Chapter 1: Ginny
A few weeks before the end of my second year of college, I decided to take two courses during the summer. Before enrolling, I sought my grandfather's approval.
"When will you study?" he wanted to know, like he really cared.
"I'll study history from eight-thirty until midnight, five nights per week, Sunday through Thursday. That will leave Saturday morning and all day on Sunday to read the novel assignments."
"Just so you know there's no studying while you're selling cars," he warned.
"I know, Grandpa." How well I knew his rule! It had been drummed in to me since I was sixteen, my first year as gas pump attendant, the second year doing auto maintenance, and after he found that I had no aptitude for repairing cars, he moved me into sales, where, after a rocky start, I'd shown some promise.
"Are you going to have time for that young lady?"
It wasn't like him to show interest in my social life. He knew that Edie and I had been together nearly three years, since she was a high school sophomore and I was a senior, but he'd never acted as though he cared if I had time for her. Edie had taken a job in the movie theatre. She would let me in free at eight-thirty on Friday and Saturday nights. I'd watch the end of the movie, and then we'd go parking. She'd be going to my college next year, and we'd see more of each other, but for now, sucking face for an hour and a half was the extent of our relationship. She'd promised that when she became eighteen, we'd do more.
"Yes Sir. I'll be seeing her on Friday and Saturday nights," I said, wondering if he could detect that I was not being totally truthful.
What had happened to reduce my nights with Edie, and to ultimately cause our breakup was partially his fault. We were locking the sales office that Friday night when he asked me to drop off some paperwork at the bookkeeper's house. Vera worked part time, mainly at home, and we only saw her when she dropped by to go over the statements with my grandfather. I rushed to her house, thinking that I would deliver the paperwork and still make it to the movie theatre by eight-thirty.
"Edna?" I asked, like I didn't recognize Vera's daughter. I'd always been intrigued by the sexy way she dressed, and the rumors that followed her around like she had a sign on her back. Everyone knew that she'd dropped out of school a few months before graduation. She'd gone away, and I didn't know that she'd returned to Spencer.
"Hi, Randy, my mom's not here. Do you want to come in and wait for her?"
All my grandfather had said was for me to drop off the paperwork. I had no reason to see Vera. "Okay," I said, as I stepped into the house.
Edna was wearing a robe, and her hair was in curlers. The television was on.
"Have a seat. I'm watching a movie," she said, directing me to the couch. I sat at one end, and she sat at the other.
I saw immediately that the movie was a horror film, something I would not watch if I had a choice. I picked out the villain, determined the plot, and looked over at Edna. She was totally absorbed by the action on the screen ... until we heard a baby cry.
Edna showed a look of irritation as she jumped up, and left the room. I concentrated on the movie, making minor adjustments to the plot I'd outlined in my mind. There was the hint of a new twist.
Edna came back, plopped down on the couch next to me, and asked what had happened. I told her that the mother-in-law suspected her daughter's husband, but he wasn't the villain.
"You've seen it before," she said, accusingly.
I was about to deny that I'd seen the movie before when she kissed me. It wasn't a friendly, welcome-me-back-to-Spencer kiss either. It was a let's-get-acquainted kiss. I put my arm around her and kissed back.
I was near the end of my second year of college, and I could count the girls I'd kissed on one hand, including Edie, who was the only one I kissed for the last two and a half years ... until now.
Edna turned her attention to the television when a female's piercing scream bounced off the couch. I could have told her that the scream had nothing to do with the plot, but Edna was already maneuvering my body on top of hers, the scream forgotten.
I eased my hand under her robe, and felt the soft surface of her breast against the thin nightgown. Edna moaned, and thrust her pelvis in the direction of my erection. Only the crotch of her panties, my pants and briefs prevented a direct hit. I ground my cock against her crotch, feeling pre-cum collect on the head.
She broke the kiss. Was it over? Did she hear her mother coming home? Did something happen on the television screen to draw her attention?
