I walked out of the courthouse a free man once more. My heart was heavy but my anger was subsiding. To my surprise I hadn't gotten screwed too badly this time. I headed for the public parking lot and my trusty old F150. It was a forty mile drive home and I really needed to get on the road. My children would be home from school soon and I needed to be there for them. I had a neighbor woman who watched them when I was busy but with their mother gone I felt I should spend as much time with them as I could.
I came opposite to the door for a little hole in the wall bar just down from the police station and for some reason I entered. The noise level dropped several decibels as the patrons turned to look at me. I knew I didn't belong. Every person I could see inside wore a Law Enforcement uniform or a badge somewhere on their person. Of course all were armed as well. I stood for a moment to let my eyes get more used to the darkness after the bright August mid afternoon sunlight. I almost sighed out loud when I felt the ice cold air surround me. The thermometer on the corner bank showed it was 108 F on the courthouse square. There had not been a breath of wind. My shirt was wet with sweat but only part of it had come up during my walk from the courtroom. The courtroom had been too hot and I had been sweating from nervousness as well. I was sure my body odor was way too noticeable.
I moved to the bar through smoke so thick you could cut it with a knife. Even in this day of health conscious people the clientele smoked like chimneys. It was a tension reliever as much as anything for them and they didn't seem to care if it reduced their capability to run after perps. I glanced once more around the room and took an unused seat at the bar. The bartender looked at me for a moment then she wandered up to me. She stood looking at me with a raised eyebrow and spoke not a word. She had let me know by her silence I was not welcome there. I leaned on the bar and said, "Dos Equis Lager. No glass."
I watched the bartender turn and saunter to the coolers in the middle of the bar. She rummaged around for a moment and pulled the bottle from the back. She popped the top and walked back to me. The bottle thumped loudly when she placed it before me on the bar. "That'll be $4.75."
I took a deep pull on the bottle and sat it back down carefully. Damn, that was the coldest beer I had tasted in a week. Of course Leo's claim to fame was their promise of the coldest beer in the county. They kept the cooler set at 30 degrees F. I reached into my pocket and pulled my wallet out. I found a five and dropped it on the bar in front of the tender.
Once again nothing was said as she picked up the bill and walked toward the cash register. I watched her ass wobble inside her faded jeans. When she turned away her breasts wobbled inside the loose shirt she wore. It was plain to see her D's were not restrained by any damn bra. As she moved away almost waddling her ass cheeks bounced around in her pants like two raccoons in a burlap sack. Cora had been tending bar at Leo's for as long as I had known of the place. When her husband Leo died she became the owner and only full time employee.
Without a word my twenty five cents in change was slapped onto the bar in front of me. She turned once more and waddled away. By now I had already downed almost two thirds of my Dos Equis. The bartender was studiously ignoring me. I wondered if I would be allowed another beer if I asked for it. I watched the other patrons in the back bar mirror as they resumed their interrupted conversations. The noise level increased once more.
I had maybe one or two more swallows of beer left when a group at one of the tables decided to leave. Two of the patrons stared at me when they walked past on the way to the door. The third officer, a plain clothes officer stopped beside me. "It's been a long time Dean. Why did you come back," he asked.
I looked up at the big bastard and wondered if I could take him down again. After all these years I still wanted to try. I was in better shape than I had been years before and he looked much softer. I thought I could take him but I really didn't want to try. The last time had not ended well for either of us. I let myself relax and the tension drain from my body. "Stupid I guess Sean. Just got out of court and decided to get a brew before I headed home. No law against that is there? I just had my third strike and got rid of another cheating skank. I needed a brew before I headed on back home." I laughed then continued, "But you probably know all about that. I'm sure you or someone you know has been sampling her cheating ass too.
Sean smirked at me and said, "No, I suppose legally you can drink anywhere you're man enough to but you make a lot of people nervous. Why don't you find somewhere else to drink? Somewhere you don't bother the other customers and you'll be more welcome. Hell none of us want a loser like you in here. Makes us look bad to be seen with a loser that can't satisfy his women and keep them from cheating on him."
