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    Parker Owens
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Double Concerto - 10. Isolde

No warnings needed for this chapter.

Rick parked the white Ernst and Son Plumbing and Heating van in an open slot on Main Street. Glancing around, he pulled out his cell phone. The screen showed a message from the online dating app.

Feeling hot n horny. hbu?

Mister SexyHunk had written again, following up with:

I could cum cu.

Who was SexyHunk? And was it worth finding out? Rick squirmed in the driver’s seat. His groin stirred. For an instant, he let himself imagine being with a man again, feeling the weight on his body, spending hours in satisfying play.

It’s gonna be fifteen minutes in the men’s room of the Hanover Tavern. And that’s if he doesn’t disappear at the sight of you.

The vision evaporated.

Rick sighed and put the device away. He had an agenda. He checked a crumpled bit of notepaper taken from his breast pocket, listing the stops to make. There was the bank. He had to stop at Kruger's Hardware for a toilet paper roller. Irene insisted the old one back at the shop was broken. And then, if he had time, he had to stop at that other place.

Rick hesitated, then decided not to roll up the window. He preferred the fresh air, even if it was hot. He got out of the old Ford and searched his pockets. He extracted a quarter; fed it to the meter and twisted the knob.

"Hey, Rick, how's it going?" a voice greeted him.

He turned.

A short, salt-and-pepper haired figure in a short-sleeved shirt and tie smiled at him from the sidewalk. Bert Albrecht sold insurance, just as his father had done in Eagle Lake. Like Ernst and Son, Bert was a stalwart member of the Chamber of Commerce. He'd had the Ernst account for decades.

Rick smiled back as he moved onto the sidewalk. "Fine, Bert, just fine. How's business today?"

"Couldn't be better," Bert Albrecht enthused. "Got a lot of work on these days?"

"I can't complain."

"Well, that's good. I hear that McKee woman is keeping you busy."

"I guess so. She's referred a lot of her summer rentals to the shop. Irene's been on the phone so much, she hardly has time to do her nails."

The shorter man smiled and laughed. "I meant after business hours."

Rick formed a thin smile. "Now what would you know about that?"

"Oh, nothing, nothing. But you took her to the Meadowview?"

Rick sighed. It was pointless to correct the rumor mill. "That's where we went."

"And my sources tell me you were seen driving her car, too."

I had to stop at, what, two stoplights, and how many people saw us? Jesus. "That's right. A gentleman drives his date home, I understand." And walks back to his house across town because his date has had too much to drink to drive.

Bert Albright grinned. "Hope you saw Ms. McKee safely to her boudoir."

Rick shook his head. "Not going there, Bert."

"Sorry, Rick. That was out of line." But the man still smirked. "So what's got you downtown?"

"Just a couple of little things. Errands. Lunch."

"Hell, Rick, I'd ask you to lunch with me, but I have a Rotary thing in a few minutes."

"Thanks, Bert. I guess it's just as well. You might try to sell me something," Rick joked.

"Hey, hey, I have lots of business. Don’t need any deadbeat plumbers on my books."

"Don’t you carry my house and car insurance?"

"Sure do," Bert smiled. "How else would I know about deadbeat plumbers?"

"That's right, how could I forget?" Rick laughed and wiped his brow with his sleeve.

"Say, while you're here, can I ask if you've made a contribution to the Fireworks Fund?" Bert seemed almost apologetic.

"July the Fourth is coming up, isn't it?"

"Yeah, and the Chamber is kind of running a bit behind in fundraising."

"It's always behind in the fundraising."

Bert laughed. "That's right. And it's guys like me who have to ask guys like you to catch us up."

"You can ask Irene what we contributed last summer."

"It was five hundred dollars."

"You don't miss a thing, do you?" Rick asked with a rueful smile. He knew Bert too well.

"Nope. So what about it? Can you help out a little extra this year?"

The annual Independence Day fireworks were an Eagle Lake tradition hugely popular with summer and year-'round residents alike. Crowds came from miles around to the waterfront park to see them. Rick shrugged. "Sure, I guess so."

"How much can I put you down for?"

Yeah, Rick knew the insurance agent: the man was trying to close the sale. "Tell you what, Bert. Let's take care of this right now." Rick pulled his checkbook out of his pocket. "You have a pen?"

"Sure do."

