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Indiana – 1934 – Spring
I was twenty-one, full of myself, and restless. We were poor, but we stayed together. That was the important thing, I guess. Our small community had survived a lot, more even then I knew. Our family had owned the farm for at least four generations before mine, but things weren’t looking so good. My father, who we called Pop, may have once been a good man at one time, but if so I didn’t remember it. Grampa, on my Mama’s side, had left a significant amount of money to us when he passed. We were the first house in our town to have electric service and then indoor plumbing and bathrooms, something that they had in Indianapolis for a while. Pop had squandered our stash on booze and most likely whores, although none of us was a rush to prove it. It didn’t matter because no one in our town ever got divorced anyway. Mama was stuck with Pop, so me and Su, my little sister, were too.
Or, that’s what I thought. I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did.
Although I wasn’t aware of it until that fateful Sunday after church, looking back I realize that I was attracted to the women in my family for a long time. The girls wanted to court tended to be curvy and kind like my mother, or slim and tomboy-is like my sister. I remember staring at one of them from time to time, getting lost in thoughts that seemed like they weren’t my own. I kept such thoughts buried, deep down where they could not come out, but I think Mama and maybe even Su knew. The Reverend certainly did.
It had been a pretty ordinary Saturday, I supposed. I worked the fields, and then came back in the afternoon to find Pop snoozing in the barn rather than doing the repairs on the plow blade that were desperately needed. He knew it, too, but he didn’t care. I swear, seeing him there all asleep and snoring next to the broken implement that our family needed to survive was what broke the camels back. I kicked him in his leg so he would move and I could finish what he never started.
Pop was still strong though, and he hopped up and socked me one in the jaw. I fell down on my ass, and he laughed like it was the funniest thing in the world. I couldn’t stand him. I hated that I was related to him at all.
“You should know better than to wake a man by kicking him,” Pop said when he could get his laughing fit under control.
I brushed myself off and stood up, looking at him. Was it worth it to punch him right back? I was strong then too, stronger than even I knew, but I couldn’t think of a single way it would help matters.
“Go nap inside, Pop. I got work to do.”
“Bah, you ain’t workin’. I do all the work around here, and everyone knows it…”
Pop continued to grumble as he snatched his hat off of the ground, grabbed his bottle of cheap whiskey, and left the barn for the comfort of the house. Truth was he did work sometimes, but the amount seemed to get less every month. It was easier to overlook his surly demeanor and drinking when he did his share, but that never happened anymore. Maybe he worked part of three days, four tops. And the farm needed more hands than that.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I guess I kicked the whole thing off that night at dinner. Su had her eighteenth just a few days before and was already starting a new vocation, taking care of our better-off cousins over at the Marsten house. I’d been working full time at the farm since I had dropped out of school at 12. I could read and write and do numbers, Mama made sure of that but other than that I mostly knew how to plant, harvest, and repair about a million things.
To put it simply, I was sick of the farm life. I was sick of my Pop’s drinking and abuse. I was sick of fixing the same damn things over and over. I was sick of the early days and the late nights. And finally, although I didn’t say it, I was sick of not having a girl of my own. There were a few in town who I at least wanted to bed, but really, I figured, there’d be much better pickings in the big city.
“I’m leaving once the spring planting is done. Gonna go to KC or maybe St. Louis or even Chicago. Make some kind of life there.”
I dropped it as kind of a bombshell when we were all at dinner. I wanted it to affect Mama and Su. Mama especially. I couldn’t have admitted why at the time.
“You? In the big city? Ha!”
Pop’s scoffing didn’t hurt much. I was used to it by then.
“But Jack,” Mama said, with real anguish that both pleased and tore at me, “we need you here!”
Su looked like she might cry. She wouldn’t get out of here until she found a man to marry. That wouldn’t be hard, really. Despite being a tomboy, she was as pretty and fresh as any girl could be. Smart as a whip and kind, too. If I could have, I would have taken her with me.
“Pah. Let him go, Faith. He won’t last a month, then he can come crawling back and live with us little people in the real world.”
I didn’t rise to Pop’s bait. He’d settled things as I expected. Mama’s face was downcast as she ate. Su kadıköy escort just kept staring at me like I was about to vanish. I felt awful, but I wasn’t getting what I needed.
