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Friday, August 22, 2014

Chapter 19

After Saul left Roman got angry and said, “This is messed up.” 

“If you don’t want to be the enforcer …” 

Roman shook his head and sat in the chair that Sault had been sitting in.  “First things first.  I’m not your pimp.  I’m not an enforcer.  I’m … I’m not your jailor either though you’ll probably think so when you hear everything.” 

“Roman so long as you aren’t pimping me out I’m pretty ok with whatever it is.” 

“How can you be?” 

“Because it is still better than where I was at and what I was doing.” 

That stopped him for a minute and then he slouched in the chair.  “Ok, you like deals right?” 

“I don’t know about like them – or not like them – just I’ve found them useful on occasion.” 

“Well, you’re honest which might be part of the problem.  You’ve given the family so much honesty that some of them can’t handle it.  It messed up how they saw themselves.” 

“Not sure I follow.” 

“I love my family but … but they aren’t … they have a certain way of looking at things that is really black and white.  Right off the bat they wanted to believe you were some hard woman with a track record a mile long that must have drug Alex down into the gutter.  Then when some of them got their first look at you they went squirrely in the head.” 

“Why?  Mother Mary said I looked ok … I mean I wasn’t special or anything but I didn’t make men run from the room screaming for their mommies.” 

Roman shook his head.  “That’s only sorta what I mean.  You don’t … well you don’t now I mean … you did when I first saw you all painted up.” 

“You mean I don’t look like a whore?” 

“Yeah, that’s what I mean.  And I’m sorry if I have to explain things and they hurt your feelings but …” 

“Roman, you must be thinking of someone else because I don’t have feelings that can be hurt.  I got rid of them.  They are a waste of time and cause problems.  Just spit it out and don’t worry about it.  I want to know what the sitch is.  The sooner the better.  I need to pay my way and try and set things aside for when Bean comes.” 

Roman scrubbed his face.  “I guess I don’t have any choice, not if I’m going to live with myself.  Because there is Bean to think of.  And … and I have to do what is right even if no one can see it or understand it.” 

“You’re getting grief again?” 

I saw him hesitate a second and then he said, “Yeah.  And people are going to talk.” 

“They are going to say that you are keeping me for your own use.  Are you?” 

“No.  But …” 

“But what?” I asked suspiciously. 

“Some of the people in the family … in the enclave … look one of the hard and fast rules is that people aren’t supposed to fool around.  Even if we skip Andrew’s sermonizing the problem to death, the truth is that with a group our size it just causes problems if you … have relations with someone you aren’t married to.  We’ve seen it happen in other enclaves.  People get jealous, there are fights, misunderstandings, yada, yada.  Sometimes people will look the other way or sometimes it can be hid really well – I mean people do try and get away with it – but then when a couple gets serious and they do get married and things come out there can be even bigger problem. Then you have nature and sometimes people are just going to do what they want to do. But the thing is … if a … if a woman gets … pregnant … there’s an expectation that … that someone is supposed to … to make an honest woman out of her.” 

“And how in the heck are they supposed to do that?” 

“Someone is expected to step forward and take responsibility for her and the baby.  Our enclave looks at it as a … uh … as a survival issue.  Someone has to make sure the woman and baby don’t starve or get … abused and that sort of thing.  Andrew would say it is a moral obligation or something along those lines.  I’m not so sure he is right anymore but … I do agree that it is an issue of survival and safety for all of us.” 

“You … you’ve got to be …  No freaking way.  You’re saying your dad is making you … making me … ?!” 

“No!  No.  Just … just settle down.  Dad is … I swear I don’t know what Dad is.  Mom is righteously hacked off too.  But mostly they’re both broken hearted.  And … and the people see that and they’re wondering if Dad is going to make an exception to the rules and … and we can’t risk a bunch of exceptions.  So … so I said that I’d … well … take care of you and Bean.” 

“You … you volunteered?  Have you gone completely to the crazy side?!” 

“Look I know … wait … you aren’t going to puke again are you?” 

“No, you aren’t like Alex so you don’t make me puke.  But back up and tell me again … you really volunteered?” 

“Yeah.  Yeah I did.  Why?  Don’t think I’m good enough?” 

“It’s not that so don’t be stupid.  I just think you’re crazy.  Doggone Roman, what did I say about sticking your chin out?!  Now how am I supposed to deal us out of this?  Your life is ruined.  I told you I didn’t want to carry around any more pain than I had to and now look at this mess!”   

“My life isn’t ruined.” 

“Oh yes it is.  Your family …” 

“Already doesn’t think much of me.  I only hang around still because … well … because I believe in what we are doing but I don’t usually have as much to do with the family as I have the last little bit.  They usually don’t have much to do with me either.  Trust me.  If it wasn’t this they’d find something else to talk about.” 

