CHAPTER Twenty-eight: ALONE TOGETHER

   Chuck only stayed through lunch, which Vic prepared from groceries brought from town, then he headed back to town for the weekend. Had he seen the hug and kiss that Vic and Greg exchanged almost before he was out of sight, he might have doubted his decision to let her stay. But, like the famous return-from-vacation kiss, it was just the release of all the tensions being apart had built up. Afterward, they settled on the Anderson’s couch, and held hands.

   “I was so sure you weren’t coming,” Greg said. ‘Your dad didn’t mention the weekend once, even though we had a really good conversation Wednesday night. I just assumed he had said no. When I heard you speak next to me in the truck, I couldn’t believe my ears.”

   “It was a shock to me that he finally said yes. Actually, he never said anything, until last night. We weren’t discussing it, at all. I was a little afraid to bring it up - afraid of what he’d say. Then, without any real lead-in, he said something like ‘Greg says I shouldn’t be worried about trusting him. He said I should just remember the daughter that we raised. You can go.’ Just like that!”

   They sat a little longer, then Greg got up. “Well, boss, this is still a work day, so I suppose I should get some work done. Tim is out mending fences. I thought I’d check on him, and see if he needs any help. Then, I thought I’d bait the duck traps, getting ready to start trapping next week. Do you want to come?”

   “Of course, I want to come. How can I supervise if I’m not with you?”

   While Vic cleaned up the lunch dishes, Greg went to one of the storage bins, and collected a couple of buckets of grain for baiting the traps. Then, they headed out onto the refuge.  They located Tim’s truck, and a few minutes later saw Tim walking down the road toward them. He greeted them, and gave Vic a hug. He didn’t comment on her being there.

   “I just finished up. The only thing left is that area near the entrance, where we’ll have to string some new wire. You and I can do that next week, whenever you have time.”

   “Sounds good. We’re going to bait the traps, now. I won’t put the funnels in yet – maybe Sunday evening. If we start trapping Monday, we’re still going to be early for many migrant ducks. We’ll just have to see if it’s worth it.”

   Tim headed back to headquarters. Greg and Vic baited the two traps, drove around a little, then went back home. Tim was already gone when they arrived. Vic went to her house, while Greg made a general survey of the grounds to make sure everything was shut up for the weekend. When he got over to the Anderson’s, he found Vic fast asleep on the couch. He found a blanket to cover her, then sat in one of the armchairs and watched her sleep. The next thing he recalled was waking to a dark house. Vic was still asleep on the couch.

   He went into the kitchen to find something quick to make for dinner. He settled on toasted cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. He brought it out to the living room on a tray, and set it on the coffee table by the couch. Vic was awake, and sitting up. He sat down next to her.

   “A meal fit for a queen,” he said.

   She looked at it. “Maybe if the queen was lost in the jungle, and ended up having lunch with Tarzan in his tree house.” She bit into the sandwich. “It’s very good, however.”

   They ate in silence. When they had finished, Greg took the tray back to the kitchen, then came back to sit by her, again. “You know, we never did talk about your trip to college. How did that go?”

   “It was good, I think, although it was kind of intimidating. I know ISU isn’t really that big of a college, but it’s a whole lot bigger than my high school. There are so many people, and so many buildings to find my way around, it doesn’t look easy for a backwoods girl like me.”

   “I remember that it was quite a change for me, and sort of worrying, trying to figure out where all my classes were. But after a week or so, that’s all old hat.”

   “I guess. We went to my dorm. We couldn’t see my actual room because they haven’t been assigned yet, but they showed us an example. They look nice – quite a bit of room, and set up for two people. Oh, that’s what I haven’t told you! My roommate is going to be Nancy Bowen, the girl whose family Mandy and I have been living with. I think that is going to be fun.”

   “It should be a real help for both of you, to know each other so well, and to know you’re going to get along. Assigned roommates are something of a grab bag; sometimes, you’re compatible, but sometimes not. My first roommate my freshman year was so different from me that we barely spoke all term. It was probably my fault as much as his but, anyway, we got different roomies the next semester, and were much happier.”