I laughed and said, "Oh, I will; hell, I have. I know better than to have a drink in here with my old friends. What are some of them afraid I'll be gunning for them still? Or did some of them fuck Paula too? If they did tell them I don't give a shit. I learned my lesson when you fucked Terri. You still with the cheating skank?"
Sean tensed and leaned toward me. I knew he was still married to my ex and I also knew things were not all roses in their household. They were both screwing around and had separated several times and got back together. I was surprised their marriage had lasted the seven years it had. I had only been married to the skank eighteen months before she cheated on me and I threw her to the curb. I wondered why Sean didn't do the same thing. I guess some guys just don't give a damn about things like that.
When I found out Sean had been fucking my first wife I took matters into my own hands. Several nights when I was on duty I drove out of my patrol area off and on until I finally saw what I expected. Sean's car was parked in the street near my home. I pulled into my driveway and walked into my home. Sean and Terri were in bed together cooing and cuddling after a session of loving. All that saved me from jail that time was the video cameras I had secreted to cover the bedroom and living area of the house. I slammed the door back as I walked into the bedroom and it bounced off the door stop. That startled the drowsy lovers into frantic action. I walked into the bedroom and stood at the foot of the bed staring at my ex friend and soon to be ex wife.
Terri screamed at the noise and seeing me glaring at her. She cowered back against the bed headboard and pulled the sheet up over her to her chin. I could see the fear in her face. Sean jumped from the bed and started toward me. I had known him long enough to know what buttons to push verbally. As soon as he stood I began verbally attacking him. I told him to get his ass out of my house. I also told him I was going to his home and tell his wife what I had caught him doing. I had my cell phone in my hand taking pictures as we confronted each other just in case the video camera wasn't operating for some reason.
With an oath Sean slammed into me and knocked the cell phone from my hands. He pulled his hand back to hit me once more when I tore into him. I kicked him in the balls then slammed my knee up in his face as he bent forward. I pushed his head down into my knee as it came up. He fell to the floor out cold. When I walked past him I kicked him once more for good measure. I'll let you guess where I kicked him.
I told Terri to be out of the house before I got off duty. I picked up my phone and walked from the room, out of the house and back to my cruiser. I had the cameras I had set up in my home feeding into a computer in my locked office so didn't worry too much about the video I hoped to have of the little tryst. I went straight to Sean's home. It was nearly three a.m. when I rang the doorbell at the Michaels residence. A very sleepy looking wife came to the door. When she saw me standing in the door in uniform she screamed and said, "Oh, Noooo, please not Sean!"
"Yeah, Sean but not the way you are afraid of Mrs. Michaels. I just came from my home where I found him in bed with my wife. I have pictures if you want them."
"Nooooo. That can't be. He's supposed to be at the station tonight. He's Sergeant of the watch."
"No, I'm afraid you've been misled Mrs. Michaels. He was off duty today. Jackson is Sergeant of the Watch. Now, do you want me to send you the pictures? If you do give me your e-mail address and I'll get them to you in a day or two."
"No. I don't believe you. Sean wouldn't do that to me."
"Yeah, he would. Here look." I showed her some of the pictures on my phone and she collapsed on the floor crying. I felt bad for her but good about bringing more pain to good ole Sean. I turned away from the crying woman, smiled to myself and walked back to my cruiser to resume my patrol.
About thirty minutes after I left the Michaels home I was called back to the station. I was removed from duty and placed on suspension without pay for leaving my patrol area and for attacking an officer in the performance of his duty. Get this, Michaels and Terri had told the Lieutenant that she had called him for help because she thought there was an intruder in our home. I had supposedly been coming home for a little loving when I saw Sean in the house and went berserk accusing them of cheating on me and attacked him!
