Amy was annoyed, anxious and apprehensive as she drove home. She was getting married so she was apprehensive. She was annoyed at the drive home. The drive was not that long; about a hundred miles. She was not annoyed at the distance. It gave her time to think. She was intrigued at the countryside. You could see for miles when you topped one hill and could see between the valleys. The dark green pastures could be seen for miles until they turned to a dark blue as they blended with the clouds in the horizon.
The fertilizer spreaders took the whole lane; from dashed line to grader ditch. One could easily drive a compact car between the wheels if the driver had the audacity to try it. Tractors pulling disks or harvesting machines stopped and pulled off on side roads to let cars pass. The wings on the discs took both lanes and a good part of the grader ditches.
Amy reminisced fondly of the days when she helped her family pick up bales and drive the grain truck to the elevator. She had been a County Extension Agent since she had graduated from college. Her husband had been hurt in a tractor accident several months ago. Now she was the only one bringing home a paycheck.
They had a modest farm with an old house just outside of the city limits where she worked. Her daughter was getting married this weekend. She was hurrying home for the wedding. It wasn't really her home. It was her mother's home that had been left to her. The town only had about seventy five people.
From the town of Conrad, it was ten miles to the next town with any services. Sinclair had motels, restaurants, gas stations, schools, churches and a county seat that sat in the middle of the town square.
The city of Conrad had a dying grain elevator that her daughter was running. It had a post office and occasionally there was one building that had a pool table, served breakfast and sold some groceries. The building was continually passed on from one good intentioned resident to another. Whoever owned that store also kept the key to the gas pump. Whoever needed gas could turn it on and charge it on their card.
It was a good twenty miles from the main highway to Conrad on the county highway. The years had not been kind to the road. Winder freezing and the hot summer sun had spalled the asphalt topping into two inch cubes of asphalt on top of the vanishing gravel sub base. It was hard to go much more than twenty five miles an hour on that road.
Occasionally, Amy would stop to let a group of turkeys cross. She had to be even more cautious during the early morning or setting sun not to hit a deer. Her daughter told her once that she saw a set of twin cougar cubs cross the road. She thought about running over them to show the game warden there were indeed cougars in the area. She decided not to, because she was afraid the mother was probably nearby.
Amy had been trying over the years to get a grant or petition the county to pave the road. With all the stimulus money floating around in the bigger cities repairing main highways needlessly, there surely was money available for the most needy county bridges and roads, she thought.
She was apprehensive of her application now. It was good news and bad news. The good news was that a classmate of hers, Brad Jackson was now the County Administrator. The bad news was that she had dated him briefly in high school and even in college.
The County Administrator before Brad hadn't given her the time of day. Now that the old man had died, the situation had changed. She had a text message that Brad would be in town for the wedding and might try to contact her then.
Amy finally got into town. The wedding was going to be outside in the lawn between the Community Center and the Presbyterian Church. Bales of hay had been laid out in two rows with 2"x12" over the tops for benches. The 2"x12" had been covered by white plastic from Wal-Mart. The aisle to the wooden arch where the ceremony was to take place was covered in white plastic with imitation lace pattern.
The Community Center had a sign in the vestibule; Conrad Hall Main Floor rent is $35.00. Basement and kitchen rent for $35.00 per event.
The groom, best man and their friends had been up all night barbequing several pigs that had been donated. The wives in the community had made several rosters of Potato Salad; Marconi salad, Potato Chips; Ice Tea and water. There was a big horse tank in the middle of the hall filled with ice and beer cans.
There were few extra rooms for the out of town guests. They slept on couches and lots of screened in porches. A number of guests had been assigned to use camper trailers that had been set up in the yards.
After the wedding, the bride, groom, attendants, flower girls and ring bearers were taken aside to be photographed in a wagon pulled by several mules. Whoever wanted was given a ride around the city block.
After the dinner, the lights were dimmed. As is the community tradition, the first dance is for the bride and groom. From there they split and each dances with the parents of the other. From there, everybody is invited to dance with the bride. Money is clipped to her dress.
One of the early dances is the "Chicken Dance." All who dared got on the dance floor. Usually it is the children, from about five to about nine or ten years of age. They jump and dance with their arms forming imitation chicken wings and then swing their partners around. Nobody has any sense of rhythm or can follow the beat. About that time a number of the adults go outside to smoke.
That is the time when Amy felt somebody brush up against her. She looked up to see Brad. They performed the socially accepted hug and handshake before Brad escorted her outside.
They made small talk. Finally, Brad said; "I came to the wedding because I thought you were trying to get me interested in your highway project."
"I understand there is stimulus money available throughout the state to repair failing bridges and roads. You drove down the county road to get here. It is deplorable. I don't think it would take a lot of money to fix up this highway. You would be helping a lot of people by freeing up some county money for this project."
Brad did not look at her. He was watching the crowd to see who was watching or listening. He puffed again on his cigarette as he chose his words. "I've had a crush on you for a long time Amy. You dumped me once in high school. Then you dumped me again in college. I don't know why I should do anything for you."
Amy was afraid this might be how it might go. "I liked you a lot in high school. I was a freshman and you were a senior. I was infatuated with you in high school. I would have done anything for you. I did some things I shouldn't have. I guess I felt I was doing it for the wrong reasons. There was no going back. Once I had had sex with you, there's no turning it off. That is why I stopped seeing you.
"When we got to college, I thought things could be different, but they weren't. You still wanted sex. That is why I broke it off again."
Brad let the smoke out again. He looked down at Amy. She was older now. At thirty nine, she still had the figure of a teenager. She had a large black Stetson that came down almost to the top of her wire rimmed glasses. Her high heeled western boots came almost to her knees, but were hidden by the long grey sleeveless cotton button-front dress that stopped just above the ground. Her long reddish brown hair was tied into the beginning of a French braid. The hair had been started in a French braid at the top of her head and woven down to the top of her neck, where it was tied off with a rubber band. From there, her curly red hair hung in waves down to her back.
Brad stared brazenly at her. He admired her long legs that seemed to end at her armpits. Her perky breasts were not big, but about as big as they could get without sagging. For a woman with a nineteen year old daughter, she looked more like a sister than a mother to the bride.
Amy stood quietly, knowing she was being mentally groped by this man. She stood quietly, waiting for some kind of suggestion from him. Would he tell her to go to hell? Would he tell her that he would see what money was left after some other projects were finished? Amy wanted the project but was not sure what it would take to get it.
"We need this project, Brad. What will it take to get it?
"First you are going to convince me you want the money. I want to see how badly you want it. If I am convinced you want it badly enough, I want to see how badly you want to keep it coming. This project will take the better part of two summers to complete. I can stop it at any time. You are going to have to convince me to keep this project going."
Amy was silent. She bit her lip. She shuffled her feet. She grabbed her hair at the bottom of the braid and twisted it; mulling her words; "What will it take?" She knew. She knew, but was hoping she had misunderstood. She was not going to do something under a misunderstanding. She had to be told.
"Have you got a place here in town?" he asked.
"What do you mean?" she asked in an almost indignant voice. She didn't want to insult him, but it hurt. She knew what he wanted, but couldn't make her mind accept it. She couldn't be the one to initiate anything.
"You know what the fuck I'm talking about you coy little cunt. What the fuck do you think I mean."
At the age of thirty nine, tears do not come easily for Amy. She had been through her share of disappointments in life. She thought about her husband's injury. She thought about their financial condition. Surely this kind of debasement could not be any worse, could it?
.... There is more of this story ...