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Chapter One of book Redemption
Not For Sale
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Silvia wiped a sweat drop from her forehead as she scooted away from the young man who tried to stand taller than his eleven years. Silvia held onto his arms as he tried to reach around her amble girth. Smiling Silvia laughed out loud as Robert tried to keep up with the Johnny Cash song Ring of Fire as he broke into a rap hip hop style dance. Robert worked his arms in imitation of Snoop Dog then smoothly included his robot routine.
Letting go, Silvia gasped, “Robert. I have to sit down. You’re wearing me out. I can’t keep up with your fancy steps.”
Robert smiled at the compliment and continued on alone. Wrapped in the music Robert worked to perfect his routine.
Silvia slid into a chair next to a portable table. Diego, her Italian husband, saw her and quickly fetched a glass of lemonade for her. “You look ravishing when you glow like this,” he reached over for a kiss.
Pushing him away softly, “You always want a kiss.” Silvia pulled him back to take his breath away. Several seconds later she let him go. “Not bad for an old lady, eh?” Diego took a deep breath, “What was the question?” Using his sad dog eyed face, he leaned forward, “More?” he whined.
With a deep chuckle, Silvia whispered, “Later?”
Diego stood and stretched, hitching his pants higher he twirled his mustache, “Sì, il mio amore. I tuoi occhi brilleranno come le stelle con piacere.” He walked back to the dance.
Watching him strut away, Silvia smiled with love and pleasure. 40 years of marriage and he still tingles my heart. ‘My eyes will shine like stars with pleasure’ huh. You’ll be gasping for air when we’re done, my old man.
Looking out at the Friday night crowd, Silvia relaxed in gratification knowing how Buck revitalized this community. Her eyes searched and found him dancing with ten year old Sarah. Buck toward above the petite young lady, with all of his six foot plus height. He appeared strong, not heavily muscled, but powerful. His black hair shown with perspiration in the light.
A dancer he's not Silvia smiled, seeing Buck’s feet stomping and waving around like branches in a storm, kicking high and wide. Lifting Sarah off of the temporary dance floor, he spun her around four or five times. Her laughter echoed louder than the music from the home town band.
Bringing Sarah into a sliding landing, he staggered forward to hear more of her heart lifting laughter. Feigning a faint from dizziness, Sarah laughed and tried to carry his bulk to a chair. After seating him, she ran to get him a glass of sweet tea for him to drink. Having saved Buck from being sick, Sarah skipped off to find her grand father to dance with her.
Silvia watched Buck relaxing and smiling, as he gazed at the young girl. His heart is for the children. Deep inside him, somewhere, is a child’s heart. How did it get buried under the piles of anger and pain? Again Silvia noticed the straggly beard and weathered face that only smiled around children.
Buck had wandered into town just over a year ago on his Harley, long hair, beard with the attitude to match. He wore two machetes crossed on his back. Yet Buck managed to make friends with the Chief of Police. He had stayed to himself, ignoring all attempts at deep friendships or social contacts. Buck had purchased the one city square block that this almost every Friday night dance was held. The City Fathers had been trying to sell this city block since the fire destroyed all of the builidings on it thirty years ago. Over the years, the farm implements, bricks, broken glass, concrete slabs seemed to have grown into larger piles. The one requirement the city council had for the purchaser was to clean it up, remove all the junk and either rebuild on it or turn it into a park.
Heywood, Texas. A city of about 15,000 souls hovered just on the brink of importance. Established in 1850, Heywood had a rich history as a rough cattle town who fought the Apaches and Mexican bandits. A few of the towns people could trace their ancestry to the Texas War of Independence as they fought and defeated the hated Mexican General, Santa Anna.
A small memorial that used to stand in the now defunk city center, listed the names of those patriots who fought in the War of Northern Aggression, both world wars, Korea and Vietnam; now adding the names from the Gulf Wars. Their Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day celebrations displayed the Lone Star's state pride of country and abounding patriotism.