“Missy tried to tell me about your brothers but they sound like a bunch of … well … they sound like people that are good at making other people miserable.” 

“What?  No.  No, definitely not.  You must have gotten the wrong idea.  Missy can be a little … uh …” 

“No, she knew what I was saying and apparently she thinks you get a raw deal just because people think they’re extraordinarily arrogant and you’re just ordinarily arrogant.” 

“She did not say that.” 

“Not in those words but women know a lot more than men give us credit for knowing.  And don’t think I don’t see the Bible story type stuff that your parents had going on.  Honestly … David, Andrew, Peter … could you be more obvious?  What did they do, get tired of Bible names and switch to history names?  Alexander … the great … and Roman?  Your parents have a complex.  Just be glad they didn’t call you Romulus and Remus.” 

At least he had the sense not to deny it.  “My sisters’ names are just as bad.  Esther, Elizabeth, Catherine and Victoria.” 

“You have sisters?” 

“Yeah.  I’m not sure if you remember her or not.  Vicki was the other woman in here besides Missy and Regina.” 

“I remember her.  She was the quiet one and doesn’t look anything like your mother.” 

“Nope, none of the others do either.  All of us took after Dad’s side of the family … well, except for me.  I take after Mom’s father and … and the less said about him the better.  I remember him … he … he wasn’t a strong person.” 

“But you liked him anyway.” 

“What?!  How did you …?” 

“I didn’t like being a whore but I learned a few things from it like things about human nature.  You have to to survive.  I learned to read expressions when men talked … if they were in the mood for talking.  And you tried to hide a smile.  It wasn’t much of one but it still means that your grandfather meant something nice to you.” 

After a moment he nodded.  “He wasn’t very successful in life.  Tried a bunch of times and a bunch of ways but just never could quite make things work out.  My grandmother divorced him and started her own business because she was tired of waiting around for him to make something of himself.  I guess he started drinking at some point and … and one winter he got so drunk he fell asleep outside in bad weather and got sick … and then he died.  This was all before things went bad.  I didn’t get to see him much but … but he’d come to the ballpark once in a while and throw some balls with me sometimes.  When he threw them I always caught them.” 

“So who gives a hoot if he was a drunk?  Apparently he cared about you and you cared about him.  Shouldn’t that be all that matters?” 

“I wish life was like that Thorn.  But it isn’t.” 

“I guess you’re right.  It just seems kinda stupid that it isn’t for the people that need that.” 

“That mean you don’t need it?” 

“It means that I’ve learned to live without it.  I just don’t want Bean to live without it.  I want Bean to be safe.  I … I want to find someplace Bean doesn’t have to learn all the things I’ve had to learn.  I thought at first this might be the place but … I don’t know … the more I hear about it the less I’m thinking it is.  I sure as heck …” 


“Roman?  Are they making you be my … whatever you call it?  I know you said you volunteered but … it don’t sound like you felt like you had much choice.  That just don’t seem the right way to start off a deal.” 

“Are you willing to make a deal?  Or are you thinking of how you can make a deal for long enough then run away.” 

“Let’s just say if the deal is worth it for Bean’s sake – and to have some place safe that no one has to be miserable – I might consider it.” 


“I know how it sounds.  Um … mercenary or something like that.  But … I mean it when I say I’ll keep to a deal so long as I know Bean gets taken care of right.  And maybe I can’t make them safe by myself.  But I won’t ever go back to that other life so that’s off the table.  So you might as well get on with the conditions your family is putting on things so we can see if we can work a deal.” 

“You aren’t going to like the conditions.  I know I wouldn’t but … but there’s not much leeway in their give right now.  First, you can’t leave the enclave, not until … they want to make sure that you won’t betray us to the revenuers or anyone else for that matter.” 

“Ok, I can see where they might be concerned with that.” 

“Not if they knew your story.” 

“No.  I don’t want people feeling sorry for me.” 

“It isn’t feeling sorry for you by understanding where you are coming from.” 

“Bull.  Besides, from the looks I saw they want to think the worst.” 

“Well I can’t deny that some of them are … are determined to think the worst.” 

“Well like I said to Saul I don’t have a problem hanging around and staying away from the other men.  In fact I really don’t want to be around them at all.” 

“What about me?” 

“You’re ok I guess.” 

“Ringing endorsement.” 

“Considering everything?  Yeah, it’s more than I would give any other man and that’s a fact.  You’re just too weird not to be kinda sorta ok.  Just don’t go changing and turning out like …” 

“I won’t turn out like Alex.” 

“I can’t make you promise but … but I figure you really mean what you say.” 

“I do.” 

“Ok, so what else?” 

“You have to participate in helping the enclave.” 

“How do I do that?  I told Saul I can work for my keep … mine and Bean’s.  I told him I could clean and read and do math and that I can sew.” 