   Vic gave an elaborate stretch, and a fake-sounding yawn. “You know, even though I slept quite a while, I think I am ready to go to bed.”

   Greg stood up. “Okay, I’ll wait around until you get settled, and then head home.”

   “You’re leaving? I thought you would stay here.”

   “I don’t think your father would have let you stay out here if he had thought I was going to be sleeping with you.”

    “Well, aren’t you presumptuous!  Who said anything about you sleeping with me? It’s just that I’ve never been here at night by myself, and I’m a little concerned about being all alone.”

   He was immediately contrite. “Vic, I’m sorry I misunderstood.” He thought a minute. “Okay, how about I go over to my place, get my sleeping bag, and put it in on Mandy’s bed? Then, I’ll be close if you should get worried.”

   “That sounds good.”

    He got his bag, and brought it back to the house. Vic was sitting on the edge of her bed, ready to get into it.

   “Nice p.js,” he said.

   “You have said that before.”

    “They are still nice.” He turned down her bed covers, and helped her climb in. She pulled him down to her for a long goodnight kiss.

   “I’ll be right next door,” he said, as he turned out her light. He spread his sleeping bag on the bed, but it was really too warm in the house to get into it. He opened it flat, searched around for a light blanket, lay down on the bag, and pulled the cover over him.

   He was just dozing off when he felt the cover being lifted, then a warm body sliding in next to his. “Vic, what are you doing?”

   “I’m going to be sleeping with you.”

    “Didn’t we just recently decide that wasn’t going happen?”

    “No, we decided you weren’t going to sleep with me. We said nothing about me sleeping with you.”

     “I think that is what they call a distinction without a difference.”

   “What do you care? Just enjoy it, and go to sleep.

    He did enjoy it, and he did go to sleep.

    Greg woke up to the phone ringing. Vic was already up, and answered it in the living room. He heard her half of the conversation. “Hi, Mom. Yes, I just got up. Oh, after Daddy left, we went out on the refuge and checked on Tim. He gave me a hug. Yes, then we baited the duck traps so Greg can start trapping next week. I’m going to get dressed and go over to Greg’s, shortly. We’ll probably cook breakfast over there, then sit on our porch steps. No, no particular plans later. Thanks for calling. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

   Greg got out of bed, slipped on his pants (realizing that he was still wearing his refuge uniform), and came out to the living room as Vic hung up the phone.

   “How does it feel to lie to your mother first thing in the morning?”

   “I did not lie. Everything I said was the absolute truth. I just chose to omit a few details. Is that a crime?”

   “Probably not technically, so it probably wouldn’t be abetting a crime if I kissed you in your pajamas.”

   “It would be a crime if you didn’t.”

   He did. After a suitably extended break, he let her go. “I’m going over to the house to start breakfast. Come over when you’re ready.”

   At home, Greg traded his uniform for jeans and a tee shirt, then started getting out ingredients for breakfast. He had purchased a few special items, hoping that he’d have Vic to share them with.

   She arrived in jeans and a bright, flowered blouse. “I’m getting to really like you in your pajamas, but this is pretty nice, too,” he commented.

   “Thank you. I find your jeans and tee shirt quite becoming, also. What are you making?”

   “Well, first, let me ask you. Are you a pepper person – the vegetable, not the seasoning?”

   “You mean, like bell peppers?”

   “Yes, but with a little more zing – heat – to them.”

   “I don’t know that I’ve ever had any.”

   “Do you like spicy food?”

   “I don’t know. Do they serve it in Idaho or North Dakota?”

   “Maybe not. Well, how about avocados?”

   “I’ve never had one.”

    “I can’t believe it! To have reached your adulthood without savoring the finest of fruits – or vegetables; I can never remember which it is. Anyway, we Native Californians can’t live without avocados.”

   “You know that we Idahoans don’t appreciate Californians coming into our state with their liberal ideas and foreign fruits. Present company excepted, of course.”