Heywood, situated about seventy five miles west of Austin, sought to survive on ranching and cotton and grain farming. Tourism has become a growing income factor for Heywood and Surry County. Wild hog hunts attracted men and women from around the United States. This had the double bonus of riding the farmers and ranchers of feral hogs, plus giving the hunters great stories of fearlessly facing down a wild boar. The two dude ranches trick city folk into paying for the privilege of sweating on a working ranch. Old timers grin that Dude Ranches came from the great idea of Huck Finn tricking others into white washing the fence.
The city center once housed a brothel, saloon, bank, hotel, livery stable and a hardware store. Since these structures were made out of wood, they burned down on the average of once every five years. Basements were redug and new buildings erected in their place.
But mother nature has a way of evening the score. Two famous tornadoes came through and leveled this same city square block within twenty years of each other in the late 19th Century. Again the resilent towns folk rebuilt, the last time with brick and steel.
Over the decades and into the 20th century, other businesses came and went. Once a car dealership sprouted where the livery stable and hardware store once stood. This dealership busted in 1942. Another fire destroyed the entire city block and spread to the town hall in 1943. The towns records were destroyed at that time. Arguments still erupt over the cause of the fire. Most Heywood gossips like the story claiming Nazi sympathizers wanted to destroy the records of the German prisoners who were housed at the farms around Heywood during World War II.
After VE and VJ days, Heywood experienced the boom of the 1950s and mostly survived the trauma of the 60s youth rebellion. The Vietnam War still held pain for several families in the county. Political decisions were often settled in the parking lots as the economy surged and retreated.
Now in 2005, the city strained to make its historic down town relevant again. When Buck made his offer to purchase the entire block area, in cash, the City Council felt that Lady Luck had finally returned to their town.
Mayor Paul Myers ruled over this small fiefdom. He now severed his fourth, six year term as mayor. Paul was not an outstanding mayor so much as no one else really wanted the job. Paul kept his job through the practice of appeasement, slight of hand, coercion and staying out of major conflicts. Paul kept his image shiny which deflected any real criticism from finding him.
Small town politics being what they are, once a small power gains control, they usually stay in power until a major disaster unseats them. Handing out candy in parades, kissing babies, hand shakes, implied sexual contact with dissatisfied housewives and half truth promises, keeps the unthinking majority public happy. Any true and accurate criticism is covered by a good dirty offense, obfuscation and the confession of minor errors with the promise to do better.
Secrecy became a strong armed thug with protected Paul and the City Council. Many closed door sessions advance the cause of power and control, which most of the public does not care about anyway. What the average person does not know, they usually do not care to find out.
Rumors thrived over the question of how Buck came about his money. He never said. Some wondered if drugs were the foundation for his supposed millions. Others felt that he worked in some biker gang or mafia and kept most of the money he stole or laundered. Bets were made as to how much time he spent in prison. No one knew. And Buck liked it that way. The less people bothered him, the happier he lived.
His anger comes from deep pain, Silvia thought again. That means a woman somewhere. Maybe children. Dead? Divorce? Chuckling she added, Murder? Must have included children somewhere, he loves the kids around here.
At least he’s not wearing his machetes tonight.
Not many in the city and community knew that Buck donated to any child or school function that somehow deserved his attention. Ipads and computers appeared almost before the need became known. He especially doted on the ‘special needs’ ones that seemed to come from poorer families.
Twelve year old Theresa silently slid her way over to Buck. Standing by his side, she stood silently. Hoping. This shy unknown entity lived in the shadows of poverty and its accompanying anonymity. Dressed in faded yellow thrift store dress, Theresa felt like Cinderella at a ball. This new dress came from her mother, in one of mom’s rare guilt sprees. Here love, Mommy bought you a new dress to go to the dance on Friday night. I know how much you love to go to these dances. I’m sorry for our argument the other day. I was just tired and unhappy. I hope you forgive me.
A new used dress, clean and not patched allowed Theresa the rare fantasy of being a normal child in a normal family. She had washed her hair and taken a yellow ribbon from one of her other dresses and tied up her hair neatly. She still wore the old, ragged tennis shoes, but a little wishing upon a star changed them into jewel encrusted fancy black leather ones.
Buck had noticed her sly movements and did not embarrass her as she crept nearer. Theresa did not know she had a crush on him. She just knew he was the greatest man she had known in her unhappy life. Stretching his arms out, Buck accidentally bumped into Theresa.