Of course I used the video I took from my house to defend myself of the charges made against me for attacking Sean. Those pictures saved me from being incarcerated for attacking Sean. They also cost him a reduction back to the ranks and suspension from the force for a short time. No, Sean had reason to hate me in his eyes even though I felt totally justified in what I had done to him.
Well, that marriage went into the toilet and so did my job. I was fired for my transgressions and taken to the cleaners by dear sweet Terri. I lost the house and half of our savings. I was ordered to pay support to her but thankfully that ended in less than a year when she married Sean after his divorce was final. Sean hated me with a white heat. I could see his fists clenching with his desire to strike me. I almost wanted him to but I hoped he wouldn't.
I glared at Sean and waited. It was his move. Finally he smirked at me and said, "Yeah Terri and I are still married asshole. No thanks to you. I know you're the one who keeps sending us the incriminating pictures. Why don't you get a life and leave us alone?" He laughed and continued, "Or not. Hell you may be doing me a favor. She's heard so often that I'm a cheating bastard and seen so many pictures you sent that now I could cheat on her and she wouldn't believe it. You've caused some problems but I gotta admit you have helped me too."
I almost told him I wasn't the main person taking the pictures and sending them to him and Terri. I had been taking some of Sean one night and another officer had seen me. He and some of his brother officers liked what I had done and began to do it also. There were a lot of officers that hated Sean's guts for one thing or another. Some of them hated him for the same reason I did. They were making his and Terri's life pretty miserable. I also didn't tell him I had only sent one set of photos. I wasn't following him or her and never had been. The one picture I had sent I had just accidently seen him with another woman in a bar shortly after my divorce from Terri. I really couldn't care less now one way or another.
Sean turned and walked jauntily out the door. I squinted my eyes when the sunlight burst through the door as he walked out. One of my last remaining friends in law enforcement came in as Sean left. When she saw me sitting at the bar she smiled and began walking toward me. Jackie and I had been in the police academy together. She had gone into the Sheriff's department when I went into the city police force. She glided across the floor and took the stool beside me.
Our taciturn bartender looked up at Jackie and raised her eyebrows. "Usual," she asked.
Jackie nodded her head and pointed at my Dos Equis bottle then held up two fingers. In moments a beer was sat in front of each of us. Jackie handed a ten to our host and waved her away.
We each took several sips of our beer then Jackie looked at me in the bar mirror. "I was in the courthouse earlier. I saw you in family court. Heard about Paula. Damn Dean you sure can't pick them can you? What is it now three?"
I sighed and nodded my head yes then said, "Yeah you know it is. Sean got the ball rolling with Terri. Hell that one only took about eighteen months. Then there was the kid's mom Suzie. At least she lasted almost five years before I caught her with the damn football coach at her school. Patty was really a surprise though. Shit, we were only married nine months when I began to suspect she was stepping out on me. Guess I should have known that would happen. Damn, I was an officer and knew how"
I looked at Jackie and saw her face tighten. I hurriedly continued, "Sorry Jackie. I shouldn't have gone there. Hell, I didn't mean all of the women on the force were like that I just guess I'm bitter. She was a damn dispatcher for Christ's sake. Oh, hell, I don't know what I mean. Crap."
Jackie smiled and placed her dainty little hand on my forearm. "I know Dean. Hell, it's a job hazard almost. There is so much tension and testosterone in the air that we are all tempted. Some of us just don't have the willpower to ignore the temptation and go home for our release."
"Yeah, whatever. I notice you and Ed haven't succumbed to the temptation though. If you guys and some of the others can do it why couldn't Patty or Sean for that matter?"
"Hell, you know from your time on the force Dean. Some people are just weak. Some are serial womanizers like Sean. Now cheer up drink your beer and get home to those kids." She shook her head and said, "That's one I'll never be able to figure out. I still can't believe Suzie just took off for an overseas job and left those darling kids with you. How can a mother, hell how can any parent just take off and leave their children like that?"