   “Of course. Well, this poses a potential problem. Nevertheless, I know you to be an adventurous young woman, so I’ll go ahead with my classic Mexican omelet. If you don’t like it, I’ll eat your share, and get you a bowl of Cheerios.”

   “I think the omelet will be just fine.” She came over and stood by him. “So, how do we make this classic concoction?”

   “Well, as you can see, I have a little olive oil in this pan, ready to heat. I have already chopped a yellow onion, and I am about to chop these little green jalapeno peppers. This first time, I will remove most of the seeds before I chop, because they are what gives the pepper most of its heat. While I chop the peppers, you may put the frying pan on the burner and start it warming. Then, in a minute, add the onion and the jalapeno.” She did. “You can see that I already have here a small bowl of corn, another of black beans, and a diced tomato. When your mixture has heated about five minutes, add these three ingredients. While that is heating, I am going to chop up this lovely avocado – currently selling at the local market, two for 21 cents. Here, have a bite.”

   She accepted it. “Hmm, very creamy. Not an overpowering flavor, but very nice.”

   “Yes, it is. Now, let your mixture heat another minute or two, then add the avocado. Don’t cook it, just swirl it in with the rest, then take the mix off the burner and let it sit.”

   While she watched the mixture, Greg started a second frying pan heating. He cracked four eggs into a bowl, mixed them thoroughly, and added a little salt and pepper.

   “You can see I have a bowl of grated cheese here. It’s nice to have a combination of cheeses, but all I have is cheddar, so we’ll settle for that. Now, I pour half of the eggs into the skillet, and let them firm up. In a minute, I will put half the grated cheese on them. While I do that, you may go to the refrigerator, and bring out the sour cream.”

   She did. “Thank you. Now, take your onion-jalapeno-avocado mix, and pour half of it on one side of the egg base. Good. Use a spatula, and fold the other half of the omelet over the filling. Hand me one of those plates, and we’ll transfer this. Good. Now, a little sour cream on top. Oh, and a little cilantro, and it’s ready to go. While you take that plate and start digging in, I shall prepare a similar one for me. Oh, there’s a jar of salsa there, too, if you want to gild the lily a little more. It isn’t hot sauce.”

   He watched her eat as he finished up his cooking. She looked quite content. He dished up his omelet, brought a chair around to her side of the table, and sat next to her. “So, what do you think?”

   She leaned her head on his shoulder, still chewing happily. “I think you should make one of these for me every morning for the rest of our lives.” She took another bite.

 

   They finished eating, cleaned up after themselves, made coffee and tea, and retired to the porch steps.

   “I’m so full, I could fall asleep right here, right now,” said Greg. “I suppose that means that you have some really serious, really complicated thing you want to discuss.”

   “You know me so well.”

   “So, what is on your lovely, but overactive, mind today?”

   “Rules and regulations.”

   That stopped him for a moment. “Rules and regulations? Have I overstepped somewhere along the way, and you’re just telling me, now?”

   “Not us, silly. I’m talking about churches, and religions. Remember when we were talking a couple weeks ago, and you said you didn’t like all the rules and regulations in the churches you’d been to? I want to know more about that.”

   Greg groaned. “Last week, I was a college professor. Today, you want me to be a pastor.”

   “Not really. I kind of want you to be an anti-pastor, and tell me what’s wrong with church rules, not what’s right.”

   “Antipastor. Isn’t that some kind of Italian smorgasbord? After the meal I fed you, how can you still be thinking about eating?”

   “You’re really trying not to be serious, aren’t you?”

   “No, I’m just stalling; trying to get my thoughts in order. Let me see. I’ll start with individual rules that churches have, like coffee for the Mormons. I really don’t know why Mormons aren’t supposed to drink coffee or other beverages with caffeine. It’s certainly not a Bible rule, and I doubt it’s from the Book of Mormon (although I’ve never read that). I suppose it has to do with taking things into your body that aren’t good for you. If that’s it, I have two problems. One, medical people and such are still arguing over the pros and cons of caffeine. Sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s good. Beyond that, we take many, many, many things into our body that aren’t good for us, either in general or in the amounts we consume. Why aren’t there prohibitions on all those other things. It just seems a silly, pointless rule.

