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    Parker Owens
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Double Concerto - 13. Duetti

There is a partial Rita Advisory for portions of this chapter. On the other hand, special Guests will also appear.

"So I finally began to wear the damn thing out. Took me pretty much an hour to fight it to a standstill." Walter Heinemann paused in the blow-by-blow depiction of his latest epic battle with a fish. "It just about dragged the skiff out of the tall grass by the outlet and out into the deep part of the lake."

"Yup. I know what you're saying," Rick replied automatically.

He was concentrating on the huge furnace in Eagle Lake Middle School at the moment, checking for minute flaws and telltale signs that something might be amiss. Summer boiler inspections were a routine chore.

"You're not paying attention to a damn thing I'm saying, are you?" Walter accused.

"Of course I am," Rick defended himself. However, he did not take his eyes off the cold water feed line where it passed the overflow valve. "You were in the middle of Butternut Lake, it was almost noon, and the wind was picking up. But you had a pike on the line, and you weren't – "

"That's right, I wasn't. I'd spent all morning with that stupid fish, reeling it in, letting it out, feeling it dive. And, as I said, I'd finally worn it out."

The grey haired Heinemann waited while Rick made a remark on the form attached to his clipboard.

"I had it near the surface, close to the boat. I could see it. Rick, this fish wasn't just huge, it was a monster. Must have been near a yard long."

"Uh huh."

"I just happened to look up at the sky, and my God, the clouds over the west side of the lake were black, just black. We were in for it, and no mistake."

"Weather can come right up on you like that," Rick put in.

"Sure as hell can," Heinemann agreed. "But anyway, I had this four foot gorilla of a fish, and I wasn't about to just cut the line, no sir."

Rick nodded. He'd have wanted to get the lure and hook out and disconnect the fish from the line.

"Well the wind backed around to the northwest, and the waves out there were kicking up something fierce. But you know me, I stuck with it, and manhandled this critter into the boat. Damn thing was as exhausted as I was, or I'd never have done it. You know how it is when a fish just gives up, right? I mean, it's fought and fought and it's done as much as it can, and then it just quits. This giant was like that, Rick. Must have been sixty inches long, never seen anything like it. I should have had a heavy gauge pliers for getting the hook out, but I just had my little three inch one."

"You get a picture?"

"Well, that's the damnedest thing, Rick. So I'm holding this gigantic pike – it had to be a world record beater – and gale is howling around the boat and all hell is about to break loose; and at that moment, there was this bolt of lightning. It must have struck the water real close by, because it just went flash! Crack!"

"You're lucky to be alive," Rick observed.

"Yessiree, damn lucky. Just about jumped out of my skin. I could feel the hairs on my arm prickling with it, you know? But the thing of it is, Rick, that lightning must have done something – given that fish some kind of electrical power or some other weird thing – because the next thing I knew, it was gone. I didn't just drop it in the boat. That monster just flew out of my hands. Gone. Just like that. Never saw it again."

"Is that right?" Rick asked, straightening up.

"You don't believe me, do you?"

"Who said anything about not believing? I’m sure you’re telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth." Rick grinned as he wrote something on his clipboard.

"You don't look like it. I'm not making this up."

"Walter, I said I believe you. Why wouldn't I? I'm just concentrating on your boiler inspection."

"Well, anyway, I don't have a photo. You couldn't expect me to, with the wind and weather and like that."

"Of course not. And the next time I get up to Butternut Lake, I'll thank you for leaving me that fish."

"Unless someone else lands him. But I don't think they will."

Rick merely shook his head and squatted down to check the relay circuits that fired the boiler.

"You all ready for the Fourth of July? It's just a couple of days off." Walter changed the subject.

"Sure, I guess. Not much to get ready for."

"You're not working the Chamber of Commerce food tent at the fireworks this year?"

"Nope. Maybe next year. It's been a busy May and June."

"I bet it has. I hardly see you around town anymore, unless you're driving someplace."

"I've picked up a lot of business from rental customers this year. Rita McKee's stuff."

"And this coming month isn't an easy one, either," Walter complained. “I can't believe they scheduled a School Board meeting for July."

"Oh? Don't you usually have the month off?"

"That's right. We usually don't have a meeting in July. Lots of people are gone fishing, or out of town, or whatever. Pretty useless calling a meeting if you can't raise a quorum."

"Will you have one for this meeting?"

"God, I hope not. But I expect we will. It's an extraordinary meeting, so everyone is getting pressure from the Board president to show up"

"So what's important about this meeting?"

"I was hoping you'd be able to tell me. Your lady friend is the one who got it called."