It was every man’s right to seek what he needed, wasn’t it? And all I wanted was a woman who loved me, that I could lay with and take care of. I wanted kids, too, and maybe a dog. It was about the mildest ambition ever, but I couldn’t have it in that house.
Or so I thought.
* * *
“I’m not going to church, especially not them crazies you got in this town.”
It was an old argument between Pop and Mama. It never got any nicer. I think once he had promised to properly join the congregation, but now he refused to budge. Su and I stood there, dressed to the nines, waiting awkwardly. The sun was bright out, but it was a cool spring day, probably fixing to be quite nice once it warmed up a little. There were storm clouds in the kitchen, however.
“But, Harold, it’s important…”
“Goddammit woman, if you ask me one more time I’ll show you the important side of my belt.”
Mama flinched, and I tensed. I may have been in my Sunday best, but I wouldn’t allow him to lay hands on Mama or Su. He could hit me if he wanted. Never them.
“All right, Harold, I’m sorry. Jack, would you drive us today?”
Mama could drive, and I saw to it that Su could as well, but she felt it was proper for the man to do it if he was available. I nodded. I’d agreed to go to Church today because Mama had asked me, especially to this morning. She rarely did, although she and Su went every week. I felt bad about how things went last night. I should have done it with more care. I had to leave, though.
I went out and held the front and then back door open for the only two ladies in my life
“You look lovely, Mama. You look cute as a button, Su.”
Su rolled her eyes at me and stuck her tongue out, but then laughed a little. She was tomboy through and through, but that didn’t mean that she didn’t like feeling pretty every now and then.
God, she was pretty, though. Su kept her messy brown hair short and cropped no matter how much Mama begged her to grow it out. Su had a pretty little face, kind of sharp like, with a cute nose and brown eyes full of mischief. She normally wore baggy overalls and one of my flannel shirts, and you could mistake her for a boy at a distance.
Not when she was wearing that new white dress, though. She’d gotten it for Easter as a gift from Mama, and she’d filled it out a bit since then. She had delicate curves, small breasts that had to be a bit perky and hips that were just starting to truly flare out.
Su was generally tough but quite delicate about her appearance in that or any dress. She didn’t think she could ever be womanly. Me, I found it charming that she could go tomboy most of the time and then be this feminine when she wanted to. I tried not to think of her as a woman, though. I didn’t always succeed.
Mama was always a woman. I guess you could say that to me, she was the essence of what a woman should be. She was caring, kind, and very feminine without being matronly or stuffy. Was that morning the first time I really noticed Mama sexually? I’d never seen her in that dress, although it was most definitely not new. It was a brilliant verdant green, not shiny, but not faded either. It had a black print on it, and the whole thing shifted and stretched around her bodice and hips. It wasn’t too small. It was just right to show off how much of a fine woman she was. As I held the front door open for Mama to get in, I could easily see her generous breasts and ass bounce and sway. I won’t lie, it affected me. Deeply.
I was distracted on the drive to the Church by both guilt and arousal as I kept trying to sneak glances at Mama. She caught me once, towards the end, and gave me a little smile. Had she always had lipstick that red? I imagined what it would be like to kiss those lips, to see them wrapped around my…
Goddamn it, what was wrong with me? I pulled into the gravel that served for parking and got out. I had to straighten myself out. Not getting laid was no excuse for these kinds of thoughts. I took a deep breath and headed towards the small white building, unaware of how much my life had already changed.
* * *
The sermon was boring, but at least our Church tended to avoid the fire and brimstone that so many pushed in tough times. As long as I could remember, the First Church of the Planter was about love and caring for your neighbors and especially your family. The problem was that I didn’t need any convincing to care. I cared plenty. I just needed things that they couldn’t provide.
After each service, it was traditional for people to take tea and sandwiches outside, weather permitting, and enjoy each other’s fellowship. I enjoyed that well enough, but I will admit that I was starting to have my first doubts about leaving. Would it truly be all right to leave Mama and Su in the care of a man who worked less and drank more each day? He liked to üsküdar escort hit me, but not them. If I left would his fists find them instead? In the midst of these thoughts, I felt a tap on my shoulder.