   “We’ve talked about dancing. I forget which denominations are against it, but the point seems to be that dancing leads to lustful thoughts. It may, but probably not too many that weren’t already there. Besides, much of the dancing I’ve seen has the couples nowhere near each other, doing their own moves. And again, dancing certainly isn’t the only thing people do that could lead to lustful thoughts. Why aren’t they taboo, also?”

   She interrupted his narrative. “If you danced with me, would you have lustful thoughts that were already there?”

   “It seems likely. I suspect other lustful thoughts might develop while we were dancing, if we were dancing close to one another.”

    “Oh, that’s… That’s interesting.”

    “Yes, it is. Now, before you lure me into a different conversation, do you want me to keep talking about religious rules?”

   “I’m not sure. Let me think a minute.” She paused. “Okay, although the different conversation seems to have interesting paths to follow, I think – this time – I’d like to stay with the original theme. But I’m not forgetting about the different conversation, by any means.”

   “Okay, moving forward then, I think these kinds of church rules are silly and ineffectual, but I also think they create hypocrites. You sign a pledge that says you won’t drink coffee, or you won’t dance. Still, you think, this has nothing to do with God. He’s not going to care if I drink a little coffee in the morning, or take my wife dancing. So, you break your pledge to your church.

   “I think there are a lot of these kinds of rules, but what I was really thinking about last week was the whole idea of specific rules we have to live by. I don’t know about other religions, but I think the whole idea is kind of un-Christian.”

   “Un-Christian?”

   “I think so. As I understand the Bible – and remember, I am far from a Bible scholar - God went through an experimental phase – with gardens and snakes and arks and floods. After all that, things settled down, and he pretty much told the people to live their lives on their own terms, that he wouldn’t give them a lot of rules and regulations. They didn’t take to that freedom very well; they sought out idols to worship, and looked for concrete rules for how they should live. God gave them what they wanted – check out Leviticus and Deuteronomy, if you have any doubts  – direction all the way down to how men had to clip their beards. A lot of the rules seem nutty; some people tried to keep them, but it was pretty much impossible to live that way. God finally said: ‘Okay, we’ve had our little time with the Law. You utterly failed to keep the letter of it. Worse than that, you entirely missed the spirit of it. So, let’s try it again, this time without specific mandates.’ And that new way was shown by what Jesus did, and what he said.”

   “Is that true?” Vic asked.

   “I don’t know. Nobody really knows what the Bible is all about. Don’t you think my  explanation kind of brings it all together, anyway?”

   “It sounds okay but, remember, I am far from a Bible scholar. So, what about this difference between the letter of the law, and the spirit of the law?”

   “Okay – and again invoking my non-scholar status – Jesus seemed to be saying that following hard and fast rules was a good way to keep from seriously thinking about things, a way to avoid any real responsibilities in life. You could say ‘I haven’t killed anyone,’ so I’ve obeyed the law.’ Or, ‘I gave my 10 percent tithe; that takes care of that obligation.’ Or ‘The guy asked me for my coat, and I gave it to him. I’m doing great.’ Such things – barely – met the letter of the law, and a religious person could feel smug about that. But then Jesus comes along, and asks embarrassing questions, like: ‘You didn’t kill anybody, but did you hate somebody enough to kill them?’ The letter of the law says do this, and you’re good. The spirit asks, what is the real issue here? What would be the right thing to do? One way is doing a religious duty, the other is caring about the outcome of what you do.”

   Greg stopped. “It seems I have been – as is my wont – lecturing and pontificating, in a way that may or may not be what you want to talk about. Am I doing okay?”

   “Sure. I haven’t fallen asleep yet, but if you hear any soft, lady-like snores… I’m kidding! Keep going.”