"Hey, I thought we were going to lay off that subject. We're just friends."

"Sorry, sorry. But you can't tell me she wasn't hanging off your arm at that soiree the two of you hosted at Lorelei's."

"I wasn't hosting. She just invited me along." Rick found himself growing warm around his collar. He hadn't enjoyed going to Rita's celebration – too many people with too many knowing smiles.

"You and the Eagle Lake Chamber of Commerce and any other movers and shakers she wanted to impress.” Heinemann snorted. “Okay, she just asked you to come along to a big party catered at a downtown restaurant. That happens to you how often, Rick?"

There was silence for an answer.

Walter filled the void. "So, anyway, I was kind of hoping you might, maybe, possibly, have some kind of knowledge of what the hell has got Ms. Rita McKee so worked up that we need a special School Board meeting smack in the in the middle of my July vacation to discuss it."

Rick shrugged and rose to his feet. "Nope. No idea. Sorry about that."

Walter made a face and glared at Rick.

"Hey, you don't believe me?"

"Oh, sure, sure, I trust you. Absolutely. Who said anything about not believing?"

Now it was Rick's turn to grimace. "She doesn't share a whole lot of information with me."

"As opposed to sharing something else."

Rick frowned. “I hope you’re not suggesting what I think you are.” He changed the subject. "So how did Rita get the meeting called? She's not a board member, is she?"

"No, but she's been to most of the meetings this year, and she's pretty knowledgeable. I guess she schmoozed the hell out Dan Unser, the Board President. But Dan isn't saying much, he’s playing his cards close to his vest. I just don’t like that woman coming in and hijacking my summer."

"Well, all I can say is, don't ask me what's on her mind. Go ask Dan."

Walter smirked. "Oh, I bet I can tell what's on her mind. You’d better watch out if you want to stay a bachelor. Remember, she has a whole bunch of lures in her tackle box."

Rick turned his back. He took that moment to scrutinize the control box on the wall. "So where else have you gone fishing lately?"

 

Late in the day, with the boiler inspection done and a fussy dishwasher installation completed, Rick stopped at Jerry Guttmacher's to fill up the company truck. Better to have a full tank when – not if – someone called over the holiday with a problem to fix.

The late June sun still felt quite warm, though it was on its way down. Pre-suppertime shadows lengthened across the pavement.

"Hey, I thought that was the old beast pulling up," Jerry called his greeting from the doorway.

"You could tell, could you?" Rick grinned.

"I'd know the sound of that V8 anywhere." His friend walked over.

"I bet you would. I've had it here often enough."

"How's it going, Rico? You're not sick, right? You missed breakfast at Jahnke's for the first time in years."

Rick shook his head. "No, no, I'm fine. I just overslept, that's all."

"Overslept? Someone keeping you up at night?" Jerry leered.

Rick glared. "Now, don’t you start."

"Okay, okay." Jerry held his hands up, but his grin remained. "What are you doing for the Fourth? Hosting a barbeque with Rita?"

"Hell, no. I've had a bellyful of that."

"What? You didn't have to cook or clean or anything for her little party. Someone else made all the swanky snack stuff that got passed around. All you had to do was show up."

"And listen to Rita ramble on and on about we were at the beginning of a new era for Eagle Lake, while people hung on her every word. God, you'd have thought she was running for something."

"Guess the local Republicans should be quaking in their boots, huh?"

"Beats me, Jerry. She's got something big going on, but I don't know what the hell it is. Still, everyone seems to think I ought to."

"That's because she's your girlfriend. Of course you ought to know."

"She's not my girlfriend."

"I know that. You know that. Nobody else believes that."

Rick just shook his head. "Why not? It's not like we have anything in common. You know me – I'll have a beer or two, but that's enough. Not Rita. You should have seen the wine and beer flowing at her little celebration. She had plenty." Rick did not mention that after the affair wound down, he'd had to drive her home and make sure she was safely inside. Again.

"Oh, they served beer at that place? Thought it was too high class for that."

"Well, I found some," Rick admitted.

"So, if you don't mind slumming it with the working stiffs, why don't you come down to the fireworks with Cheryl and me? We'll save you a spot on the blankets, and I'll let you buy the beer."

"I don't know. Maybe."

"Maybe? Well, what else are you going to do?"

"I might stay home or paddle out and watch the show from the water."

"That sounds pathetic, Rico."

Rick shrugged. He knew he ought to be glad to be included, and Jerry and Cheryl were great friends. Their kids adored him, and he liked them, too.

But his heart just wasn't in the grand summer holiday this year.

"Well, I'll see. I've still got to get the house ready for Heinrich Senior and Trudy. They're coming up soon."