"Don't know Jackie but I'm damn glad she did. I really thought when the court refused to let her take them out of the country she would stay here or try to take them anyway. I love having them home with me. Little Howard finished kindergarten this year and Stacy was in first grade. Everything is still new and exciting for them and they have such a zest for life. I couldn't stand it if she had stayed here and kept primary custody of them. Sometimes it's hard working and arranging for them to be cared for properly but I wouldn't do it any differently for love or money."
Jackie and I both finished our beer at the same time. We sat a moment just enjoying each other's company. Finally with a sigh Jackie stood to leave and said, "Guess I should go. I still have to fix supper for Ed, get some laundry done then get to bed in time to be fresh as a daisy for the morning shift." I stood and followed her out of the dim bar into the glaring light and heat of another August afternoon in southwest Missouri. We had both parked in the same lot so we visited as we walked to our vehicles.
On the way home I thought about my last failure in the romance department. At least this time I had been smart enough to get a prenuptial agreement from Patty. We each walked away from the marriage with what we had brought into it and split the small amount we had accumulated in the little over a year it had lasted. I had been operating the family farm when my second marriage had failed but did not own it yet. Because of that I had only been required to divide bank accounts with Suzie. She had been very angry about that. For some reason she thought my mother had signed the farm over to me when Dad had died. Actually all she had done was turn over the operation to me. I suppose since Mom referred to it as my farm Suzie thought that meant I owned the land, equipment and animals. Now I wondered if that was why she had married me?
Mom died shortly after Crystal and I divorced and I became the owner of the farm then. It wasn't a very large farm—only about two sections—but I made a pretty good living on it. In truth I made more profit on the farm than I would be making as a patrolman if I hadn't lost my job. To top that off I enjoyed the work and freedom much more on the farm. Some days if I didn't feel like working I could just say screw it and goof off. Life was hard but I loved it on the farm.
I got home about 45 minutes after I left Joplin. My two kids and their sitter were in the back yard. The kids were playing in their little wading pool while Tammy sat at the picnic table reading and watching them. Stacy jumped from the pool and came running toward me when she saw me. Howard followed behind slowly. I gave both the kids a hug and walked to the kitchen for another beer.
I came out and sat at the table across from Tammy. "Hey Dean. Is it all over now?"
"Yeah, I'm outta the ballgame now Tam. I just had strike three in the bottom of the ninth inning." I sat looking out over the brown dry grass in the yard. I could barely see the small stream separating my yard from the south field through the trees that lined the stream bank. I let my mind wander to a more pressing problem than the end of my third marriage. I had to start feeding my cattle hay almost three weeks before and I was worried I would not have enough to get through the winter if it didn't rain soon.
This was the worst drought in 65 years according to news reports. Cornfields that normally yielded between 150 and 200 bushels per acre had already been chopped for silage because the grain was so poor it wasn't worth letting it mature to combine. Other crops were doing just as badly because of the lack of water. Many farmers were already selling cattle they would not normally sell because they could not feed them. It was expected to get much worse before it got better.
I could survive thanks to my crop insurance but things would be tight. At least I was able to irrigate some of my grassland by pumping water from the stream that ran through my farm. I looked over at Tammy and saw her watching me. I tried to smile then said, "Well, guess I can watch the kids for the rest of the day Tam. Why don't you get on home? I don't think I'll need ya tomorrow but I'll call if I do."
That fall Stacy was in second grade and Howard the first grade. Shortly after school started Tammy came to see me. "Dean I'm not going to be able to watch the kids after school much this year I'm afraid. Things just aren't getting any better for Jack and me. Jack's already working part time at the feed mill but we're going to lose the farm if I can't find a full time job in town to help out. I'm sorry I can't stay on with you. I just need more money to get us past this damn drought. I'll watch them until I get a job or until you find someone else but you'd better plan on finding someone real soon. If you still want me to watch the kids some and we can fit it in with my work schedule I can still do that though."
"Crap Tam. I'm sorry to hear that. I don't know what I can do but if you and Jack need anything and I can help let me know. I sure hate to let you go. The kids love you so much. Do you know anyone that can help?"