   “Well, there is one other thing I wanted to cover. In recent years, some religious leaders have been talking about what they call ‘situation ethics.’ It’s been labeled the ‘new morality’ – by both supporters and opponents, obviously for different reasons. It isn’t new at all. It’s pretty much what Jesus was trying to convey. We’re not supposed to live by rules and regulations, by ‘dos’ and ‘donts.’ We’re supposed to treat every decision with love. Since almost every situation is a little different than any average, we have to think about what is the most loving thing to do at that moment. For instance, sometimes giving a homeless person a coat might be all he really needed. On the other hand, he might need shoes or socks. He might need food. A rule that just says give that man your coat doesn’t really do the job.”

   “Give me another example.”

   Greg thought. “Okay, giving 10 percent of your income for religious purposes is nice enough, and if not actually law, it’s certainly an expectation.  But what if there is a major need, and you could easily afford  20 percent, one time? Do you just stick to the ‘law,’ and say I fulfilled my obligation at 10 percent? Or, in the other direction, what if giving 10 percent meant that you wouldn’t be able to buy food for your kids the rest of the week. What’s the most loving way to handle the situation?”

   “Yeah, I can see that there might be a number of things you could – and should  - do, rather than saying your obligation was taken care of by following the letter of the law. Do you have a bigger example of what you’re talking about?”

   “Bigger? Let’s see. How about divorce? Some religions say that people can’t divorce for any reason. If they do, they lose their ability to participate in religious rites, they may not be able to be buried in so-called ‘sacred ground,’ and they may even (or, so says the church) miss their chance to go to Heaven. We know that no church can really deprive you of a place in Heaven – if there really is such a place – but many people believe it just enough that they let the church intimidate them into staying in marriages that they probably should get out of. It’s a nice thought that every couple who gets married will live happily ever after. In truth, people grow apart for all kinds of reasons. Some marriages can be saved through counselling and hard work, but what if one of the pair is an abuser, either physically or emotionally? What if the children are threatened, either actually, or traumatized by the continued strife of the parents? What if one of the couple is having romantic affairs outside of marriage, and won’t change? What if one is hopelessly addicted to alcohol, or drugs, or gambling, and it’s ruining them economically as well as emotionally? There might be a number of loving paths to take, but divorce has to be one possibility.

   “There, I think I’m done, and I don’t hear any soft sleeping sounds.”

   “You did very well, Mr. Antipastor. I like ‘situation ethics’ much better than rules and regulations. It’s the difference between being a robot someone else is controlling, and actually using your brain – and your heart – to help people.”

   “Aha, I have made my point. My job here is done.”

***

   In late afternoon, they were in the Anderson’s living room. Greg was sitting on one end of the sofa. Vic was laying with her head on a pillow at the other end, and her feet were on Greg’s lap. Both had been reading.

   Vic put her open book on her chest, and stretched. Something from that morning’s conversation was bothering her – something she thought needed to be discussed. But if they talked about it, she was afraid it might upset the rest of their weekend together. She pushed the thought aside.

   “Oh, domestic bliss!” she said. “Almost like being married, isn’t it?”

   “Almost.”

   “So, what are you reading, hubby dear?”

   “Another Nevil Shute book – “Round the Bend,” it’s called. Presumably it was the novel of his that he liked best. It’s about an airplane mechanic who gets tied in with a strange Eastern religion.”

   “Is it old?”

    “Pretty old.”

    “Let’s see. You read Roman and Greek books in college, including the famous ‘Odes of Pindar.’ You gave me ‘John McNab,’ which is old; then ‘Courts of the Morning,’ almost as old. Do you ever read anything that was written after we were born?”

   He didn’t look up. “The one you’re reading.”

   She picked up her book, and leafed back to the title page. “’No Highway,’ copyright 1948. You’re right, it’s almost brand new! So, do you read anything else that’s this modern?”

   He put down his book. “Let me think about it. Well, all the Buchans were written before us. About half of the Nevil Shutes were. A few of the Ngaio Marsh mysteries were done after 1943 – I think you might like those. They’re murder mysteries, but British and very genteel. All Dorothy Sayers books were before us. – Now, that’s an author I’m sure you’d like. She wrote about Lord Peter Wimsey, an amateur sleuth, and his eventual wife, Harriet Vane. He met her when she was in prison being tried for murder. She didn’t do it, naturally, and Peter eventually got her off. He was quite taken with her from the start, but she effectively resisted his advances through several books.”