"Seriously? You're going to clean house on Independence Day? Do you even hear yourself?"

Rick glowered and shook his head like a stubborn child.

"If I didn't know you so well, I'd be hurt, Rico. Turning down a Guttmacher family invitation like that, from anyone else, I'd be insulted. From you, I know you're distracted by some damn plumbing problem and you're not thinking clearly. What you're really trying to say is: 'sure, Jerry, I'd be charmed to share a blanket at the fireworks with you and Cheryl.'"

"Hey, don't go putting words – "

"Mr. Guttmacher?" A youthful voice from the shade of the garage bay interrupted them.

"What is it, Jared?"

"Phone for you," the red-haired trainee called out.

"Be back in a minute," Jerry said. "Don't drive off, now."

Rick sighed in relief, the inquisition now forgotten. "Sure thing. Right."

Maybe I’ll hook up with Mister SexyHunk for the Fourth of July; make some fireworks of my own. More likely he’s found someone else by now.

He turned again to the gas pump. He hefted the handle and inserted the nozzle into bottomless maw of the old truck. He had to switch the pump on; then he squeezed, feeling fuel begin to flow through the hose. The sun’s rays shone warm on his neck as he watched the numerals on the prehistoric gas pumps spin mechanically, tallying his purchase with relentless twentieth century efficiency.

Rick wondered why Jerry never updated his pumps – anyone paying with a credit card had to go inside the service station. Maybe that was the point. Customers braving the cluttered interior of the shop could see how incredibly busy Jerry was, and how much his services were in demand. He did a huge amount of repair work. Or maybe it was the cost of the whole project. Having a family was expensive, and then there had been Cheryl's cancer.

The last few years probably didn't leave Jerry much time to do more than dream about doing upgrades at his business.

His thoughts were interrupted by the full-throated rumble of a large motorcycle turning in from the end of Main street. Rick looked up.

The big Harley bore two helmeted riders, one riding pillion behind the driver. They pulled up directly to the garage bay, bypassing the pumps, and prepared to dismount. The driver pulled off his helmet to reveal black hair, stylish beard stubble and a dark, youthful face. A riding jacket did little to mask a muscular frame.

Rick overheard him speaking. "You have any idea where we are, Oz?"

Rick noticed the other rider now that his helmet was off. Blond, slighter, and maybe older than the driver, he grinned back. "No idea, mate." The blond man had an accent – not quite British.

"You were supposed to be navigating."

"Yeah, and you were driving. Don't suppose you'd stoop to ask directions, would you?"

"We ain't lost, babe. Just a little behind schedule."

Jared stepped out to the doorway of the bay, wiping his hands on a rag. His eyes were drawn to the big Hog.

"'Scuse me, mate." Jared seemed startled. The blond was addressing him.

"That bike is sick," the redheaded teen blurted out.

The darker young man smiled. "Yup. Sure is. Borrowed it from a friend."

"You got good friends."

"You wouldn't mind helping out a foreigner, would you?" The blond broke in.

"Um, sure. I mean, no problem."

"We're supposed to be in Minneapolis tonight. We've seen a lot of the lovely north woods, but the trouble is, my husband here is a wanker, and seems to have taken a wrong turn."

Husband? The pump handle in his hand completely forgotten, Rick looked at the pair more carefully. He spotted two magnificent matching rings on their left hands. He blinked.

"And you forgot to charge your cell last night, asshole " The driver rejoined with a tight grin.

"Could you help out a friend from Australia and show us the quickest way to the Twin Cities from here?"

Jared stared at the Harley as if mesmerized.

"You know where he means? Minneapolis? St. Paul?" The dark-haired guy asked.

"Oh, yeah, right," Jared came back to the moment. "Um, if you want to get to Minneapolis, you've got a long way to go. You want to turn right out of here and take the next right at the light."

The dark-haired driver frowned in concentration.

"Follow that for about three miles till you hit highway twelve. Turn right again on that, and you can follow it all the way west to Minnesota."

"Thanks, dude. We appreciate it." The driver turned to the blonde and grinned. "I told you, asshole. I could have found the way." He re-mounted the saddle.

"Yeah, right, after another two-hour detour."

His partner climbed on behind again, molding his body and stance to the driver. Rick's heart beat faster. It was sexy as hell. And then the blond leaned forward, wrapped his arms around his man, and planted a kiss on the driver's neck. It was a fleeting thing, a quick gesture of affection.

Yet Rick's heart ached in that moment. He was seized with conflicting emotions, yearning and jealousy in equal portions. Why did these kids get what had eluded him for so long? How had they found it? And what was so wrong with him that he'd never discovered it himself? Here were two men who’d found each other, were comfortable together, and whose obvious affection seemed just so easy. Normal.

