping the silverware, he started eating the stew. Taking a sip of the iced tea, he noticed that the waitress was still standing there. He asked, "Is everything okay?"

Frowning, she asked, "Are you feeling alright?"

Leaning back in his seat, Ed was quiet for a moment. It seemed like everyone that he knew was asking him that question today. He nodded and replied, "Yes, I'm fine. Thank you for your concern."

The waitress shook her head and left the table. Returning to the stew, Ed ate it savoring the flavor. This was the first time in years he had eaten anything without the taste of beer in his mouth. Shaking his head, he wondered what had happened to him this morning. He took another sip of the iced tea. Lost in thought, he didn't notice when they refilled the glass. He did overhear a waitress remark to another, "He might be acting nice, but he still doesn't know how to tip."

That comment made him consider how he treated people. Back in the hospital, John had been kind and considerate of everyone. He looked around watching how the other people in the restaurant treated the waitresses. When the table next to his left the restaurant, he saw that they had left a tip of several dollars. Watching the waitress pick up the tip, he noticed the smile on her face.

He left a two dollar tip on a six dollar tab and returned to work. The evening passed quickly as he herded cattle into the bidding pen and then returned them to the holding pen. Tomorrow, people would come around and collect their purchases. It would be a long day without much real work.

That evening he returned home and after sitting in the house alone for an hour, he realized that he didn't have much of a life outside of drinking. He headed down to the bar where, he sat in the corner drinking a Coke and watching what people were doing.

Shirley came over to the table when he had finished his Coke. Afraid that she was going to get stiffed for the drinks last night, she said, "You owe me six bucks for the drinks last night."

Looking up at her, he realized that she looked a little frightened of him. He sighed and took a sip of his Coke as he wondered how many people were afraid of him. Being completely sober, he realized that he was seeing the world in a brutally honest fashion tonight. He pulled out a ten and handed it to her. He said, "This should cover it and the coke tonight. I also owe you an apology for the trouble I caused. I am sorry."

Shirley didn't know what to say. When he stood to leave, she watched him with confusion and then looked around the room wondering if she was the only one that had heard him apologize. Everyone else was busy talking with each other and no one else had noticed. As he headed to the door, she called out, "Let me get you your change."

He smiled as he thought about the lesson learned in the diner and answered, "Keep it."

Shirley looked at the ten dollar bill, realizing that Ed had just left her a three dollar tip. He had never left more than a quarter. When she looked up again, he was gone.

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