"You got a rubber, Hon?"
"Ah ... no," I answered, hoping my voice did not betray my lack of experience.
"Let me up. I'll get one from my mom's room," she said, pushing me away. I moved quickly, happy to oblige. She ran from the room, and was back in seconds to find me standing next to the couch, dazed by what was happening.
That first time with Edna, my first time with any woman for that matter, plays in my mind, like film clips in slow motion. Me dropping my pants and shorts, her flopping onto her back, me fumbling with the condom package, her pulling her panties down, me rolling the condom onto my cock, her raising her short nightgown to reveal her pussy, me getting onto the couch, her spreading her legs, me crawling up, her glancing at the television screen, me pointing my cock at her opening, her displaying urgency as she guided my cock to her entrance, me expressing dismay, her wrapping her legs around my ass and pulling me into her, me relishing the feel, her meeting my thrusts, me realizing that I was actually fucking a woman, her urging me to fuck her harder, me shooting my sperm into the condom, her pounding her fists on my back, screaming, "Don't Stop!"
I used my elbows to support my upper body to keep from crushing her. We were both breathing hard. I apologized for coming prematurely. She said it was okay, that she'd had a couple of little ones when I first entered her. I offered to do it again, declaring that I would last longer. She thanked me for the offer, but said her mother would know if we 'borrowed' a second condom.
She took the used condom to flush it down the toilet. When she returned, I had my belt buckled. She stepped into her panties, and took a seat at one end of the couch.
I didn't know what to do. Should I kiss her goodnight? Should I explain that my girlfriend would be wondering why I hadn't shown up at my usual time? Should I thank her for letting me fuck her?
I mumbled something about leaving the paperwork for her mother, and headed toward the door. Edna smiled and waved at me as she turned her attention to the television screen.
The movie goers were leaving the theatre when I got there. Naturally, Edie wanted to know what had kept me. I explained that I'd taken the bookkeeper some paperwork and got held up. She didn't question me, not even when I drove her directly to her home. I couldn't take her parking. It wouldn't be right. Also, I was afraid she would pick up the scent of sex on my body. We kissed goodnight at her door, and I told her I would be on time the following night.
I hated deceiving Edie, but it was better than telling her the truth.
"My mom's not home yet. Would you like to come in and wait for her?" Edna asked when I showed up at the bookkeeper's house the next Friday night.
She was dressed the same as the previous Friday, but there were no curlers in her hair, and she was wearing makeup, like she was expecting me. We didn't talk; there was no need to. We both knew why I was there, and we got right to it.
"Oh, good," she said, when she saw that I'd brought condoms. We were both naked when we heard the baby cry. I reluctantly stopped sucking on her nipple.
"Put one of those on," she said as she ran to the next room to attend to her child. When she returned I was ready, and I'm happy to say that I lasted much longer than the first time, long enough to make Edna scream with delight. We fucked again that night, and I was late getting to the movie theatre.
Edie sniffed me, and I could tell that she knew. I couldn't deceive her. She cried, and said it was over between us. I didn't try to make an excuse. I hated myself, and I suspected that Edie hated me too.
Over the next three weeks I visited the bookkeeper's house every Friday night, whether there was paperwork to be delivered or not. Edna was always ready for sex. She taught me to eat pussy, and once, when she had her period, she introduced me to the wonderful world of blow jobs.
I offered to visit her on Saturday night as well, but Edna said that her mother only went out on Fridays.
We didn't talk, except for her telling me how horny she was, or me exclaiming how good it felt to be inside her. I never saw the baby, never found out how old it was, or even if it was a boy or a girl.
It always started the same way, her asking if I wanted to come inside and wait for her mother, kissing and feeling each other up. We fucked on the couch, in every position known to man, using her robe to protect the fabric. Talking seemed superfluous. There was no discussion about preferences, or 'how are you, ' or 'see you next week'.
And then it came to an end one Friday night when Vera opened the door. It was evident that she knew about Edna and me.