   “Like you did with me, you mean? I knew what I wanted immediately, but you were impossibly slow responding.”

    “I don’t think your parents share that description. Anyway, what other authors do I like? There’s Kenneth Roberts, I think the only American I’ve mentioned. He wrote historical novels, but only one after we came along.”

   “Why don’t you like modern-day American stories?”

   “Oh, I do. I have quite a few authors I read. It’s just that I like mysteries and spy stories, and the American ones are often hard-boiled, with the murders and sex sometimes pretty graphic, and sometimes more important than the story. British and Aussie books of that kind are not so tough. They kill their victims more politely.

   “Now, to turn the tables, what do you read when I’m not lending you my ancient tomes? Do you have some favorite authors, or types of books?”

   “Oh, I read just about anything I can get. This isn’t a really bookish part of the country, as you have probably learned, but our library gets a pretty good selection. When I was a little younger, I read a lot of Janet Lambert books. She writes about family and young love and such. They’re nice. Actually, I really only like her more recent ones. I think she’s been writing since before we were born – and still is – but she keeps changing to match whatever is the ‘modern day.’ I have trouble with her older books because it’s hard for me to picture that America. I mean, I know we were like that not so many years ago, but America has changed so much just in our lifetimes. I think it’s easier for me to relate to your old books on Scotland or Australia, because I don’t know what those places are like, or were like. I just take what the author says for granted. But I think I know what America should be... Does that make any sense?”

  “I think I’m following you. It doesn’t seem like America 1950 can be the same place as America 1965, even though you know it is. So, you said you read her when you were younger. What have you read lately?”

   “Let’s see. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ (Love it!) ‘Island of the Blue Dolphin.’ (Very interesting.) ‘Rascal’ (A boy and his pet raccoon – okay.) What else? Oh, ‘The Book of Three.’ Lloyd Alexander. I just read it, and loved it. I hope he writes more about Taran, the Assistant Pig-Keeper. Now, let’s see. ‘Stranger in a Strange Land.’ (The boy with parents from Earth who is born on Mars, then comes back to Earth.) Oh, and ‘A Wrinkle in Time.’ That’s a good adventure through time and space. Have you read all those?”

   “I think all but Taran, the Assistant Pig-Keeper. I’ll have to look into that one.”

    Vic picked up her book, and started to read, but her mind went back to her concerns from that morning. No, she told herself, again. I’m not going there, now. Switch to something less dangerous.

   “Greg, when I’m away at school, will you write to me every day?”

  “No.”

  “No?”

  Greg had started to read, again, but now he put down his book. “Think of it this way. If I say I’m going to write to you every day, and then I don’t – or if the mail gets delayed – you’re going to be devastated. The degree of your sadness will be unmeasurable. You may even hate me for breaking my promise.

   “Now, if you’re not expecting a letter from me, and you get one, you will be elated. Your joy will be unmeasurable. Even if the contents of the letter turn out to be of no import – maybe even boring – it will seem to you like a message straight from Heaven.”

   “Straight from Heaven? So, you’re not going to write to me every day?”

   Greg put down his book, moved Vic’s feet off him, and arose. “Let’s go for a ride.”

    “A ride?”

   “Yes, let’s go watch the sun set over the rimrock. Bring a jacket, it might get chilly, later.”

   The government truck was parked in front of the house. They climbed in, and drove through the “narrows” and out into the marshes. A covey of Hungarian partridges – probably a family group, although they all were adult size this late – scurried across the road ahead of them. He saw them occasionally on the refuge, but had never seen a bunch, together.

   The evening was still warm – probably still in the mid-80s – but there was a little breeze, and the only clouds were behind them to the west. It was late enough in the year that there were few mosquitoes. Greg found a little elevated area near one of the bigger pools. He drove the car up on it so they were facing west, and turned off the key.