Rick quickly made out a check for seven hundred fifty dollars. Heinrich Senior would scream when he looked at the books in a few weeks. It was the sort of petty expense that burned the old man's butt, now that he was retired in Arizona. However, right at that moment, Rick didn't care.

"There you go, Bert." Rick handed over the check.

"Thanks, Rick. That's really a big help. We'll make sure to put your name up in the newspaper." The insurance agent changed the subject. "I don't suppose your dad back is back in town yet?"

"No, not yet. He's still making his plans."

"Well, when he gets back home, we'll need to sit down and review the company insurance."

"Is there a problem?"

"No, just the usual annual review."

"I'll let him know."

"I don't know why your dad doesn't just let you take care of it. He's retired, right?"

Rick tried to contain his irritation. "Yeah, he's retired. But you know how it is: he needs to feel like he's doing something for the business."

"Well, I'd better get going," the insurance agent smiled. "See you later." The man turned and strode up Main Street.

Rick waved and looked at his list again. He decided to get the worst part over with first. He walked up the street toward a storefront with the bold sign over the door: McKee Group Realty. Not for the first time, Rick wondered who else might be in the Group. As far as he could tell, Rita was the only one selling houses there.

He pushed open the door, and was greeted by a blast of cool air. The central air was working overtime. The office was painted bright white, appointed with a few pieces of Scandinavian birch furniture to match the hardwood floors. A receptionist in a stylish summer dress sat a desk. She might have finished a year or two at business college.

"Can I help you?" She looked at Rick as if he might be dangerous.

"Yeah, hi. Is Rita in?"

"I'm sorry, Ms. McKee is out with a client."

Rick's frown belied the relief he felt within. "Is she going to be back soon?"

"I have no way of knowing that." The expression on the girl's face made it clear that she did not for a moment entertain the fantasy that Rick might be a customer. "If you give me your name, I can tell her you stopped by."

"Actually, maybe you can help me. I've been doing some work on some of Rita's rental properties, and she said I could pick up a check."

"A check?"

"Yeah. I did the opening up for, let me see…" Rick dug in his pocket for the notepad he always carried, "1138 West Shore, and 2630 Eagleview; and then there was a faucet repair at 150 Briar; and a septic system inspection at 128 Birchtree Lane."

The receptionist's brow furrowed. "Rita didn't say anything about a check."

"I sent her the bill for the work last week. $455.41 was the total. And she still owed me for the week before that, too."

"Well I don't have anything here, and there's nothing I can do about it. Rita signs all the checks."

"Uh-huh. Okay. Well, she left a message on my phone about it this morning; I was supposed to pick it up at noon." Rick felt uncomfortable; he was suddenly aware of his stained and grimy work shirt.

"I'm sorry, Mr… what's your name?"

"Ernst. Rick Ernst. I don't suppose there's any way you could call Rita, is there?"

The girl at the desk looked shocked. "No. Ms. McKee won’t accept phone calls when she's with a client."

Rick nodded and took a deep breath. His recent contribution to the Fireworks Fund meant that he felt a very large hole opening up at the bottom of his pocket. "Well, I guess that's just my bad luck. You'll tell her I stopped in?"

The girl frowned. "I said I would. Ernie..."

"My name is Rick Ernst." He dug into his pocket again and pulled out a business card. It was a little greasy and worn, but his name was legible. He put it on the desk; the young receptionist regarded the little white rectangle as if it might be carrying a tropical disease. "She can call me at that number."

Rick turned and walked back out into the noonday heat.

He made his way up the street toward the North Capital Bank. He entered under the portico, stepping past tall columns and through the imposing front doors. The building had been constructed to look like a temple of finance; a sound, stable financial institution, meant to last for the ages.

Ceiling fans propelled cool air across the marble floors. Rick moved over to the table full of deposit and withdrawal slips. Without Rita's check, he'd have to re-write the deposit ticket. He made out the numbers quickly, frowning as he did so.

He picked up his slip and his remaining deposits and headed over to the counter.

A teller motioned him over. "Oh, hey, Rick, how are you?"

"Okay, I guess, Shelley. How's Dale and the kids?"

"They're doing good, thanks. You'll need to swipe in," the woman pointed at the little black machine.

"Oh, right. Sorry." Rick pulled out his wallet and took out the bankcard in its little protective casing. North Woods National Bank was printed on the cover.