"No not right off hand. I'll keep my eye out though. Sorry."
In early October Tammy stayed to talk to me one evening after I got back in from the field. "Dean, have you found a sitter yet?"
"No, I did find one old woman in town that would be willing to watch them part time but I can't find anyone who wants to come out here and watch the kids in our house. Most of them aren't willing to stay late the nights I am still working in the fields or they want a guaranteed full time job. Why? Did you finally find work?"
"Well sort of. I got hired at Wal-Mart for the Christmas season. They said I might get to stay on full time after if things work out. I'm supposed to start next week. Sorry."
Between Tammy, the old woman in town and a couple of friend's wives I managed to take care of my child care needs through the holidays and until early March. I was having trouble juggling helpers though. Some of them wouldn't come to the farm to sit with the kids. Some of them didn't have transportation to pick them up or bring them home so I had to stop what I was doing and go deliver the kids to the sitter in the afternoon. Then I would have to go pick them up after I was finished working. Sometimes that was really late. Sometimes I had to stop working before I was ready to do so because none of the sitters was willing to have the kids at their home late in the evening.
In early March I was working in the shop repairing some machinery when I heard a car drive up. I walked to where I could see the driveway and saw a sheriff's car in the drive. I looked toward the house and saw Jackie walking back toward her car. I smiled and yelled, "Hi Jackie. What brings you out here into the boonies? Did they finally find the body where I left it?"
"NOT funny Dean. Dean I've got a little problem and I thought you might be able to help me solve it. Have you found someone to watch your kids yet?"
"Well sort of. I have half a dozen people who watch them some of the time. I have to miss a lot of work hauling them around and sometimes I have to stop working before I'm ready so I can pick them up at night. I still haven't found anyone who can be on call all the time and watch them here at the house. Why?"
Jackie looked embarrassed and said, "Well that dumb ass sister of mine is just about as poor a picker of husbands as you are of wives. She caught her husband cheating on her two three weeks ago and kicked him out. She filed for divorce and needs work. This is the second husband she's caught cheating on her. She had been a stay at home mom and you know how the job market is right now. She thinks she's going to lose the house too. They've been renting ya know. Anyway Jack and I told her they could stay with us for a while but she still needs a job. Her asshole hasn't got a very good job as it is and he is being a butthead about sending her any money so far. How about it?"
I sort of remembered Jackie's sister. Jackie had been a couple years behind me in school and Crystal was a couple years behind her. "Jackie that would be a lot of driving for her. What is it about twenty five miles from your place to mine?"
"Yeah but she really needs the work Dean."
"Well I don't know. Some days I wouldn't need her but three hours or so. Some days I would need her some in the morning and later in the evening. Would she want to stay here all day and if she did would she expect to be paid for the time she was waiting on the kids? After tax and gasoline she wouldn't make more than five dollars or so on the short days. Are you sure she really wants to do the work for that?"
"I don't know Dean but she needs something. And other days she'll probable get twelve or fourteen hours when you're planting or harvesting so things will even out won't they?"
"Yeah but I might not even need her some days also. Say, she has kids too doesn't she?"
Jackie nodded her head yes.
"Well who's going to watch? Oh! She'll be bringing her kids down here with her won't she? Or are they in school yet? How will she handle that? Hell that would help her right there if they aren't in school wouldn't it? They could all eat here as part of the deal and she wouldn't have to worry about child care."
Jackie said the children weren't in school yet and I relaxed. This might really work out. I smiled and said, "Tell ya what. Have her come visit with me and we'll see what happens."
Jackie and I visited for a few more minutes and she left. Said she needed to get back on patrol. Must be nice to be a Deputy Sheriff and just drive around the biggest part of the county with no worries.
Two days later just after I got the kids on the school bus a ratty old Mustang pulled into my drive. I was afraid I would have to give whoever it was driving it a gallon of oil before they could leave it was burning so much.