“Sewing could be helpful.” 

“That’s what Saul said.” 

“I can’t.” 

“Can’t what?” 

“Can’t … can’t read and do math.” 


“Because I can’t!” 

“Geez, don’t yell.  It was just a question; and it’s not like you are the only one on the planet that can’t.  Missy mentioned you had challenges learning stuff.” 

“She had no business …” 

“Can you see pictures?” 


“Pictures … like a map.  Can you understand maps and stuff?” 

“Yeah.  It is about the only thing I'm half way decent at.” 

I rolled my eyes.  I swear he sounded just like I remember Tim sounding when he would get angry and then feel sorry for himself.  Ignoring that part of it I said, “Well I can show you how Tim learned to read some words.  I guess you’ve got like dyslexia.” 

“How the hell did you figure that out?” 

“Because you’re as sensitive – strike that as rude and nasty about it as Tim was.  God he was so sensitive about it.  It was ok when we were in Africa, I remember that much, but when we came back to the states the other kids made him miserable.  But to make up for not being able to read God seemed to make Tim a whiz at some things … they just weren’t school things.  He was good with animals.  And when we lived on the farm he taught me lots of stuff … I wish I could remember them all, they’d probably come in handy right about now.  And Tim used to make my shoes.” 


“Yeah, when I was little and living in Africa I got sick with polio when I was a baby.  It got me before I could get all of my vaccinations.  My legs were ok but my feet were froze up.  I hated to wear shoes, they hurt really bad.  Tim and Daisy had to carry me everywhere only when I got too big it was too hard for them to carry me and all I could do was sit in the hut and watch people go by.  Then Tim learned something new.  The people over in this village taught Tim how to make shoes and … well he just made my shoes from then on out.  My feet unfrozen after a little while but I still hated any other shoes except the ones that Tim made for me so when we moved back to the states Tim learned to make shoes that I could wear to school here.  And then it was even better when we moved to the farm because he would make these really comfy shoes.  All the other kids at school were jealous because Tim always made them real nice and I could sneak up on people and stuff because my shoes didn’t crunch.” 

“There’s no way I’ll ever learn to read.  I’ve tried … lots of stuff.  I just can’t.” 

Bean, I’m hardheaded and contrary.  You’ll have to learn that about me if you don’t already realize it by the time you read this.  When someone says I can’t or they can’t it makes me itch to prove the exact opposite.  I tore a sheet of paper out of the back of this book and tore it in half.  On one piece I drew a cow and on the other piece I wrote the word cow. 

I asked him, “What’s this?” 

“Dammit …” 

“This is part of the deal so pay attention.  What’s this?” 

“It’s a damn cow.” 

“Leave the damn out of it.  Just say it’s a cow.” 

“It’s a cow.” 

He wasn’t exactly into it but I told him I wouldn’t broker a deal with him if he didn’t at least try my experiment. “Ok … this is a cow too.” 

“It is not.  It’s … it’s a word.” 

“It’s a picture just like the picture of the cow.  This is a picture of a cow and this is a picture of a cow,” I told him pointing to the drawing of the cow and then the word cow. 

“This is stupid.” 

“Pay attention.  What’s this?” 

“A cow.” 

“What’s this?” 

“A bunch of lines.” 

“I’m going to slug you with my bag if you don’t stop.  Now play along.  Remember, this is part of the deal.” 

We went back and forth just like I had seen Tim do until he got mad.  I asked, “What’s this?” 

“A cow.” 

“What’s this? 

“A cow.” 

“What this again?” 

“A cow.” 

“And what’s this?” 

“It’s a picture of a damn cow!” 

“Yep.  That’s right.  I bet if you practice, next time you see this picture you’ll know it’s a cow.  C – O – W.  Cow.” 

“Wait … whut?” 

I handed him the two pieces of paper.  And he looked at the two of them and then at me.  He looked like Emerald’s enforcer had knocked him upside his head. 

“You aren’t going to puke are you?  You look kinda funny.” 

“No,” he said quietly before getting up and walking around the room.  He kept looking at those two pieces of paper and then he walked out of the room and I heard a door close some place. 

I was thinking about getting up and looking for the bathroom when I heard the door open and thought it was Roman coming back but it wasn’t.  A young, pretty woman walked into the room and just stood looking at me. 

“Uh …” 

“My name is Patty.” 

Crap is exactly what I thought Bean.  I was looking at a major mess on my hands.


  1. It's a COW!!!!! great chapter. My dyslexia is more of a "void" one... I can't 'see' some letters in words ... got to go back and forth several times to "see" it. usually "n's"

    thanks so much! (and maybe "c's"....)

  2. That was interesting. Cow.. never thought of it in pictures. Thanks for the chapter!

  3. Love this story Kathy thanks,