"We'll have to get you a new sleeve."

"Nothing the matter with this. I remember when this place was North Woods National. That was after it was Northern Cities National Bank, right?"

The teller smiled. "You go a long way back here, don't you?"

"I guess so." He slid his deposit over the marble counter.

"I saw Rita McKee in here this morning."

"Is that right?"

"She had an appointment to see Don Ingersoll." The woman gestured with her head toward the manager's office.

"Was it a good meeting?"

"I guess so," the teller told him. "They were over an hour, and they came out all smiles at the end of it."

Rick wondered about Rita's big project, whatever it was – if it took an hour-long meeting, it had to be big. He almost missed what Shelley said next.

"I overheard them talking about her making a big sale. Fingers crossed and all that."

Rick frowned. "Well, maybe she'll …" he stopped himself short. He was not going to complain about Rita and her unpaid bill like that. He didn't like gossip about himself, and he wasn't going to get started on someone else. "…get lucky this time," he finished. He knew it sounded lame, all the same.

Shelley grinned. "Sounds like it. And maybe you will, too." She handed him his receipt. Was she leering at him?

Rick decided not to linger and chat at the bank. At least the hardware store was a pretty straightforward stop. As he searched for the item he needed, he wondered what big sale Rita might have landed. She hadn't mentioned anything to him earlier. He knew a lot of the properties she represented; Rita had been chatty enough.

The question nagged at him. It rankled as he ate his lunch in the front seat of the van. It got under his skin while he did a waste disposal installation over on Osier Street. It irritated him not to know, which nearly spoiled his mood at finishing early in the hot afternoon.

At the shop, he cleaned up the van and work area from the various jobs of the day.

He walked into the office. "Irene, unless there's anything new or important, I suggest we knock off early."

The older woman grinned. "What's your father going to say about that?"

"He's not going to say anything; he won't be here for a while yet, and I won't tell. Are you going to inform on me?"

"Not me. I'm hoping I can get Harold to take me out tonight."

"Whoa. Midweek, Irene?"

"Hey, it's summer. We can live a little. And what about you?"

"Thought I might go fishing."

"It's pretty hot out for that."

"I might find some quiet cool spots. I know a few."

"You remember your father is going to be here in a couple of weeks, don't you? Before you go fishing, there's the inventory to start and the shop to put in order. Oh, and what about the slip from today's deposit?"

Rick hunched his shoulders and sighed. Irene was right, of course. There was plenty to do if he was to be ready for his father's arrival. There would be no fishing that afternoon.

"I'll take care of the deposit. Rita didn't have our check, but I put in the rest."

"What? Are you kidding?" Irene Inksater flared. "That's twice in two weeks."

"I'm sure she's good for it."

"The way that woman dresses, she ought to be. I tell you, your father would have cut that woman off the first time she didn't come through with a check."

"It'll be fine."

"That's right, Rick. Defend your girlfriend. Don't think Heinrich Senior won't go after her – and you - when he finds out she owes us money."

"She's not my girlfriend, Irene. And she'll pay up before Dad comes up in July."

"I just don't want to hear your father rant about it for a week while he's here."

"Oh, by the way, I ran into Bert Albrecht today. I made our contribution to the Fireworks Fund."

"Don't forget to record that, too. How much did Bert get you for?"

"Seven hundred and fifty," Rick mumbled.

"My, my, big spender today, aren't we?" Irene laughed. "I'll let you explain that one to old Heinrich, too."

"Go on, Irene," Rick told her. "Get out of here. Make Harold take you down to North Star Mohican. Live it up."

"Well, if you're sure about it, maybe I will," Irene said, abandoning her computer and grabbing her handbag. "The casino sounds fun, but I'm not sure I can pry Harold off the couch."

"Good luck with that. I won't be long here."

Of course, Rick didn't go fishing. He stayed the rest of the afternoon and into the early evening, even as the heat became more oppressive. Irene was completely right – there were the accounts to update, the inventory to start, and the cleanup work to do. The sooner it got done, the better.

But all through his work, the nagging question of what Rita McKee was up to still irritated him, like a sliver in the hand or a bit of dust in the eye. No amount of rubbing at the mystery yielded an answer.

What big deal is she doing? Where would there be a lot big enough for more than a few houses?