“What?” Buck said turning. “Well, Theresa. How did this pretty yellow rose of Texas suddenly sprout next to me?”
Her face deepened in hue as she took the compliment and dropped her eyes to her feet.
“Hey. You know what? I’m rested and ready for another dance?”
Moving onto one knee, Buck took her hand and asked, “Would this pretty princess honor me with a dance?”
Theresa giggled and put her other hand out for him to take. The fiddle started the melody of Suds in the Bucket and Buck whirled Theresa out onto the floor. Theresa was tall for her age, which made her a little awkward as her agility had not kept up with her growth. Buck took up a waltzing position and spun her around the floor.
“You've been practicing, haven’t you,” Buck looked at Theresa. “I haven’t stepped on your toes once.” Buck laughed and whirled in another circle. Theresa glowed with pride. She had been practicing.
Buck danced with Theresa through two more songs. Just as the second song ended he let Theresa go into the arms of a community friend. Buck started back to his seat, but froze.
The female face from the past materialized in the haze of the dust and the bright lights. Standing in the crowd at the opposite side of the plywood dance floor, she looked Buck in the eyes. Those eyes. Deep blue eyes. Eyes that had him squirming the first time he saw her. For an instant the lure of the first teenage stirrings of love he felt for her left him stunned at her remembered beauty.
The next instant the massive castle door swung shut. Bars slammed into place, blocking any attempt to open it. The sharp portcullis drove the spikes deep into the ground as it fell free from the restraints. A mist covered Buck’s eyes as his body faded into another time and dimension. He remembered the day she left him.
“Thanks for coming. Hope you enjoyed the service,” Pastor Chad Dillon said to an elderly parishioner as she smiled at his smile.
“Yes I did. You kept the sermon to just the right length young man. I like that. Plus you sang one of my favorite hymns. Church was good today,” she complimented him. Walking away, she hummed Amazing Grace.
As Pastor Chad reached for another hand to shake, he caught sight of a Sheriff Deputy pulling into the Church parking lot. Excusing himself from the after church line, Pastor Chad walked up to the Deputy as he climbed out of the squad car.
“Hey Pete. What ya doin here now? You missed Church.”
Deputy Simmons smiled and reached for the offered hand. Pete’s smile faded as he said, “Um. Well. I just wanted to let you know that Barbara’s come back. Russel found her walking just outside of town and gave her a ride to your place. He thought you’d want that. She’s there now. Just wanted to give you a heads up.”
The spiritual joy of worship vanished instantly. “Yeah. Thanks. I appreciate it.” Pastor Chad sank back into the emotional room he reserved for stashing his feelings when dealing with his wife. Coming out he looked at Pete, “I appreciate it. I’ll go over and see what she’s up to now. Maybe she’s come back to stay.”
Walking onto the cement driveway of the parsonage, Pastor Chad saw Barbara sitting at the picnic table with their two sons, Jason and Jeremy. The old oak tree provided shade for many lunches for his family. Pearl, who helped Chad out since Barbara had left, had just finished setting the table for lunch. The day had warmed up nice for late spring. Pearl caught Chad’s eyes and lifted her head, as if to say, 'Good Luck.' Pearl disappeared into the house.
“Dad. Dad. Mom’s home,” the high school sophomore Jeremy exclaimed. Jeremy suffered most with his mother’s radical behavioral change and disappearance. Giving his dad an excited hug, he whispered, “Maybe she's come back to stay.”
Jason, the oldest, graduating this year, sat across from Mom, reserved in his pain. His grief at being abandoned by his once saintly mother lay hidden underneath a growing man’s gruffness. His eyes betrayed the calm exterior of his Mother’s return
Jeremy ran back and sat next to Mom. Chad walked over to sit across from her, next to Jason.
Barbara flipped her cigarette away and turned to tuck her shapely legs under the table. Blond, slender, dressed in a tight sleveless V cut T shirt, shorts that barely covered her flesh. Chad felt like weeping for the change in her.