"She's not here," she said, and when I just stood there with my mouth open, she added, "The baby's father came for them."
I left, too stunned to ask any questions, although I wished later that I had. Was Edna married to the baby's father, and where had he taken her?
Edie was surprised to see me arrive at the theatre at eight-thirty. She wouldn't let me in, reminding me that it was over between us. I left without telling her about the elective courses I'd enrolled in or my summer work schedule. After nearly three years, it was over and it was entirely my fault. I couldn't blame my grandfather for his part in my losing my girlfriend. I'd known what I was doing when I accepted Edna's offer to come inside and wait for her mother.
My summer schedule was set: rise at eight AM; ten minutes for a quick visit to the bathroom, and to throw on my pants and shirt, ten minutes to say good morning to my grandmother, grab something to eat on the way to class, and leave at eight-twenty.
Nine out of ten days, depending on the weather, traffic and the availability of a parking space, forty minutes would be enough time to make my nine AM class.
Timing of my trip home was not as critical. If it took five extra minutes I would still have plenty of time to get ready for work.
I'm a stickler for time management; I get it from my grandfather. He only agreed to let me take the two electives when I volunteered to work the second shift, noon to eight PM, Monday through Saturday, at his used car lot.
Thus began my summer schedule. The first two days went as planned. I made it to class with a minute to spare, and arrived at home in time to put on a tie, and to make it to the used car lot for our busiest time of the day, the lunch hour, when working people skipped lunch to shop for a car or truck.
Millie worked the morning shift, seven AM until whenever the lunch-time traffic slowed down. She was a good sales person. What she lacked in auto savvy, she made up for with sex appeal. She wore short skirts, and forgot to button the top buttons on her blouse. We never talked about anything personal, but I liked everything about her, especially the way she could put down guys that tried to come on to her. She always offered to let me run to the diner across the highway to get something to eat before she left for the day.
My grandfather was always around too, but you couldn't depend on him to help with customers. He knew cars; he'd been around them his entire life. He usually made himself scarce, preferring to hang out at the service station next door; overseeing the readying of a car for delivery to coaxing a buyer that a car was right for him.
He could smell a sale. When one of us needed an appraisal of a trade-in, my grandfather would be there to take it for a drive, or put it on the lift to inspect the undercarriage. When we needed his approval of a sales contract, he would be in his office, ready to scrutinize the contract before giving it his okay.
He would congratulate the buyer, assuring him the ninety day warranty was as good as Tom Jansen's word. But he refused to shake hands, saying his hands were covered with grease and grime.
Something happened on the third day of classes to throw my schedule into turmoil.
"You look familiar; are you from Spencer?"
We were between classes, and she was heading in the same direction as me. I'd noticed her in the 'American Authors' class, she sat on the front row.
"Yes, I am. You look familiar too," I said, as we reached the 'Early American History' class I was taking. I didn't know she was in that class until I opened the door and saw her smile as she entered the room ahead of me. I watched her walk to the back of the classroom before I took my seat.
I recognized her voice when the professor called on Ms. Stapleton, and turned in my seat to see her responding to the professor's question.
"Mr. Jansen," she said after class. Evidently, she'd been listening when the professor called on me. She was walking with me, matching my stride. "I was wondering, seeing as how the price of gas has skyrocketed, if you would care to car pool?"
I was aware of the price of gas, but I didn't have to pay for it. My grandfather allowed me four gallons per day. Ms. Stapleton was maybe three inches shorter than me. She wore her dark hair short, and there was a wide wedding band on her ring finger. I had no interest in car pooling. We'd have to meet someplace, and that would take time. Car pooling would fuck up my schedule.
What the hell. "We could try it, and see how it works out," I said. She told me where she lived.
I set my alarm for seven minutes before eight, and stopped in front of the address she had given me at eight-twenty. I waited thirty seconds before tooting the horn.