Rick felt irritable by the time he parked the old Chevy in the driveway. It was late, it was hot, and he was hungry. He could not decide about going out on the lake. He wasn't very tired, not physically. But the air felt like it might storm later on. There were clouds piling up in front of the sun in the west. He glowered at nothing in particular.

Rick grabbed a container full of leftovers from the freezer. A masking tape label was marked "Chili – October." Assuming the glass dish actually contained chili, it was past time to eat this. He put it in the microwave, and pushed the buttons for the auto-reheat function. Rick didn't bother with a vegetable or any other side. He knew the refrigerator held very little in the way of food. In fact, he was even out of beer. He walked over to the cabinet and retrieved a tall glass. He filled it with water; then he added ice.

Rick looked out through the kitchen window toward the lake. Through the trees, he could see the water was mirror smooth. The light was waning. The microwave beeped its plaintive note. Rick grabbed the hot container out of the appliance, along with a spoon and his glass. He made his way out the door and across the lawn to Adirondack chair near the lakeshore.

Rick sat. With almost deliberate slowness, he ate, watching the swallows darting over the water, chasing the bugs. A fish rose, snatched at a fly, and plopped back into the water. He pondered the rings rippling outward from the spot.

There were no boats out; he wondered if that meant a storm warning had gone up. What he could see of the clouds to the west looked more ominous than earlier.

Rick noticed a movement to his left; he turned to look.

Not ten feet away, a chicken pecked and scratched in the lawn.

"Hello, there," Rick spoke aloud. Jesus, you're crazy – now you're talking to chickens.

The bird perked up and cocked an eye at him.

"You must be Isolde. At least, I hope you are." Otherwise, there's a whole flock of chickens out there, and I really don't feel like collecting them right now.

The chicken resumed its search for stray bugs and seeds.

"I don't suppose you know what Rita McKee's plans are, do you?"

There was no response to this.

"I didn't think so." Rick looked back out to the water. He sighed.

Mrs. Lee's last free chicken continued its search.

"You seem like a good listener. Maybe you can tell me what to do. There's this woman. Everyone thinks she's chasing me, and that I'm supposed to be falling into her arms. How do I get everyone to just back off?"

The bird wandered closer to Rick's feet, ignoring the question.

"And then, someone ..." Just talking out loud about it made him flush. “Some guy actually contacted me on X-Pants.com. First time in months. He’s talking about a hookup; I’m seriously considering it. What do you think?”

The bird regarded him with a wary eye.

“Yeah, that’s kind of how I feel too. But it’s been so long since anyone’s even looked at me, I thought …” His voice trailed off.

The chicken pecked at something in the grass, then tilted its head, watching.

“No opinion? Maybe I should just ask what he’s looking for and where he wants to meet. No harm in that is there?”

The bird scratched the dirt and examined the area for prey.

“It’s just that, I don’t know if I want to get involved with the X-Pants guy. There’s this other man, someone I met through work.”

Isolde jerked her head in Rick’s direction.

"That man's beautiful. Those eyes, they're amazing. And the music he makes…he can play the piano like…I don't know, he's just incredible." The words tumbled out into the late evening air. "I just…I just want to be his friend. I want to know him."

Rick stared at Isolde; the chicken looked back at him skeptically.

"You're right. I don't just want to be his friend. I admit it. I want him. I want him, and I want him to want me. Is that so wrong? I know it's just a stupid and impossible dream to have, but I do."

The light was changing now, turning a very odd, almost orange hue on the water and through the pines. A freshening breeze blew through their branches across the lake.

The bird turned its careful sideways glance at Rick. For the first time, Rick noticed a ring of lighter colored feathers on his new companion. In a sudden flapping of wings, Isolde launched herself into the air and settled on the arm of Rick's chair, glaring at him in the eye.

"You think I'm full of shit, don't you?" Of course you're full of shit. You're talking to a chicken. Rick didn't listen to his snide inner voice; it still felt good to speak his desires out loud, to the world, or at least, to a chicken.

A long minute passed; it grew darker and the air turned cooler. In the far distance, a rumble of thunder boomed.

Rick stirred. With infinite care, he picked up Isolde the chicken in his arms and rose. He left his dishes behind; he'd get them later. As the wind picked up, he carried the last member of Mrs. Lee's flock back across the street to her enclosure, where, with the rest of her kind, she would feel safe from the oncoming storm.