I watched as a pretty but ran down, pale looking young woman climbed out of the old beat up car. Two young children were inside bouncing around trying to see out. I was once again in the shop. I walked toward the woman wiping grease off my hands as I went. She looked slightly familiar and I was pretty sure this would be Jackie's younger sister Crystal.
I smiled as I got closer to the woman. She looked hesitant and a little frightened when I walked up. "You must be Crystal unless I miss my guess. Jackie told me you would be coming to visit with me. I don't think I would have recognized you if I hadn't been expecting you to come out."
Crystal gave me a tentative smile and nodded her head. "Yeah. I hate to bother you like this Dean, uh, Mr. Thomas but I'm really desperate. My husband doesn't send me enough money to get the kids what they need sometimes and I just can't ask Jackie and her husband to furnish everything for us. I feel like such a worthless freeloader as it is."
"First things first Crystal. You had it right the first time. My name is Dean and whether you work for me or not that is what I want you to call me. Now, why don't you come on in and we'll see what we can work out."
Crystal looked at me a moment then turned to the kids with a scared expression on her face. She walked to the door of her car and said, "Now you two sit still and don't touch anything. I have to go talk to Mr. Thomas for a few minutes then we'll leave."
I stopped walking toward the house and turned back to Crystal. "Whoa there missy. I didn't mean for you to leave your babies out here in the heat. Bring them on in too. It isn't right to leave kids alone in a vehicle. They can't get into anything my kids haven't been into time after time ya know."
Crystal looked up at me in surprise I thought. I got a weak smile from her then she turned and said, "Ok you two. Get out of the car and come with me. Now I don't want you running around and causing trouble either you hear me?"
I watched as a little boy maybe four years old jumped down from the front seat. His mother tried to catch him under the arms and succeeded somewhat. He looked up at her disgustedly and said, "I can do it myself mamma. You help Sissy."
While Crystal was helping Sissy from the child seat in the middle of the small back seat the little fellow marched up to me and said, "Hi Mister. I'm Timmie and I'm this many (he held up 4 fingers). I get to go to school next year.
"Timmie I told you to be good. Now don't bother Mr. Thomas. I looked up from where I was squatting in front of Timmie to see Crystal coming toward me with a little princess sitting on her hip. The little girl was chewing on her finger as she gave me the once over. "Dean as he has already told you this is Tim, my son and this little angel is Celeste, my daughter but I'm afraid we call her Sissy most of the time."
"Hi Sissy," I said. "If it's ok with your mother would you and your brother like some juice when we get into the kitchen?" Sissy grinned at me and nodded her head before trying to hide it in her mother's shoulder.
When I got my guests into the house I asked about drinks and seated us all at the kitchen table. I put a cookie jar in the center and gave everyone their drink and a napkin. Crystal and I talked about what I needed in a babysitter and what I could afford to pay. She agreed on $35 a day for watching my kids, no hourly limit if she and the kids could eat with us every day. She even agreed to do some of my housework and cooking the days she was here. She also agreed to stay around most days instead of driving back and forth. That would save her money on gasoline since many school days I only needed her in the mornings and evenings.
I showed her around the house so she could see where things were. She agreed to begin working the next day. To my surprise Howard and Stacy took to her and her children right off. They had been somewhat unhappy with some of the women I had caring for them in town. I began working longer and longer hours with my spring planting. I had about a third of my tillable ground in winter wheat and the rest, about 600 acres I would split between corn and soy beans. I had sixty brood cows and 300 acres for them to graze on or set aside for hay for them. I also had a few chickens and hogs to round out my operation. Spring and fall were my busiest time of year.
During the first week, to my surprise, Crystal completely cleaned my house. She had started in the kitchen, and then moved to the bathrooms and on to other rooms. I sat at the table the third day she was there and said, "Crystal I feel bad about some of the things you are doing here. I hired you to watch the kids not to be a house cleaner. This place looks great but I don't want you to think you have to do this too."