"I didn't recognize the car. It isn't the same one you were driving yesterday," Ms. Stapleton said, explaining her delay in coming out of the house.
"My granddad wants me to drive a different car every day. It's like a test drive," I answered, and watched her nod her head.
"Tom Jansen's Auto and Service," she said, quoting the wording of the flashing neon sign that can be seen for a half mile from both directions.
We talked about the assignments for the classes we were taking, otherwise, there were long periods of silence. She seemed obsessed with rotating the wide wedding band on her ring finger.
We walked to the first class together, and again to our second class. She smiled when I held the door open for her. It was a nice smile, timid, but genuine. When the class was over, she fell into step with me.
She asked why I was taking the two courses. I told her they were electives that interested me, American Authors, and the Early American history class. I was a little surprised at her answer to the same question.
"It's just something to keep my mind active. My roommate is away for the summer."
Those two sentences created new questions. What did she mean by keeping her mind active? Was she bored? Where was her husband?
She interrupted my thoughts. "You're grandfather's business is at the far end of town. Would you mind... ?"
I'd anticipated her question. It would add miles to our trip if she came to pick me up. "I'll drive to your house and leave the car there."
She nodded her agreement. The next day was Thursday. We were late for The American Authors class because Ms. Stapleton was a timid driver. She apologized, saying that we would need to leave earlier on the days she drove.
Leaving earlier didn't appeal to me at all. Carpooling wasn't working out. It was fucking up my schedule. I was already getting up seven minutes before I needed to if I was driving alone. Now, she wanted me to get to her house before eight-twenty on the days when she drove.
I offered to drive every day. She countered by saying that it would not be fair. I explained that my grandfather wanted me to put his cars through a test. That was the reason for driving a different car each day. "Besides, the gas doesn't cost me anything. It's written off as expense," I said, and saw her flash a smile of agreement.
By the end of the next week we were on a first name basis. I'd also learned that Ginny's roommate was her sister-in-law, and that they were both school teachers. She'd just completed her first year, teaching the second grade. From this, I estimated her age to be twenty-three. I still didn't know where her husband was.
She'd managed to learn some things about me, my schedule, the hours I worked, and when I studied.
"Do you have a girlfriend?"
"No," I said. That was all the information she needed. I didn't tell her that Edie had broken off from me because I'd fucked someone else a few times. How would she like it if I ask where her husband was?
She must have seen that her question had unnerved me. "Sorry, Randy, I didn't mean to get personal."
"That's okay. It's a touchy subject with me right now," I said, attempting a smile.
"Are you going to be able to finish The Grapes of Wrath this weekend?" she asked, showing that she remembered my study schedule.
"I believe I'll be able to read it, but I'm not sure I'll have time to analyze the underlying meaning," I said. Our professor was keen on symbolism, getting into the author's head.
"Don't let your grandfather catch you studying at work," she smiled good-naturedly as she got out of the car. And then, before closing the door, "Have a good weekend."
She knows too much about me, I thought as I waved goodbye.
I only read four chapters of The Grapes of Wrath, but had already eaten lunch when I got to work on Saturday. The place was jumping. Millie was trying to keep three customers interested at the same time. She looked relieved when I jumped in to help. I could see that she had a bite. My cutting out the 'lookers' would let her reel in her fish.
Millie and her customer headed for the office. She looked over her shoulder, and shrugged when she saw my grandfather walking over from the service station. Why couldn't he have helped out when she was trying to juggle three customers? She tossed him the keys to a trade-in, and ushered the buyer into the office.
I lost one of the other 'lookers' and was explaining how we could make the rust on a ten year old truck disappear when something caught my attention.
"What were you saying, young man?" The older gentlemen asked. He and his wife were looking at the truck as a gift to their grandson.
"He's just like Walter. Has his eyes on the ladies," the wife said, probably referring to their grandson.