   “Why are we stopping here?”

   “We’re going to finish our conversation about letter writing, but I need my hands to explain the rest of it. Therefore, I had to stop the truck for safety.”

   She moved across the seat away from him. “Oh, no, you don’t. You’re not coming near me until you finish what you were saying!”

   “I didn’t mean needing my hands to... What I meant is that this next part requires big gesticulations, and – as I said – it would not have been safe to make them while driving.”

   “All right, but I’m still staying out of arm’s reach.”

   “You do that. So, in regard to letter writing, why don’t we agree to this: I will write to you every time something earthshaking happens?”

   “No, absolutely not! Are you nuts? It could be months – years, maybe – between letters!”

   “Nonsense. What if I remind you that, every time I think of you, it’s an earthshaking event for me? Using that measure, I could never put down my pen. The post office would be overwhelmed, and would need to hire extra help just to handle the  volume. You’d have to get a bigger mailbox – maybe two – to hold all the letters. You couldn’t do your class work, or even get to class, because you’d be constantly reading my letters... “

   “Stop, stop, stop! I will take what I get – and love whatever it is. That is, as long as it isn’t a bunch of postcards of bison with ‘Same Old Bull’ the only message.”  She reached for his arm, and pulled herself over close to him. “You know, sometimes I think you might be the most unromantic person on earth. Then you surprise me.”

   He put his arm around her. “Isn’t surprise what romance is all about?”

   They sat for some time, just enjoying the evening and each other. A group of maybe 300 pelicans were over near the far shore, scooping the water with their bills, trying out their fishing skills. As Greg had noticed earlier in the week, shorebird migration had started, and 30 or so orange-headed avocets were probing in the mud not far from them. There were also a few dowitchers, and what looked like a lesser yellow-legs. Miscellaneous ducks were scattered across  the pond surface.

   The sun gradually dipped below the rimrock, leaving the few clouds brilliant orange and purple for a few moments. Greg drove them slowly home in the dusk. Just about where the Huns had crossed the road, two coyotes stopped and stared for a moment, before disappearing into the brush. It was all pretty nice.

   Back at the house, they put together a. quick meal of hot dogs and some potato salad left from Friday. They settled on the couch to watch some television.

   “You know the reception here is pretty bad,” said Vic. “Also – and you may not know this – our local station gets programs from all three networks. It’s frustrating; in the summer, we see previews for all kinds of interesting shows, but when fall comes around, we usually get mostly comedies and variety shows. Somebody weeds out all the mysteries and dramas, and we just get the ‘family shows.’ I suppose it’s the church that does it, but I don’t know for sure. Right now, it doesn’t matter because everything is re-runs from last season, anyway.”

   “So, what’s our fare, tonight?”

   “Oh, this is a good night. We start with ‘Gunsmoke,’ Daddy’s favorite show. He loves Marshal Dillon, and Miss Kitty. Then we get ‘Bewitched, followed by ‘Hollywood Palace.’”

   “I know ‘Gunsmoke,’ of course, but I don’t know the other two.”

   “They were both new last fall. ‘Bewitched’ is a comedy about a man who married Samantha, a witch. Of course, he doesn’t know that at first, and most of the comedy is about trying to explain the strange things that happen around her. ‘Hollywood Palace’ is a variety and music show. It has a different guest host every week, although some appeared more than once. Bing Crosby seems to be the most popular. I don’t know who is on, tonight.”

   They made it through ‘Gunsmoke,’ but Greg had been dozing off long before ‘Bewitched’ was over. Vic turned off the television. For a third time, she put aside the thoughts that had been nagging at her all day. She couldn’t bring up anything that might spoil this night.

   “I’ve been thinking about last night,” she began. “I think all the bed-hopping was rather unseemly. Rather than going through all the silly and unnecessary gyrations – which, by the way, was keeping me awake – why don’t you just get in bed with me to begin with?”

   Greg thought he should protest, but wasn’t sure what he would be protesting about. “You make it sound like I was the one bed-hopping. As I recall it...”

