Getting By
Chapter 18

Copyright© 2010 by Shakes Peer2B

"You two know each other right?" I asked, pointing with the index fingers of both hands to make the connection between Tracy and Amanda, and then turned to Amanda.

"Perhaps you should be part of this discussion, anyway," I said.

"NO!" Tracy blurted out, turning red with the vehemence of her outburst.

"Tracy," I said, as gently as I could, "Amanda and I don't just work together. It wouldn't be right for me to undertake such a thing without her knowledge. Aside from that, I trust her judgment in these matters a lot more than my own."

"What matters?" Amanda asked, mildly curious.

"Tracy?" I asked, raising an interrogative eyebrow. I didn't want to betray her trust, but I couldn't pursue it any further without betraying Amanda's.

"Oh, all right, I guess."

"Do you want to tell her, or do you trust me to do you justice?"

"I'd be too embarrassed," the teen replied.

"Okay," I told her, then turned back to Amanda. "Tracy has been very brave in the wake of her rape and that of the other women from the Lake Mead group, but is developing a growing fear that she will get pregnant with a rapist's baby."

"Okay so far?" I asked the young lady. When she nodded, I continued. "She has developed a plan to help allay that fear somewhat. A plan involving me."

"Is that about right?" I asked again.

"Pretty much," she murmured.

Amanda finished the speech for me.

"And she thinks that by sleeping with you, she'll never know who the real father is, and can pretend it's yours instead of the rapist's?"

It was my turn to nod, and when I did, Amanda turned to Tracy and spoke gently.

"I don't blame you sweetie," she said. "He is quite a catch, isn't he? So what's your response, Gav?"

"I'm not sure I can handle all three of you," I replied honestly. "I'm already not spending as much time as I should with you and Cora. There must be plenty of young men out there who would be happy to fill this role for you, Tracy."

"Wait. Cora?" Tracy asked. "But, I thought, that is, she and my dad ... I mean..."

"You mean Cora's taken an interest in your Dad?"

"Well, she must have. I mean, they've been sleeping together for the last couple of nights."

"That's interesting, but still has little bearing on the problem at hand. If Cora's taken up with your father, it's probably at least partly because I didn't spend enough time with her."

"You keep saying that, and I don't know why!" She frowned in frustration. "I'm not asking you to marry me! I just want one night."

"I understand that, Tracy," I replied, "but it's not quite that simple. By your own admission, you already feel as if I'm the only one who can understand why you want this. My fear is that sleeping with me will strengthen those feelings. That, in itself, doesn't bother me, but I don't want to develop such a bond and then let you down the way I have Cora."

"I promise I won't bother you anymore. I just want this one thing from you. Is that so hard?"

"Let me think about it, Tracy," I told her. "I'll talk it over with Amanda and Cora and get back to you with an answer in a couple of days, okay?"

"You're just going to go off and try to think of a better reason not to do it!"

"No, I'm not. You're an attractive young lady, and if my only responsibility was to my libido, I would say yes in a heartbeat, but that's not my only responsibility, so I need to consider this carefully. Look, we're having a party tonight, and guess what; you're old enough to drink. Have a couple of beers, sing your songs, and see what happens. Maybe you'll meet a nice young man who'll make you forget about all of this. If not, well, I'll still owe you an answer."

The impatience of youth showed on her face, but she knew better than to make more of a fuss about it. I didn't see her again until the celebration.

Our neighbors from the combined tribes arrived throughout the day in small groups, each bringing something for the feast. Some brought beer and wine, others game animals they had killed. Still others brought dishes of food that they had prepared ahead of time. It was shaping up to be a hell of get-together.

By the time I arrived at the party, Grey Eagle was holding court with an updated version of his 'Coyote Who Rides a Horse' saga. I was both amused and gratified to hear how he had expanded upon it.

" ... and the women soon became pregnant with the children of their lovers and of their rapists, and the community celebrated them all. Every child was a child of the new world and loved by all. The women who gave the community children were lauded as heroes, for they were the bringers of life. From their loins sprang the seeds of a newer, greater civilization..."

Most of those who were off duty had already arrived, but Gunny and Chief O'Donnell were guarding the booze, including that brought by our guests, until 'the time was right.' The right time apparently coincided with my arrival, because as soon as they saw me, the lids of the coolers came open and the lids of beer bottles soon followed.