Barbara stayed silent but defiant as Chad offered thanks for the lunch. Hungry teenage boys dived into the hoogie sandwiches, patato salad and chips. Sweet tea glistened in the glasses. Barbara helped herself to a few chips and nibbled them slowly. Chad’s stomach refused to let him eat.
The boys chatted with Mom, telling her all that they had been doing since she had been gone. Jason talked about school and maybe college. Mom asked him how football had gone. Chad wondered, Had she really been gone that long? Christmas. She was here one day after being gone since Thanksgiving. Nothing since.
Jeremy talked about school and friends. General chatter they thought she would be interested in.
After the boys finished, Mom kissed them and asked them to give her some alone time with Dad. The boys, reluctant to leave, agreed and went into the house.
“I’m glad you’ve come home,” Chad offered when they were alone.
“Home. Nah. Ain’t staying home. Just came by to see my sons and let you know I’m leaving for good. Don’t want to come back to this stifling goodness.” Stretching her arms high and wide, Barbara continued, “After all these years, I want to live!” Barbara pushed her chest out, hoping to antagonize her husband. Her sheer bra did not leave much to the imagination.
Chad bled. Blood pumping in squirts, deep inside. Breathing came in shallow and slow. “Not come back? Why?” he pleaded.
“Ah, you know. I love you and all, love the boys, but I want more than this pastor’s wife life. It’s too dull. Too restrictive. I never dated anyone but you. Not really. I want to see what I missed.”
“Missed? I never forced you to date me or marry me. I thought you were happy in our marriage. During my tour in the Army, going to Bible school, coming to this church. What happened?” he pleaded again.
“You are a good man, Pastor Chad,” Barbara reached across the table and patted his cheek. “But it’s over. I loved you for a while, now I want to love someone else. Nothing personal. I think I’ve just out grown you and this pallid life.”
Silence sat between them.
In a still voice, “You don’t love me. What have I done to chase you away?” Barbara did not answer. “You’ve changed into exactly the opposite of what you were. What’s happened. This is not you. It can’t be you. Can’t we get some counseling? Can’t you stay and try to make it work. I’ll do whatever you want.”
“Sweet Chad. It’s not you. I’m just done with this life. I want excitement, fun, sex. Lots of sex. Lots of different sex.” Barbara leaned forward to expose the deep cleavage of her breasts. She smiled as she saw his eyes dart down. “Men like me Chad. I like that.”
Her eyes shift upward, reliving the many sexual experiences she enjoyed in the past few months. “Men love me.” Looking back at Pastor Chad, “And they’re teaching me so much.” She challenged him with her eyes.
“Different sex?” Chad echoed. “What does that mean? Are you becoming a lesbian? Do you want .... What do you want?”
Silence settled down on the pair. Thick, heavy air suppressed words and honest conversation. Emotions clouded the sun, clouded their past twenty one years of dating and marriage. The honest words of love and desire died suddenly. The memories of shared joy, ecstasy and peace vanished into thunderclouds of searing pain and noise.
What do I want?, Barbara wondered. I don’t want to leave you, but I have to. Why do I have to? I don’t know. Something is pushing me away. I love you Chad, my dearest. I love our sons. I love our life. But I can’t stay. I can’t say why. Slumping her head into her hands, tears started to form in her eyes. I can’t explain it to myself, how can I tell you.
I will not cry! I made my choice. I’ve got to explore my cravings. I’ve got to experience what life is, all of llife. Not just the stale and spice-less community that surrounds us. I want more! Yes. That’s it. I want more!
A voice challenged her thoughts: Why? Why do you want more Barbara? What does simply multiplying partners and experiences give you, except more? You are throwing away a great life, with a loving husband and sons that make you proud.
Taking a deep sigh, Barbara rode the dragon that surged against the average plain life. Does it matter why or what? Just go. Just do it. Don’t look back. They’ll be alright. They can exist without you.
Pulling back, Chad had no more words. His shoulders slumped forward, curling around his chest in protection. A deep sigh escaped. Tears tried to drown his sorrow, but he refused to let them fall. “You’ve just killed me Barbara. I’m dead. Our marriage of nineteen years has simply bled out.” Looking up at her face, he saw no remorse, no tenderness. Barbara had come to say good-bye and was anxious to be off. She was as dead to him as he felt to her.