I admit that I sighed internally when I saw who it was. The Right Revered Jens Petersen was an ever-smiling, slightly overweight force for good in our community. He was also a busybody, always involved in everyone’s business. Of course, he never interfered unless he was asked, and his intentions were always good. Usually, people ended up appreciating his assistance, and whatever else he was, he kept confidence.
“Reverend,” I said, with no doubt who had asked him to speak to me.
“Jack. It’s good to see you here today. I don’t blame you for wanting your rest most Sundays. I know you’re busy running the farm.”
“Well, it’s Pop’s farm. I just work there.”
“Now, Jack,” he started, a fatherly hand on my arm leading me away from the crowd so that we could speak privately behind the Church, “I think we both know that if responsibility were to determine ownership, it would be your farm.”
“You’ve been talking to Mama?”
“And Su. You know me, I always ask about everyone. Don’t blame them for answering honestly.”
“I don’t, Reverend. But I already know what you’re gonna say. I don’t need more guilt. This is hard enough already.”
The Reverend laughed then, jolly, and full of pep. I couldn’t help by smile.
“Jack, I’m not here to make you guilty. I’m here to perhaps change your timing and perspective a bit. Your Mama asked me to speak with you, and she feels awful about how she’s been with you.”
“Why would she feel awful? She’s not the one leaving.”
“Well, I’ll leave her to explain herself at a time of her choosing. In the meantime, what would you think about staying a few months longer, say, until after the harvest?”
That was half a year away but felt like a century.
“What’s the point? I don’t mean any offense, Reverend, I just don’t understand what might change in that time.”
The Reverend nodded in understanding. I could tell that he was considering his words carefully.
“You have to understand son, that sometimes…the father can’t be the man of the house. Sometimes another has to be stronger and take his place, in more ways than one might at first expect. It’s not just the responsibility, though, but the rights and privileges too. Do you understand?”
“I…I’m not entirely sure that I do, Reverend.”
“Well, you’re a good boy. You remind me a lot of your grandfather. What I want you to do is to take care of your mother and sister most of all. They need a man to help them, and you’ve gotta be him. I’ve seen your eyes wander about, and I know girls who want you to court them, but, I’m asking you to wait on that for a little while. Just until things are better in your house. Until your mother has a chance to show you how things can be better for you at home.”
I was truly lost at that point.
“But Reverend, I…”
“I know, Jack. I’m not asking you to put your whole life on hold. I’m just asking you to open your mind to other possibilities. You may not know this, but our Church was founded by people like you. There weren’t many folks here, only a few families, really. A lot of young men went through what you’re going through. Some left, but most stayed. They stayed because…well, they each found something that kept them here. Since then the First Church of the Planter has cared for this community, and I think you understand how seriously I take my role here. Will you trust me and put your plans on hold for six months.”
The Reverend was a good man. There are plenty of people who claim to be men of god until you scratch the surface, but he believed in love and care, all the way down. He was the one who’d kept us together when things fell apart in ’29. He was the one who kept the social aspects, which Pop despised almost as much as Church itself, going. And for whatever reason, he was the one who convinced young folks to stay.
While I thought, I looked over the milling crowd and saw Mama and Su talking with…Rex. Rex was my good friend, we grew up wandering and getting into trouble together. He never quite stopped being a troublemaker, and I thought he’d left town for broader horizons a few months prior.
“Rex is still here?”
The Reverend just laughed.
“Yeah, I had this same talk with him two months ago when he decided he was going go to the border and become a rich bootlegger. Look at him now, looks happy, don’t he?”
“Yeah. I’m glad he’s still around, but…”
“But what, son?”
“I’m not sure I want him talking to Su…”
For whatever reason, that made the Reverend nearly fall over with laughter.
“Oh, Jack. I can understand that, but I know for a fact Rex is seeing someone already, and Su has her sights set a little…higher than that.”
“All right,” I said, finally, “I’ll give it until Fall, but if Winter rolls around and things are still like this, well, I gotta tuzla escort go.”
“I’ll tell you what. If you still want to leave in Winter, you come see me, and I’ll give you some money to start your new life.”
“Uh, I’m not sure I’d feel so good about that.”
“Relax, Jack, its what the Church keeps money for, to help the parishioners, even if they’re leaving. Until then, I hope to see you on more Sundays. It would make the women in your life mighty happy, I suspect.”