Somewhere, someone was playing briskly on a guitar, accompanied by a - I couldn't believe my ears! The other instrument was a fiddle, and the music was a lively Bluegrass piece that had several couples kicking up the dust.

I found Amanda giving last minute serving instructions and asked if she would kindly join me for dinner. She graciously accepted.

Someone had skewered a couple of lamb chops to the sides of a huge beef rib roast to make it look vaguely turkey-like, and they had refused to serve the beef until I had a chance to see it and share the joke. Garcia handed me a glass that held a couple of ounces of golden liquid.

I nodded approval as the 18 year-old highland malt slid smoothly down my throat. "Be stingy with that," I told him. "Who knows when we'll be able to import more?"

"Ah, beer's more my speed, but I figured you for a single malt man, so I laid in a supply. If you keep sipping like that, you won't run out in your lifetime. How about you, ma'am? Would you like to try some Scotch?"

"I'm afraid I'd need at least a little ice in it, Gunny," Amanda smiled a disarming smile that seemed to have the desired effect.

"For you, ma'am, I'll steal some ice from the beer cooler. For a smile like that, I'll drink my beer warm."

"I never knew you were such a charmer, Ramon," she laughed.

"I'm the original Latin Lover, ma'am. Where do you think all those stories originated?"

Just then, Carmen Sanchez slipped an arm through one of his and said, "And if you try turning that charm on anybody but me, you're going to be the original Latin Eunuch. Now quit trying to steal the boss's lady and buy me a drink!"

Garcia snapped to attention and answered, "Ma'am! Yes Ma'am!" in his best parade ground voice, did a smart about face, and marched off toward the 'bar, ' flashing a mischievous smile back over his shoulder.

The food, for desert fare, was good, and the light buzz I got from the liquor made me feel that things just might work out for us after all. As paper plates started filling the trash containers, I stood and rapped on my glass with my plastic knife.

The sound barely carried two feet, so Seamus O'Donnell stood and roared, "Listen up, people! Mr. Thompson's got something to say!"

Into the dead silence that followed, I said, "Thank you, Chief."

I made my way to the area that Grey Eagle used for telling his stories and heads turned to follow me.

"I had intended to make a big, pompous, speech tonight, but let's face it. We're no longer a big, pompous society. Our ancestors came to this country and took most of it from its original occupants, yet every year we celebrated Thanksgiving to mark the arrival of those first Pilgrims to this soil. Tonight, we are fortunate enough to be joined by our neighbors, the combined tribes, who now share the land with us, and tonight's celebration marks both a farewell and a new beginning. We say farewell tonight to that great but decadent society that gave us birth, and while we mourn the passing of those we loved, we, here, are gathered to celebrate the enormous opportunity that faces us in the wake of that great tragedy. We, in this 'Desert Fortress, ' have already set about building a new society that will learn from the mistakes of the old."

Remembering Grey Eagle's storytelling style, I paused and looked around at my audience.

"I look into the future, and I see this valley filled with the laughter of children. Our children. The future of our world. We celebrate tonight, the very first steps to that future. Tonight, our guests of honor are the first two women to become pregnant with the children of the new world. Ruth Goldman and Corazon Mendoza. Would you two please stand? These are the heroes of our new world, ladies and gentlemen! Others are soon to follow, but I wanted to take the opportunity tonight to pave the way, so to speak, for all the mothers to be. Some will conceive in the usual way. Others have had to suffer for the children they will bring us. All are going to need our support and our love, as will our children. Tonight let us show these ladies, and all the mothers-to-be, that we, as a community, treasure the sacrifices they make on our behalf."

I raised my glass and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you; The Mothers of the New World!"

I sipped as the toast went around, accompanied by a number of shouts of "Hear! Hear!"

As the noise was dying, Jamaal endeared himself to me forever by rising to give a toast of his own. "While y'all got ya glasses raised, let's hear it for the most beautiful Mother-to-be ever, Ms. Ruth Goldman!"

While the others were drinking the toast, he embraced Ruth and gave her a long, deep, soulful kiss, to the accompaniment of friendly whistles and catcalls from those watching. In the firelight, I couldn't tell for sure, but I could have sworn that Ruth turned a couple of shades darker. Her smile, though, was both loving and grateful when the kiss finally broke.

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