Barbara stood and said, “Well. No use prolonging the inevitable. I’m gone. Have a good life Chad. You deserve it. You’ll find another young girl that wants to be a pastor’s wife. You’ll be happy.” Looking deeply at him, “Be happy for me, please.”
She walked around the table and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “How does that song go, Thanks for the memories.”
With that Barbara turned to walk away. She stopped after a few steps, turned back and said, “Oh. The cigarette. I don’t really smoke. I just wanted the old ladies in the Church to have something to talk about.” She then turned and left. Chad watched as she walked away, exaggerating her hip swing, letting her long blond hair bounce with her steps.
No, Barbara. There’ll never be another ‘you.’ Dead men don't enjoy life.
Jeremy and Jason raced out to the table. “Where’s mom going?” Jeremy cried. “Isn’t she staying?”
When Chad said nothing, Jeremy raced off after Mom. Jason just stood next to Dad. “She’s gone?” Chad nodded his head, yes. “I guess we’re alone now. I can tell everyone at school that my mom has died. She’s dead to me and us.” Without further words, he walked off in the opposited direction, to wander for a couple of hours.
Chad watched Jason leave. No words of pastoral comfort came. No words to soothe a mutilated heart. Chad heard the walls slam down around Jason’s heart. ‘Mom is dead.’
Chad turned to see Jeremy catch up to Mom. He saw her turn and face him, talk a couple of moments, reach out to hug him and then turn to continue walking. Jeremy sank to the ground. He sat there until Mom had disappeared from sight.
Pearl came out to clean up from lunch. She stared at the prodigal pastor’s wife and offered a prayer. Keep her safe Lord Jesus. Help these men to endure by your grace. Silently she cleaned up the table, the kitchen and dishes and left for home.
Chad sat well into the night at the table. No thoughts floated through his mind. He died that afternoon. Deep down died. No Easter resurrection would bring life back. It is over. Life was over. How can a man live with half his heart gone?
Chad remembered the Pastor’s counsel at their wedding ceremony:
Marriage is like taking a red ball of clay and a white ball of clay. The years of interaction, intimacy, making decisions over finances, raising children, arguing and making up, mash these two different colored balls together. This interaction between your personalities do not turn the balls of clay pink. Both of you will retain your separate personalities. Instead, your lives will become a swirl of red and white, finely intertwined. The deeper the experiences, the longer you stay together, the more intricate, entwined and detailed will the small vines of red and white become. This intertwining becomes the strength of your love.
Chad thought, That’s true. What that old man didn’t tell me was that when one color left, it ripped away from the other color. No clean lines. No surgical skill. Just a searing pain as skin is peeled away from the flesh. It’s like ripping all the capillaries out of your body without any pain killers. No blood. No life. Only pain for eternity.
Buck refocused on the present. Across the dance floor, Barbara still stood among the crowd. Standing back as not to spook her quary. She stood and looked at Chad. Only looked. He’s shocked to see me. Oh, Lord. Thank you for letting me find him. How I love him. Can I ever get him to love me again?
Buck looked at Barbara again. Ten years and she just suddenly pops in. Buck turned and left the dance. The dead do not dance. He died again. Anger filled him with rage. He had to leave or explode. Pain and rage stiffened his steps and he stomped away, not looking back. All else forgotten except the memories and grief flooding back again. There is no resurrection. The past is dead.
Silvia noticed Buck’s sudden stop. Following his gaze she saw a blond haired lady. Silvia squirmed to where she could see her better. Nice dress. Nice smile. Good looker. Is this the mystery? Looking back and forth at the pair, There’s such pain in their eyes.
She watched Buck stiffen, standing statuesque among the swirling dancers and laughter. She watched as Buck started a half step forward, then froze again. Moments flashed into eternity. A quick glance at the blond Silvia noticed, She’s in love with Buck. Her face shines, even in the shadow of the flood lights. Where did you come from young one? What do you have to do with our Buck? Did he cause you pain or did you chase him away?
Movement broke her train of thought as Buck turned and jerked his way out of the light, into the darkness, becoming the living dead. He disappeared so quickly that no one else noticed.
The band played on and the dance continued.
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