He wanted to shout, to plead, to demand: Why not me? I bet you didn’t have to hang around in tavern restrooms or lurk on the internet. Show me how you did it. But he maintained his silence.

Then helmets were replaced, and the engine was kicked into life.

Anything else the pair might have said was lost in the rumble. Both waved to Jared as he raised a hand in farewell. The big bike pulled away and swooped back onto the street with a proud roar.

The gas pump thunked and stopped. Rick's tank was full, but his heart felt envious and empty. Yet somewhere in its hollow depths, a tiny spark flared; something to catch yearning’s tinder and make it smolder.

Jared walked over to him.

"Hi, Mr. Ernst."

"Hello, Jared."

"Did you see those two guys?"

"Yes, I did." He nodded. He stiffened, waiting to hear what harsh words the teen might deliver. He wondered what Jared would say about two men kissing right in front of him. Two guys in a relationship. In love. It wasn't something that happened up in Eagle Lake.

"Way cool bike. Grady Merkel's dad has one, but it needs a lot of work."

Rick looked sharply at the boy's face. He saw nothing but guileless sincerity there. Jared’s bright blue eyes shone with enthusiasm.

"Yeah," he replied. "That was cool."


Special and particular thanks go to @Carlos Hazday for lending his characters CJ Abello and Owen Liston to this chapter. They are used here with his kind permission. It was an opportunity that couldn't be missed, and I am most grateful. Thanks also to @AC Benus, whose kind advice has made this story better. Should you have any comment, reflection or observation to leave, I would be very happy to see it. May everyone have a wonderful holiday.
Copyright © 2020 Parker Owens; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments



Rita really has a long range plan she’s setting in motion.  Involving the school board must mean she is telling them about her new development plan and angling it as a tax boon for the district.  If I am correct then it’s rather brilliant to get the board on her side before the administrators and teachers can react to the larger class sizes the new growth will cause.  Coming from a small town perspective, I can tell you each new subdivision, especially the high end ones, cause a community uproar.
The biker babe husbands are an important moment.  I love that Rick was able to experience both their open love and Jared’s completely neutral response.  

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1 minute ago, Dr. John NYC said:

I was trying to figure out who the “Special Guests” were, but I was surprised and thoroughly delighted when it turned out to be CJ & Owen. Even though I was not ready for the chapter to end, it was a delicious amuse-bouche before Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks, @Parker Owens & Happy 🦃 Day, y’all! 

Agreed, the ending was abrupt. Happy turkey day y'all

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4 hours ago, weinerdog said:

Walter's fish was first a yard long then it was four feet long and and finally sixty inches sounds like you heard your share of fish stories.When Walter and Jerry asked Rick if he knew what Rita was up to why was he so tight lipped?From what  I can see he has no loyalty to Rita.I'm guessing Rick doesn't want to say anything because of how senior might react.But he should say something because what's Rita is saying sounds like a scam.

When the motorcycle first pulled up I was thinking it could be Sexy hunk but it was cool to see these characters good touch. You think Jared reaction to the two might give Rick some encouragement? Have a Happy Thanksgiving

 

 

Rick said nothing because Rita hasn’t given him any firm details, just grand visions. He’s annoyed because Walter is pumping him for information which he is assumed to have, but doesn’t possess. The man Walter should be pressing is the School Board president. 
 

Rick was expecting Jared to be snarky or snide after the motorcycle roared off. That the boy was neither must make Rick pause and reconsider. Things may smolder awhile, but was a definite spark.

Thank you, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving. 

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3 hours ago, pvtguy said:

I had the same thought about who was riding the motorcycle, but glad it wasn't Sexyhunk.  A nice respite for the holiday - now I hope to see more "meat" in the next installment!

I’m glad you liked the holiday treat. Not a meaty interlude, but it adds flavor to the story, I think. Thanks very much, and Happy Thanksgiving. 

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Wishing you all the best this Thanksgiving! Although it is certainly different for most of us this year, there is still much to be grateful for.  As I go between oven and reading, the abbreviated Macy’s Parade is televised in the background.  As I was reading your comment above, the Big Apple Gay and Lesbian Corp Band was on performing for our nation.  Wonder what Rick might think.  I know it made ME happy.  PS: I forgot in my original comment to say how fun it was to hear from CJ and Oz! I have read and love @Carlos Hazday work.  I stand by calling them biker babes too 😉

Edited by 84Mags
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48 minutes ago, Parker Owens said:

How often do we get told fish stories? I enjoyed writing that part, and of course, the cameo appearance of CJ and Oz. You were very kind to lend them to Rick for a few minutes. He will remember them for quite a while. Many thanks, and Happy Thanksgiving!

