Edited by Barney R. Messed with by me.
I have heard of the ‘road less traveled’ this is about one taken positively right.
I was returning home from a six-day trip to Davenport IA for a Bakery/Restaurant Equipment convention. I was trying to interest the big equipment companies in a few of my patents and as a fallback my abilities as a technical writer. I was successful in both categories. It was a highly successful trip. It was also an eye-opener for a 25-year-old mechanical nerd. I also made a lot of money and with the writing contracts a promise of a couple of years of very good income.
I am not a huge fan of expressways, I find them boring and in a lot of cases scary because everyone uses them. That said, I use them to get places. I do not use them when I am not pressed for time. So, I was driving home on the Blue Star Highway about two miles north of South Haven MI headed for my home in Stanwood. It was crisp, late October, Thursday afternoon. It was a typical Lake Michigan shoreline afternoon, sunny and windy. When you could see the lake, the white caps were big.
As the Blue Star is a twisty two-lane stretch of blacktop, I was moving along at maybe 60 miles an hour. I came around a bend, and about a mile up ahead I saw a young girl, looking like all of 14, trying to hitch a ride. As she wasn’t dressed for the weather, short skirt, short sleeve blouse, and sandals, it looked like she might be in trouble. I pulled over and stopped the car.
She came running up to the car and jumped in. I could see that she was very chilled, so I cranked the heater up in my car. I sat on the side of the road until her teeth stopped chattering, and her shivering slowed down. Then I started to drive.
Once it appeared the warmth had started to help, I asked; “Where are you headed, miss?”
“I really don’t know, anywhere away from my stepfather.” She replied.
“I’m headed to my home in Stanwood, near Big Rapids, is there someone or somewhere near there, I can take you? It doesn’t even have to be a direct drive; I have no time table to get home.”
“No, the perverted asshole’s family is all I have left and they are all around this county and would give me right back to him.”
“Ok then. How about I drive you to Holland and get you some warmer clothes? You are not really dressed for the weather. Then we can get something to eat and talk. Does that sound good?”
“I ... I ... I’m sorry, I don’t have any money; asshole took it all and burned all of my clothes when I wouldn’t let him fuck me.” Then she started to cry
“Miss, I didn’t ask for money, when is your birthday? If it is before Christmas, consider this whole thing a birthday present. If it is after Christmas it is part of your Christmas presents. We’ll go to Wal-Mart or Meijer and get some clothes to tide you over. After we eat, I will take you to my house and get you setup with a place to sleep tonight. I live on a large piece of property and my parents are in a house we had built just down the road. If it would make you feel better, you can either stay with them, or I can have my sixteen-year-old sister come and stay with us at my house. How does that sound? By the way my name is Charley Castile, Sir Charles of Stanwood, protector of the innocent, slayer of snowflakes and rescuer of fair damsels in distress. I am 25. Who my beautiful damsel, might you be?”
“I ... I ... I’m Cathy Collins, I’m 19, and if having you put me up would put you out, I can go to one of the shelters until I figure out how to get my stuff from my stepfather.” Then she must have realized what I had said as an introduction, as I saw a smile trying real hard to break out on that pretty face.
I knew after watching her she was a strong young lady, but 19 she was not; 15 or 16 maybe. “Cathy, you can call me Charley, or Chuck, but don’t call me late for dinner.” That got a rolling of the eyes and a slight smile. “Would you trust me enough to tell me how old you really are?”
“Ok, I’m 16, and that is the truth, I just did not want you to drop me off because asshole is telling me all the time; ‘You’re a prime piece of jailbait pussy.’”
“Cathy, you are not a piece of anything and don’t forget it. You are someone who was smart enough to run from a situation you couldn’t control. I find you to be very pretty, and from the way you talk, a very smart young lady. I’m at your service Lady Catherine.”
I finally got a smile. “What kind of music do you like that won’t mush my brains. I have Sirius satellite, Pandora and ITunes on my car radio, or I have a pack of CDs on the back seat. If you want, look through them. We have about 40 minutes on this road and four or five small towns to go through before we get to Holland.”
I pulled over and she unbuckled and turned around to grab the CD holder. She had very strong legs, like a runner’s legs.