"Sorry," I apologized, still watching Ginny, who was holding the nozzle, pumping gas into her car. She saw me and waved. I waved back, wondering why she would drive to this side of town to fill her tank. Our prices were about the same as our competition. "We're friends," I said, still looking at Ginny.
"She's a nice looking woman, but a little old for you, isn't she?" the wife observed.
"He said they are just friends," the husband reminded his wife.
"She's married," I added, so as to remove any ideas about Ginny and me that may have entered the wife's head. "As I was saying about the rust..."
"He's lost his train of thought," the husband laughed at the way I was watching Ginny, wanting to see if she would get into her car and drive off, or would she steer the car over here, as I was hoping.
"Your grandson might like to take care of the rust. As you can see, it's not deeply ingrained in the steel. All he'll need is sandpaper, then a coat of primer before he matches the paint. I'll be happy to explain the process to him," I said, without looking at the couple. My eyes were fixed on Ginny.
My grandfather came back with the trade-in, parked it and looked my way. I shook my head to indicate the old couple didn't have a trade-in. He went into the office, to give Millie his offer for the trade-in, and hoping, I was sure, to approve a sales contract.
"For two people who are just friends, you and that lady are paying a lot of attention to each other," the wife observed.
"Sorry," I said for the second time. "Would you like to take the truck for a test drive? I'll need to see your driver's license before my grandfather will give me a dealer's plate," I said. This was bullshit. I didn't need my grandfather's approval to put a dealer's plate on the truck. I just wanted them to know that I was related to the owner. It worked.
"Is that elderly gentleman your grandfather?"
"Yes ma'am, although he would take exception to you referring to him as a gentleman. He knows he's elderly."
This got the desired reaction. They laughed. "Would you like to take it for a spin, Dear?" the woman asked her husband.
I'd heard her, but didn't turn to see her husband's answer. Ginny was getting back into her car. Would she turn onto the highway, or would she drive over to say hello?
The man got my attention when he handed me his driver's license.
I told him that I would be right back. It only took seconds to make a copy of the license, grab a dealer's plate and the keys to the truck. My grandfather was explaining why he never shakes hands to consummate a deal. I was happy that Millie had a sale. She blew me a kiss, thanking me for cutting the 'lookers' out of the herd. She didn't know that I had one of the 'lookers' hooked.
When I got back to the truck the couple was talking to Ginny, who was out of her car, looking cute in shorts and a T-shirt. From the way she was smiling, I was sure the lady was teasing her about the way we had been looking at each other.
My customers drove the truck out of the lot, and I was able to chat with Ginny until they came back, about fifteen minutes although it seemed more like fifteen seconds.
"How are you doing with The Grapes of Wrath?" she asked, looking at me with a concerned expression. I didn't answer until she was finished straightening my tie.
I looked around the lot to see if more 'lookers' had arrived. Millie was the only one in sight. My grandfather had disappeared.
"I haven't made much headway. I don't know if I'll be able to finish it tomorrow," I admitted.
"Would you like to study together? We could take turns reading," she suggested.
"Tonight?" I asked.
"I was thinking of tomorrow," she said, thoughtfully, like she was considering studying on Saturday night.
"Tomorrow would be good," I said, not wanting to open a book on Saturday night, even if it were in the company of Ginny.
We were making arrangements to study at her house the next day when the elderly couple returned with the truck. Ginny said goodbye, and drove off.
The couple wanted their grandson to see the truck before they made the decision to buy it for him. This often happens. Some keep their word and return. Others only use the promise to come back as an excuse to bail. The couple kept their word. I met Walter, and we closed the deal.
I'd never been inside Ginny's house before. I arrived promptly at eight AM, and saw that she had her books spread out on the dining room table. She was dressed the same as the day before, shorts and a T-shirt.
I told her that I'd read eight chapters of our assignment, four on Saturday morning, and not having anything else to do that night, I read four more.
She suggested that we start at the beginning, and began reading chapter one before I had a chance to differ. I didn't mind. The description of the unscrupulous car dealer in chapter one made me appreciate the ethical approach to business my grandfather practiced.