Crystal looked upset and said, "I thought you said light cleaning could be part of my job too when I was here. I'm sorry if I upset you. I was just trying to help Dean. I'll stop if you want me to. I just hate to sit here all day reading and watching the kids play. OH!" She pulled her hands to her mouth and her eyes got big. "I'm sorry. I won't charge you for it. I know it would be a lot to pay for all the hours I'm not watching the kids and all. I just feel like I need to do more."
"NO, NO Crystal. That's not the problem. I just don't want you to make a habit of working yourself to death. Relax some. I appreciate all you've done and you do but you don't need to be running yourself to death all day every day."
Several times over the next week I would walk into the house and find Crystal sitting watching her children play while she read. Every time I came into the house and she was resting Crystal would look guilty and begin working. Finally one day I got myself a beer and walked into the room where she was working and said, "Crystal I need to talk to you for a few minutes. Would you please come into the kitchen with me?"
Crystal looked up from her dusting and said, "I'm sorry Dean. I was just resting for a moment."
I sighed and walked to Crystal. I pulled the dust rag from her hand. I led her to the couch and sat then pulled her down beside me. I turned to her and said, "That is sort of what I want to talk to you about. Crystal have I ever said I was unhappy with what you do around here for us?" Crystal bit her lip and shook her head no.
"Well Crystal if I'm not unhappy and I haven't complained to you about things and I haven't yelled at you for not doing something then why do you always jump up when I come in and begin working again? You make me feel like an ogre, like you're scared of me or something. I've told you and told you I don't expect you to work all the time and don't want you to do that."
"But Frank always said no house could be too clean and he got upset when he came in from working hard and I was resting. I"
"Whoa there again Crystal. Do I look like Frank? Do you see me resting from time to time? Have I ever said or done anything that made you think I cared if you read a book or played with your kids? Dammit woman I hired you to watch my kids and told you that it was ok to just stay here during the day while you weren't working. You were the one who offered to do some cooking and light housework for me in addition to that." I smiled and continued, "I would take it as a personal favor if you would just chill a little and relax around me. Ok?"
Crystal gave me a tentative smile and nodded her head yes. "I'll try but I don't know if I can do that Dean."
Over the next couple of days Crystal got better about jumping up and beginning to work when I came in. Sometimes if I stayed in the house for long she couldn't stand it and came to do something but she was better. One afternoon I had just begun working after a ten minute stop for lunch when my damn planter broke. A wheel bearing froze up and this of course stopped the wheel from turning correctly. I was screwed. I unhitched the tractor and tore off for the shop and my tools. Crystal was in the yard watching her kids play on the swing set when I came roaring into the lot. She watched as I dove off the tractor and headed for the house. I was already on the phone when she followed me into my office.
Crystal stood listening while I explained my problem to the implement dealer. I was leafing through my planter manual while I talked. We got all the preliminaries out of the way and he checked to see if they had the necessary parts in stock so I could make the repairs. I told him I would be in as soon as I could.
I hung up and was muttering to myself about the damn two hour drive there and back and the time I was going to lose on the repair. I felt and heard Crystal walk up behind me. She put her hand on my shoulder. I jumped at her touch and turned toward her. This was the first time I had been touched by a woman in almost three months. It surprised me and was strangely comforting at the same time. Crystal said, "Dean I heard what you said to the implement dealer. I can drive into town and pick up the part for you if you want me to. That way you can begin tearing the damaged part out and maybe you can get back to work faster."
I looked into Crystals eyes and saw the worry there. I also felt myself relaxing a little at the little reduction of pressure on my time. Hell, why not I thought. I can pay her for the trip and she can use my truck. It would save me at least two or three hours on the repair. I felt myself smiling and said, "Sure, why not. Thank you Crystal. That would be a big help. I need you to take my truck though since this is farm business. When you get back could you bring it across the stream to where I'm working? When you get through the band of trees you will be able to see the machinery in the field from there."