   “Greg, you’re missing the point. Are you going to sleep with me, or not?”

   “I will, but I think we should remember that you are here because your parents are expecting us to be on our best behavior...”

   “I am here on my best behavior. Did you experience any bad behavior last night?”

   “No. I liked it, just fine.”

    “Good. Let’s go to bed.”

^^^

   They spent a happy night together, with no “bad behavior” (although Vic was pretty sure her parents wouldn’t agree with that characterization). Still, she couldn’t shake her thoughts from yesterday. When Greg came out of the bathroom, he found her sitting on the edge of the bed, looking a little lost. He sat down beside her.

   “Hey, are you okay?”

    “Greg, is it okay for me to want you sleeping with me if we’re not going to… You know, go farther?”

   He hadn’t expected that, and he didn’t know how to respond. She kept talking, so he didn’t have to, immediately. “I’ve been thinking about yesterday morning. You said you would have lustful feelings for me before we danced, and probably more while we were dancing. I know you were just joking with me, but… I mean, I really like to kiss and cuddle, but sometimes I have feelings that are more… Well, stronger than the other. I think that you must have them, too. Is it too difficult to lay next to me all night, and know that’s all we’re going to do?”

   He put his arm around her, and pulled her a little closer to him. “I would be a terrible liar if I said I didn’t have the feelings that you’re talking about. Let me give you a little lesson in homespun biology.

   “We humans don’t like to think of ourselves as animals but, physiologically, in the matter of sex, our bodies behave like other mammals. When the mating season approaches, and with it the possibility of sex, mammal bodies prepare. Both sexes begin to exhibit signs that will attract a possible mate. There doesn’t have to be any thought involved; our bodies work all by themselves, just in case.

   “Now, humans have developed the ability to have ‘mating season’ all year long, and that means that our bodies can be stimulated pretty easily. You are a beautiful, highly desirable woman, and I am a reasonably handsome, reasonably virile man. When we’re close – kissing, or cuddling in bed – it doesn’t take any more than that for our bodies to react. Now, add love to the mixture, and all the feelings get deeper and more urgent. At that point, our bodies are ready for more, but our minds still have to decide if we’re ready to take the next step.

   “We’re both obviously feeling the closeness. I’m finding it a little disconcerting, but highly pleasant, and your presence isn’t driving me mad, yet.”

   “I’m not driving you mad?” she interrupted.

   “I said you’re not driving me mad, yet – emphasis on ‘yet.’ I suspect you are at about the same place. At some point, however, our minds and bodies are going to synchronize, and there will come a time when we won’t want to wait any longer.”

   “You mean, when we’re married?”

   “Maybe, maybe not.”

   “That’s my line! You’ve stolen my line. And just what do you mean by it?”

   “I just mean that convention says ‘marriage first, reward second.’ However, I think we will find – as I’m sure many other couples have found – that when we’re ready, we’ll know we’re ready, and there won’t be any second guessing or guilt or remorse if the schedule turns out a little differently. It’s called ‘situation ethics.’”

   She didn’t say anything, but she looked happy.

   “You know,” said Greg, as he pulled her closer to him, “Having never been in this situation before, I really have no idea about how such things work. I may be talking through my hat.”

   She laid her head on his shoulder. “I know, but you tell it all so nicely, I’m prepared to believe every word you said.”

***

Vic’s mother phoned around 8 o’clock, as she was cooking up some breakfast.

   “Hi, Mom. Oh, it’s been lovely – just what I needed before I go off to school. We drove out on the refuge last evening, and watched the sun go down. There were just enough clouds to make a beautiful sunset. We saw two coyotes as we were coming back. It was fun.

   “Greg says he’ll get me to town by about 10:30. Is that okay? Good, see you then.”

***

   They did get to town at the expected time. Greg didn’t wait to see the rest of the family, just dropped her off, then did some grocery shopping before returning home. He spent the rest of the day around the compound. In the evening, he drove to the duck traps, and  - once he convinced himself that there was no sign of raccoons or other duck predators – he attached the “funnels.” The traps were ready to catch ducks.




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