"Thanks," he said to the bird as he re-latched the gate. "I enjoyed our talk. Come again sometime."

My continuing thanks go to @AC Benus and @Carlos Hazday for their help in making this story better. Should you feel moved to leave a comment or thought, I would be most grateful to see it. I appreciate rants, raves, speculation and even gossip.

Copyright © 2020 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments



11 minutes ago, Israfil said:

Fact: Animals make the best listeners.

That’s very true. Even cats listen fairly well. Thanks very much for your thoughts. 

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This chapter was my morning smile as I wake up and enjoy the sunrise in a town very much like this one. I found myself thinking of our version of Rick’s stops and interactions, each being true to life.
That bit of musing didn’t stop me from connecting a few dots about Rita.  She appears to be more than a tad short on cash as she wheels and deals towards her end game. My guess is right now she is all smoke and mirrors from her perfectly manicured attire to her ‘group’ office.  She’s buying time and borrowing towards the future assuming the small town business folks won’t figure her out before she hits a big payday. 
Rick’s time rowing on the lake did him good.  He is also starting to connect a few dots!  I don’t see him accepting the ‘dating’ app guy’s offer.  He could end up surprising Rita when he figures out her plans.  Much like his father, she underestimates Rick.  

Edited by 84Mags
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41 minutes ago, Tonyr said:

By the way, great chapter, clueless thou as to where is everything leading. 

Me too!  Guess that’s half the fun.  😊

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Rick breaks my heart...

Rita is a user, and possibly a scam artist...

Isolde made me smile... a sad one, but still a smile...

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So, I don't have any pets so George has to hear me rattle on all the time. George's my money tree bonsai. :)

Rick's caught between Rita and Senior, with both wanting more from him, than acceptable. I wonder how long it'll take this kind soul to explode.

As usual, your descriptions of life in a small northern town are amazing. Thanks for sharing, Parker.

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3 hours ago, weinerdog said:

A couple of red flags there .Two weeks of Rita not paying her bill. Combine that with this ambitious plan Rita has and the big meeting at the bank it makes me wonder if it's some scheme Rita is cooking up.Why leave Rick a message to pick up a check and not leave it there with the receptionist?I have an uneasy feeling things might get volitale when Senior gets here 

Rita not paying up on her obligations has got Rick's brain working. If she'd paid up, he'd be thinking about going fishing, or listening to a certain pianist in the dark. Senior will be arriving, inevitably. Rick seems to have left that eventuality on the back burner for the moment. Thank you very much for reading, and for your thoughts.

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3 hours ago, Leo C said:

I can  totally follow you there - and I can hardly wait for Rick to explode and tell senior to shut the fuck up and retire. I really think he needs to do that.

Great story, Parker! Thank you!

Perhaps Rick is too controlled, too self-enclosed to explode. However, he's had years of practice dragging his feet and being passively resistant. Senior would have to aggravate Rick far beyond his enormous capacity for patience before he detonates. Thank you so very much for your thoughts, and for reading Rick's story.

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3 hours ago, pvtguy said:

Rita is a definite scammer:  in that she has left other jobs and cities behind, the failure to pay Rick for his work portends something more nefarious, methinks!

Rita seems to be rolling the dice, taking chances, and planning something significant. She must need her pennies for something else. Thanks for hanging on to this small-town tale.

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1 hour ago, Tonyr said:

Don't like Rita a bit.

You are not alone in this. Earlier, others have argued that she may not be as awful as she seems. From Rick's point of view, she is certainly a burden to bear, if not a caution to be avoided. Thanks for reading!

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3 hours ago, 84Mags said:

This chapter was my morning smile as I wake up and enjoy the sunrise in a town very much like this one. I found myself thinking of our version of Rick’s stops and interactions, each being true to life.
That bit of musing didn’t stop me from connecting a few dots about Rita.  She appears to be more than a tad short on cash as she wheels and deals towards her end game. My guess is right now she is all smoke and mirrors from her perfectly manicured attire to her ‘group’ office.  She’s buying time and borrowing towards the future assuming the small town business folks won’t figure her out before she hits a big payday. 
Rick’s time rowing on the lake did him good.  He is also starting to connect a few dots!  I don’t see him accepting the ‘dating’ app guy’s offer.  He could end up surprising Rita when he figures out her plans.  Much like his father, she underestimates Rick.  