Crystal smiled and said, "No problem Dean." She turned back to the kitchen door and said, "Kids come on. We have to go to town for Mr. Thomas. Hurry now. We have to hurry and get a part for his planter so he can get back to work."
Much to my surprise Crystal and the kids had their child seats moved from her old rattle trap mustang to the rear seat of my Super Crew and were driving down my lane before I had my repair trailer hooked to the tractor. I was on my way back to the field to begin my repairs less than thirty minutes from breaking down.
When I got to the field I began disassembling the planter for the repair. I found a weld that had broken and I rewelded it. I had some trouble getting the wheel and old bearing off. The race had gotten so hot it had partially welded itself to the shaft. I had only been done with the disassembly a few minutes when Crystal came driving into sight. I had heard her roaring through the stream and was worried because I had forgotten to ask her if she knew how to put the truck into 4 wheel drive. Many times you needed to do that because the rocks were slick and the bank steep coming out.
When Crystal got to me she jumped out of the truck and reached into it for the parts. She turned toward me and smiled. She had a bag from the parts store in one hand and a large 44 oz insulated cup with ice tea in the other. I reached for the parts and she shook her head, "Uh, UH," She said. You look like you need a drink right now. It won't take you too long for some tea then you can get back to work."
I smiled and took the drink. I downed it in less than a minute then she handed me the bag of parts. I turned to work. I had been working for a couple minutes when I felt a presence beside me. I looked up and little Tim was squatting beside me watching. He didn't say a word. I smiled and returned to my task. I felt another shadow this time and looked up again. Crystal was standing behind Tim with Sissy on her hip watching me also.
I worked on. My audience didn't say a word or move. Finally after almost two more hours I tightened the last bolt and stood. Crystal moved back and Tim stood to watch me. I was followed back and forth as I replaced the tools in my tool box on the repair trailer.
I had told Crystal three times she didn't have to stay but she had. She had only returned to the house once and that was to pick up my kids when they got back from school. I looked at my audience and then turned to crystal. "I'm going to take off down the field and see if it works ok. Would you mind waiting a minute for me to get back?"
She nodded her head and I continued. "If everything's ok can you take the trailer back to the shop if I hook it up for you?"
"I suppose I can try but I wouldn't want to break it. I've never pulled a trailer before."
"It's pretty easy Crystal. Just park the truck in front of the shop and I'll put it away when I get back. Just go slowly when you go through the creek and it'll be ok."
I worked through supper that night and kept on until almost midnight. I had finished planting my corn and took off for the house. Tomorrow I would begin preparing the field for the soy beans I would plant later.
I pulled up to the house and almost all the lights were on in the kitchen and living room. I just pulled the tractor into the shed and left it hooked to the planter. I started the truck and pulled it in beside the tractor. I would unhook everything in the morning.
I walked into the kitchen and saw Crystal standing by the stove. She was standing there in an old T-shirt. From the way she moved I didn't think there was anything but her under it either. She looked over her shoulder at me and smiled. "Why don't you go clean up? I'll have your supper warmed up when you get back Dean."
"Crystal you didn't have to do this. I'm sorry I worked so late. I forgot you have to drive all the way back to Jackie's. Everything was going so well I just kept on pushing to get done."
Crystal smiled and said, "Don't worry about it. I could have come and got you if I needed to leave. I called Jackie and told her you were still in the field." She looked a little unsure of herself for a moment then continued, "I told her if you didn't mind I would just sleep here on the couch tonight since it is so late? I really hate to wake the kids up and everything."
"Well I do mind Crystal. I was thoughtless and I don't want you sleeping on my couch tonight."
I stopped when I saw the shocked look on Crystal's face. "OH SHIT! Crystal I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that. I just meant I was sorry I worked so late and I wanted you to sleep in my guest room instead of the couch. There's no reason for you to sleep on the couch when you can use the bed. Oh, I bet you put your kids in there didn't you?"
Crystal almost whispered, "No. They all wanted to sleep with your two so I put Tim in bed with Howard and Sissy with Stacy. That's ok isn't it?"