“While you are back there, there is an extra jacket you can use until we get you outfitted later. You can wear it when we get to the store.”
She blew my mind when she slipped my classical mixed music CD into the player. Beethoven’s fifth symphony came on, the music was glorious, the company was grand, and the sun was shining, A great Michigan day.
When we finally got to Wal-Mart, I asked Cathy if she needed any feminine hygiene products, soaps, or shampoos that she liked, and definitely a toothbrush, comb, hairbrush, and her preferred type of razor for her legs.
I got an amazing color of red from her blonde bangs down to the top of her blouse, and maybe beyond that. She sort of looked like she was thinking, then she said; “Charley, I don’t want you to spend too much on me, I will get the stuff I use at home, it is always the cheapest.”
“Lady Catherine; you wound me.” I clutched my chest; “Honey, I am not a complete idiot when it comes to fair damsels. You buy what you want, be comfortable, I will worry about the costs. We will only get you a few things to wear though, just enough so you can make it through to the weekend, Then we will go to the big mall in Grand Rapids and get you outfitted for everything.”
Then another thought came to me. “Cathy, can you get your birth certificate and if you have it your driver’s license?”
How women do it I don’t know, but she reached into her blouse neck and brought out an envelope. “They’re both here; I also have my last report card. I was not planning on going back there.”
“Next question, do you have a cell phone? If not when we are shopping I will get you one.”
“No, asshole destroyed mine. I did bring my SD card with all of my important numbers on it though.”
“Ok, then we will stop at the Verizon store and get you on my plan. You can get any phone you want, as long as it is android compatible, No Apple IPhone.”
She started tearing up, “Why are you being so nice to me? You don’t know me, you don’t even know if I am telling the truth.”
“Why; because I saw that you needed help, and I am in a good position to give you that help. You make me think of my sister and what I hope someone would do if she were in the position you describe. Truth, other than lying about your age, I think and feel that you are being truthful, and maybe even a little bit understating the problem.”
“Thank you Sir Charles of Stanwood;” she said with a giggle; “I will grant you this boon but do not think to take further liberties on my good nature, or I will order my lackeys to thrash you mightily about the head and shoulders.”
I laughed, we gabbed and we shopped. She wanted to get one pair of jeans and a couple of cheap sweatshirts and a cheap jacket, but after some persuasion and an explanation that jeans were a necessity, she got 7 pairs. She ended up with a good, serviceable warm jacket that should last through the coming winter, she got her sweatshirts, I grabbed a couple packages of her tees, a couple of long sleeping type tees, and told her to get a package of panties, a couple of bras, and a couple of nice but not fancy blouses, I said, unless she wanted to live for the next few days on my cooking. We then went and got her a nice pair of trainers and some dressier short heels. With those in the cart, we went to the pharmacy for health and beauty products. I saw she bought pads, not tampons, and she got her toothbrush, soap, shampoo, and hair care stuff. She did not see it, but I slipped a portable CD\MP3 player in the cart. When we got to the check out I spotted on last thing she needed. I dropped a bag of Halloween jelly beans in the cart.
We got through the checkout and I asked one of the customer service reps if there was someone who could help my ‘sister’ with her new clothes. He called a manager, and she and Cathy went into the lady’s room and got her dressed for the weather.
What a sight. This vision that walked out with the manager had on some jeans that would she would need an hour to take off, and very nice long sleeve blouse and her sneakers. She was carrying her new coat. Her hair was combed, her face was washed and she looked like a dream.
The manager whispered in my ear, “You did very good there, You gave her back some self-esteem.” Then she refused the tip I wanted her to take.
It was during dinner that I pointed out some possible problems. Because she was still a minor, she could be made a ward of the state. Also, because she was still in high school, if she lived with me she would need to graduate.
I told her that my dad was a local Judge, but he would have to recuse himself from anything that went to court. Then I added that he knew all of the other judges in our county and would help as much as he could. I also explained that my business lawyer’s wife was a child advocate attorney who would represent her in anything that came up in court.
I then asked if she had decided what we were going to do for her living arrangements. “Charley, could you call your sister and ask her to stay with you. If you call her now, I will ask her. I would feel much more comfortable with you than imposing on your parents.”