Knowing that you smiled at reading this chapter today had me grinning.  I'm glad you had a chance for some reflection, and that you feel the descriptions of Rick's life are true and believable. Rita has lots and lots of dots, and connecting them all may try poor Rick's patience. You have a point about her apparent cash position; right now, the Eagle Lake business community is giving her a pass, based on her look of success. It's easy to underestimate Rick - he's quiet, unobtrusive, friendly and certainly not self-promoting.

 

If it isn't clear where things are leading, then you are definitely seeing things through Rick's lenses - he can't see what's in his future either. Thank you very much for reading, and for your observations.

1 hour ago, Tonyr said:

By the way, great chapter, clueless thou as to where is everything leading. 

1 hour ago, 84Mags said:

Me too!  Guess that’s half the fun.  😊

 

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2 hours ago, Ivor Slipper said:

Is it Rita the cheetah or Rita the cheater? Or both!

I love these alternative monikers for Rita:  The first makes me think of her as predatory, the second brings many interesting images to mind, based on the sounds of the words. Oh my, the urge to rhyme is taking over...

Thanks a ton for reading!

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Rita's delinquency with the bills is a huge red flag.  I think she's gambling on this big venture of hers paying off, but in the meantime, she doesn't have the funds to pay her existing expenses.  Animals are definitely the best listeners.  It's good Rick got some of his frustrations out, even if it was to a chicken.  Something needs to change soon for Rick.  Whether it's a blow up with Heinrich Sr or meeting with Mr Piano guy, or both.  Rick needs a serious kick in his complacency.  

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36 minutes ago, Carlos Hazday said:

So, I don't have any pets so George has to hear me rattle on all the time. George's my money tree bonsai. :)

Rick's caught between Rita and Senior, with both wanting more from him, than acceptable. I wonder how long it'll take this kind soul to explode.

As usual, your descriptions of life in a small northern town are amazing. Thanks for sharing, Parker.

I hope that you are now drawing your own mental map of Eagle Lake, and maybe beginning to place imagined landmarks in it. If you start doing that, then Rick is definitely getting to you. Rick may not be sufficiently volatile for an explosive reaction; his chemistry may mean events produce some other result. But you're absolutely right that he is caught between his father and realtor, and getting crushed between them could be very painful.

George is very fortunate to have someone as articulate as you to talk to.

Thank you so much for your help, and for your comments!

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1 hour ago, Headstall said:

Rick breaks my heart...

Rita is a user, and possibly a scam artist...

Isolde made me smile... a sad one, but still a smile...

I'm glad Isolde could make you smile a little. Rick would not make a very good pet owner - he's out of the house so often and so irregularly. He is a good guy, and he reminds me that our world is full of people like him. That's cause for a smile, too. Your characterization of Rita fits Rick's experience of her. Thanks very much for your reflections, and for reading another chapter of Rick's story.

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1 hour ago, Valkyrie said:

Rita's delinquency with the bills is a huge red flag.  I think she's gambling on this big venture of hers paying off, but in the meantime, she doesn't have the funds to pay her existing expenses.  Animals are definitely the best listeners.  It's good Rick got some of his frustrations out, even if it was to a chicken.  Something needs to change soon for Rick.  Whether it's a blow up with Heinrich Sr or meeting with Mr Piano guy, or both.  Rick needs a serious kick in his complacency.  

For all the nice summer weather Rick has experienced in Eagle Lake, there sure appear to be quite a few storm warnings. Rita's account arrears can't help but annoy Rick - but mostly because Heinrich Senior will howl. I'm glad you don't think Rick is crazy for talking to a chicken. Rick may find it hard to believe in change; he has seen little reason for it. However, he appears to be considering significant variations on his historical theme. He may be unable to contemplate a wholesale replacement of his score. Thank you so much for reading this chapter, and for your impressions.

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Rita is definitely up to something. She’s got away with it in the past and is assuming she can pull the same tricks again. Hopefully, Rick will see through her schemes.

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13 minutes ago, Mawgrim said:

Rita is definitely up to something. She’s got away with it in the past and is assuming she can pull the same tricks again. Hopefully, Rick will see through her schemes.

Rita is a woman with a plan. Rick's curiosity is piqued, but like everyone else, he may get distracted by life's little details before he can figure anything out. I'm grateful you read this chapter - thanks for your thoughts.

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