As Ginny read, I listened to her attempt to pronounce the Oklahoma dialect that Steinbeck had captured so well. I took notes. I also snuck peeks at Ginny from time to time.
Then it was my turn to read chapter two, the introduction of the main character, Tom Joad. Ginny took notes. I caught her looking my way a few times, probably critical of the way I muffed the dialect.
We took turns reading chapter by chapter until ten AM when Ginny suggested that we move outside. She stopped in the kitchen to pick up a pitcher of iced tea and two glasses. There was a table and chairs on the covered patio. We stayed there until it became too dark to see, except to move into the kitchen where she prepared sandwiches while I read a chapter.
While we were having our sandwiches, we discussed the part of the book that we had read so far.
"What impressions are you getting of the characters and the times?" she asked.
We were back on the patio. I placed one-half of my tuna fish sandwich on the plate, looked around the small backyard, collecting my thoughts. "There are two types of people, complicated and simple, aggressive and passive, and smart and stupid. We've already seen both types. As far as the times, we've seen the effects of the economic conditions, coupled with effects the weather had on both types of people."
Ginny looked impressed with my answer. I was proud of myself until she asked a more probing question. "Did the economic conditions and the weather make the characters more complicated or simple, more aggressive or passive, and smarter or more stupid than they were before the conditions changed?"
"I believe the conditions brought out those characteristics, yes, I believe opportunists saw the drought as a means to take advantage of the less fortunate."
Ginny toyed with her sandwich, occasionally glancing my way. "Are you always so cynical?"
"I hope not," I shrugged. "I believe we are products of our environment. Extreme conditions cause us to react the way we were trained."
We concentrated on finishing our sandwich, both thoughtful. Had I said the wrong thing? She got up and took the plates to the kitchen. She turned at the door. "I agree with you. Extreme conditions cause some to excel; others fall by the wayside."
I followed her inside, asking to use the bathroom. She directed me down a hall. After flushing the john, I was back in the hallway when I noticed a door partially open. I couldn't help but look in the room. Next to the bed was a photograph of a man in an Army uniform. There were second lieutenant's bars on his shoulders. Inserted at a bottom corner of the frame was a small picture of a soldier, squatting, dressed in the desert fatigues we'd seen when troops were assembling before the invasion of Iraq. I couldn't tell if it was the same man, and I didn't dare enter the room. Was her husband in Iraq?
We resumed reading, taking short breaks to stretch and discuss the story. It was quite pleasant on the patio, and we were making good progress with the book.
"Come in the kitchen. You can read while I make us something to eat," she suggested.
"That's not necessary. Let's order a pizza," I said, making it sound like an order, not a request.
She agreed, and we continued reading until the pizza arrived.
We had a dispute about which one of us would pay for the pizza. She argued that my driving us to class everyday was saving her money. She let me pay when I told her that I had a nice commission check coming. The elderly couple had returned with their grandson to buy the truck. She remembered them, and let me pay.
"Would you like a glass of wine?" she asked, and then, "Oh, I forgot that you're ... what ... twenty?"
"I'll be twenty in October, but one glass of wine won't corrupt me."
"What day in October?"
"The twentieth," I said, wondering if she would decide I was too young for wine with the pizza.
"I beat you by two days. I'll be twenty-four on the eighteenth."
"We'll have to celebrate."
She laughed. "You wouldn't want to celebrate with an old lady like me."
I just looked at her, trying to convey that I'd like nothing better than to celebrate our birthdays together. From the way she looked back at me, I was sure she got the message.
We ate the pizza and had a glass of Merlot in the kitchen, then we resumed reading at the dining room table. It was ten-fifteen when I read the last paragraph of chapter thirty.
"We'll compare notes on the way to class tomorrow," she said, telling me that it was time for me to leave. The full day of reading and listening had exhausted me and I didn't argue.