My pleasure, Mr. Owens. With me borrowing Michael and Blaine a few times, and now CJ and Ozzie showing up in your story, we may have to talk about a meatier crossover at some point. You're welcome to use my guys whenever you feel like it.

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Somehow, just like Rick can't grow a pair, I feel Rita is going to skip town holding a huge bag of other folks hopes, dreams and money. The blow back will be fast and furious and Rick won't be believed when he tries to explain he was a pawn as well. He may be wishing that tiny spark may not ignite his yearning but make him hope for self-immolation as his father enters the picture with a can of gas...

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10 hours ago, Mawgrim said:

Rita is definitely going out of her way to include Rick in all of her events and to make everyone think they are an item. I'm wondering if this is all part of her plan to get the townsfolk on her side rather than because she actually fancies him. 
 

Rita seems to want Rick for more than his plumbing skills. But if she’s romantically inclined, she’s going to find Rick to be a frustrating man to pursue, even as he tries to remain civil and courteous. The impression created for everyone else in town is that Rick is in the hunt, and they can’t wait for someone to catch the other. Call it small town entertainment. Thanks for reading the chapter. Happy Thanksgiving! 

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10 hours ago, Valkyrie said:

Now that's a fish story!  If he'd have kept on, I think he'd have had Jonah's whale in that boat :gikkle:  Rita seems to think the town wants to change, but her grandiose plans may not be as well-received as she thinks they'll be.  I see lots of fireworks in the future...with Heinrich Sr appearing, Rita's plans, Sexyhunk, and of course, our pianist.  I think seeing the gay couple and the lack of reaction on anyone's part is going to be pivotal for Rick.  Maybe it will give him the courage  and self-confidence he sorely needs. 

Fireworks in the future? Well, Independence Day is coming up in Eagle Lake. Hope you enjoyed Walter’s fish story. I have the feeling Rick and he have swapped a few. Rita has irked Walter, who has no way to speculate or spin what she has up her sleeve. He’s left to tell tall tales until he (and everyone else in town) knows what’s up. 

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12 hours ago, Dr. John NYC said:

I was trying to figure out who the “Special Guests” were, but I was surprised and thoroughly delighted when it turned out to be CJ & Owen. Even though I was not ready for the chapter to end, it was a delicious amuse-bouche before Thanksgiving dinner. Thanks, @Parker Owens & Happy 🦃 Day, y’all! 

That you did not want the chapter to be done made me smile wide. You gave me one more thing to be thankful for today. Thank you very much for reading, and I'm glad you enjoyed this chapter's treat.

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11 hours ago, Headstall said:

Wonderfully written chapter, Parker, and the growing before our eyes fish story was amusing as hell. This line... "The gas pump thunked and stopped. Rick's tank was full, but his heart felt envious and empty. Yet somewhere in its hollow depths, a tiny spark flared; something to catch yearning’s tinder and make it smolder." ... it was perfect. Maybe Rick will find his courage...

Well done, sir! 

Your kind words made me smile this evening, warming the room despite the chill outside. Funny how that fish grew in the telling. Rick's ordinary, undramatic encounter at Guttmacher's Service may have lit something in him. Perhaps, given support and luck, it won't be snuffed out. Many thanks for reading, and for your encouraging words.

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11 hours ago, Tonyr said:

I never had any doubts about who the two bikers were... Miss those guys. Is everything alright at the Embassy in Mexico City?

CJ and Oz seemed in a hurry to get to Minneapolis. Perhaps Rick could have invited them over for a cookout, but words failed him.

11 hours ago, Tonyr said:

Agreed, the ending was abrupt. Happy turkey day y'all

Rick certainly has plenty of food for thought, all based on this brief, yet memorable encounter. I'm happy you took time to read today's chapter. Thank you, and Happy Thanksgiving!

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10 hours ago, 84Mags said:

Wishing you all the best this Thanksgiving! Although it is certainly different for most of us this year, there is still much to be grateful for.  As I go between oven and reading, the abbreviated Macy’s Parade is televised in the background.  As I was reading your comment above, the Big Apple Gay and Lesbian Corp Band was on performing for our nation.  Wonder what Rick might think.  I know it made ME happy.  PS: I forgot in my original comment to say how fun it was to hear from CJ and Oz! I have read and love @Carlos Hazday work.  I stand by calling them biker babes too 😉

Thank you for the snapshot of your day. It made me smile. Happy Thanksgiving!

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