I shook his hand and went to collect the aforementioned women. We had to get home soon since Mama would want to cook a big Sunday dinner. I didn’t know what to think, to be honest. The Reverend didn’t give me anything specific to hang my hopes from, but he was so sure. Maybe he just wanted to make sure that there was someone around to support the family until the harvest was over. Staying for that would be the responsible and indeed moral thing to do.
I put it out of my mind, for the time being. What did godly men know about the kind of desires I was feeling?
* * *
I was quiet on the drive home while Su and Mama chatted about the sermon and the “duties of womanhood.” Su didn’t like being forced to just do whatever a man said. I sympathized with her. It seemed like a lot of women got a raw deal. Then Mama said that it was all about choosing the right man. Then again she chose Pop, so I’m not sure she had much right to speak.
When we got home, I had a lot to do. Pop wasn’t in the house, but the number of empty beer cans on the table told me he probably went to town and not out into the fields. Su disappeared into her room, and I went upstairs and changed into my overalls. There’s always too much to do, and Sundays are no exception. I got halfway back downstairs when I heard my name being called. I went back up and to Mama’s room.
“Jack,” she said apologetically, “I’m sorry. I know you’re busy, but will you help me take this dress off? I don’t wear it much, and I forget that I need some help with it.”
Mama stood in front of her mirror, expectantly. I couldn’t avoid the way the green fabric clung to her curves or stretched around her generous ass. In the mirror, I could see a similar effect occurring around her bust. Were her breasts really that big?
God, I’d love to taste them.
The thought came unbidden, unwanted, but once it was there, I welcomed it. Yes, I would love to have this gorgeous, mature woman. For a moment, I allowed myself to see her as mine. I could undress her and have her, right here, on her bed. Or maybe bent over her vanity. Or…
“Jack,” Mama’s soft voice brought me back to guilty reality, “are you alright, sweetie?”
“Uh, yeah. Sorry, just a bit tired.”
Mama looked at me through the mirror, and I saw something like happy mischief dance in her beautiful brown eyes. I applied myself to unbuttoning her dress with trembling and clumsy fingers, each success revealing more of her pale back, more of her graceful maternal figure.
“Take your time, Jack,” Mama said in a hoarse whisper, “there’s no rush.”
So I did. I enjoyed the way the dress slowly fell off Mama’s shoulders. As it did, Mama was forced to hold the bodice up to avoid exposing herself to me. I was filled with a perverse urge to pull it down, exposing her to my hungry gaze. As it was, she let quite a bit drop, exposing generous cleavage pushed together by her grip. When I was done, without thinking, I ran my fingers from the nape of her neck to the small of her back. I instantly regretted it, but Mama said nothing, shivering slightly.
“Thank you, Jack. I might have a bath, but I can make dinner a bit early tonight if you want.”
“Um, yeah, Mama, that would be great. I have a lot to do, though.”
Mama turned and kissed me on the cheek, pressing into me and just barely catching the corner of my mouth.
“Don’t work too hard on the Lord’s day,” she said as I left in a daze. As I stepped out the back door, I realized that I was harder than I’d ever been. Surely she’d felt that as she kissed me. Thank god she hadn’t mentioned it.
My frustration gave me extra energy. I replaced some rotten wood at the back of the barn and began some of the endless repair work on the fencing on the north field. Before I knew it, I was done, and hours before I expected. I could start doing something else, but then I’d be late for supper for sure. So that’s why I got back to the house early.
I didn’t announce myself, just went in the back door. I wasn’t sneaky, you just didn’t make a lot of noise when Pop could be around if you didn’t want to get hit. I didn’t see Mama in the kitchen, but I thought nothing of it. I went upstairs to change and maybe a nap, noticing that Su’s bedroom door was closed. She was probably napping too. I decided to stop in the bathroom since I needed to splash some water on my face and wash up a bit. I didn’t realize that it was already occupied until I felt the wave of heat from the full bath. I was too stunned to move, and then I didn’t want to.
Mama was luxuriating in the bath, eyes closed. She may even have been dozing a bit. She hadn’t noticed me yet, and I didn’t draw attention. I could have backed out slowly. I should have. Instead, I stayed and got a good look, imprinting her beautiful form on my mind. It must have only been for then seconds or so, but it felt like hours.
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