So, I did, Sara, my sister, and Cathy talked and squealed and talked all the way from the restaurant until I pulled into my driveway. Then Cathy got very quiet.
My house is rather imposing. It is a totally restored 110-year-old farmhouse with a three-sided porch. I have, of course upgraded all of the utilities and insulated it to the max. I have also updated the interior. What was once a five-bedroom, 0 baths (outhouse and pump water), house is now a four-bedroom, 3-1/2 bath with a separate master suite on the ground floor. It also has a four-room, two-bedroom mother-in-law apartment that can be accessed from the main house or outside. I have wind and solar power up and a whole house propane generator for a couple of times a year the outside power goes out. From the outside, it looks like a lumber baron’s house.
There is an attached three stall garage, and a sixty by forty-foot two-story pole barn. I lost the original wood barn when it caught fire just before I moved in. For someone from the area I picked her up from, it must have looked like a mansion.
Mom, Dad, and Sara were waiting for us when we got in the house. They latched on to Cathy and told me to get the stuff from the car. When I unloaded the car, they were in the den with the doors closed. Deep in my conscious I thought that everything would be fine, but I still worried.
While I was waiting, I called C. Gerald Engstrum, Esq. Jerry is my business lawyer. I set up an appointment for both he and his wife Judy, not Judith, to meet and discuss the trip, the contracts, and Cathy. Jerry was intrigued and started to ask some questions about Cathy, but I put him off until we could meet and include her.
After the phone call, I was summoned to the den. Cathy took my hand and I sat down next to her. Sara sat on her other side and took her other hand.
Dad Started, “Chuck, while it was not the smartest thing you have ever done, but it was the right thing. I am very proud and pleased that you did what you have done so far.”
He continued. “I know I can’t handle any of the legal stuff, but I recommend that Cathy file for emancipation and then we will get her back to school. In the meantime, as she is over sixteen, the state says that she can leave school in one district and reenroll in another district as she wishes. I suggest that you enroll her in an accredited home school program or hire a certified tutor. The tutor would be my recommendation.”
He explained; “I don’t know if Catherine told you, but she is an AP junior with a 4.0+ GPA. Somewhere along the line, she skipped at least one grade. Now we need to use that lovely wife of your attorney to get the emancipation done or for you to be appointed her guardian.”
Then Mother piped in; “Cathy will stay here and so will Sara. Cathy told me you let her choose what she was most comfortable with. That is what she wants for now.”
Then Sara added, “I have already got a lot of my stuff here because I was staying here and taking care of your critters. By the way, the Gallups asked if there was a chance that you could have Charger cover their mare Serene?”
Then it was my turn. “Dad, Mother, bratty sister, I love all three of you. Dad, I will rely on your advice about all the legal stuff, but I have made an appointment with Jerry and Judy Engstrum for tomorrow. Cathy knows that I want her to graduate, so we will work that out. I like the idea of a tutor, and if Sara wants to join in I will pay for it.”
I then answered Sara; “If you want to, call the Gallups and have them bring Serene over for a few days when she is fresh. The stud fee is the same as always, but because you are acting as a broker, you will get the broker’s fee of 25%.”
I took a deep breath; “My trip was very successful, I licensed four of my patents, and sold the one I thought would be the most costly to produce outright. I got two and a half million upfront for the sold patent and will be getting a million a year 10 years for each of the licenses. I also got a tech writing contract from the people that make the cooling towers and refrigeration tunnels to write their tech manuals. That will pay me about $20,000 per approved manual. That contract is for four years.”
As an afterthought, I added, “If you will let me, Cathy, and Mom and Dad, I will set up college funds for both of the girls to any in-state college that they want to go to. If they want to study something that they can’t at a state school, I will pay for the first four years for the program they want. Can I please do that?”
Cathy squealed, Sara cried, and Mom and Dad said yes. My folks are upper-middle-class, but mom had some health problems so they had to raid all of the college funds, IRAs and other savings to avoid bankruptcy. I was lucky and had earned a scholarship to college that covered everything but pocket money. Sara knew the situation and worked part-time at the nearby feed store and saved everything she could but had planned to work full time a year or two to pay for college. Cathy, of course, had nothing.