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    Parker Owens
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Double Concerto - 19. Libera Me

Rita Advisories are in effect for this chapter. Read with caution.

“So tell me again when you want to borrow my car?”

Rick stood at Caroline Lee’s door. He shivered. The morning sun on the far side of the house cast a deep shade where he stood. It would warm up plenty later on, but for now the air remained crisp and cool. The hour wasn’t too early for Rick’s neighbor. He knew she often rose with the sun. At the moment, Mrs. Lee smiled, but had not yet agreed to Rick’s request.

“If you can spare it, I need it this coming weekend. Saturday,” Rick replied.

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe. This is the second time in just a few weeks.” Mrs. Lee frowned.

“I understand if you can’t.”

“You said you’ll be gone all day?”

“I think so. I don’t really know.”

“When is this concert?”

“Um, I think it’s kind of an all-day event. It’s not an actual concert. At least that’s what I was told.”

Mrs. Lee pressed her lips together. A robin sang in the yard, chirrup, cheerily, chirrup, cheerily, cheerily…

“And where are you going?” She asked at length.

“To a music festival in Daffodil. It’s over in La Grande County, about an hour away.”

“That’s quite a haul. I never knew you went to concerts and events like that, Rick.”

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d gone to a concert or a play. For a while, he hadn’t been sure the invitation was still open; he’d left Gus in such a hurry at the bank. Rick was beset with worry. He feared his cowardly retreat from the appearance of Willy Kohler had ruined their budding friendship. But fortune, for reasons best left unquestioned, smiled on him, and he was still driving to the festival. Gus had called the shop, leaving a message to confirm their weekend expedition. Now Rick wanted to be prepared with a roomier vehicle than his truck, and a better plan.

“Well, um, this festival seems interesting.”

“More interesting than the concert at the Episcopal Church I asked you about last April, at least.” The old woman’s mouth wore the beginnings of a pout.

“I guess so.”

“I have to say, I can’t imagine Heinrich and Trudy wanting to go on this excursion. Doesn’t sound like their kind of thing. Or is it all because of Rita that you need the car?”

“No, no, nothing like that.” Rick recoiled. The idea of taking Rita to an all-day affair like this made his stomach churn. “This is a trip with someone else completely. I’m going with different friends. They don’t have a car. Maybe you remember them? You met them on the Fourth. Gus Morales and the brother and sister he teaches.”

“Oh, Gus and Marta and my friend Joey!” Caroline’s face broke into a wide smile. “Why didn’t you say so?”

“Yes. Them. Gus wants to go, and he asked if I –” Rick paused, trying not to say more than he should. On the phone, Gus seemed more worried than ever about imminent hostilities breaking out between the Takács siblings. “And I volunteered to drive, seeing as I know my way around. Anyway, I just thought it would be a tight fit in my truck.”

“Of course. If you want to borrow my car, that’s fine. I can do my errands on Friday, mostly. Could I ask you to make a stop for me in town today or tomorrow?”

“Sure thing, Mrs. Lee. Anything you like.” Rick made no attempt to hide the relief he felt. “And I’ll make sure the gas tank is full when I return it.”

“You always do, dear. I hope you have a wonderful time.”

He smiled and made to go. “I sure will. Thanks again, Mrs. Lee. I’d better be on my way.”

“You don’t want to keep Irene waiting,” she laughed.

 

There weren’t too many jobs on Irene’s calendar when Rick arrived.

“The day’s young, Rick. I’m sure there’ll be more calls.” Irene told him.

“Oh, let’s hope not. I was thinking about going fishing.” This was a complete lie. Rick was thinking about Gus and their upcoming day trip.

“Don’t tell your father that. He’s got other plans.”

Rick groaned. “So what’s the first item on the agenda?”

“There’s a cottage on Spruce Lake that needs the well pump serviced, and the water turned on. Then back to town for a pressure problem at…” Irene squinted at the page. “… four eighteen Crescent Street.”

“Okay. Don’t like the sound of that pressure problem.”

“Here’s a weird one – no name, no job – just some guy asking when you’re available for an appointment.”

Rick narrowed his eyes. A shadow seemed cast over the room. “He leave a number to call back?”

“Nope. Says he’s just an old acquaintance in town. Wants to catch up.”

Could it be Gus? No. He wouldn’t ask for an appointment. It’s got to be…SexyHunk. Willy Kohler.

“You know this guy?” Irene interrupted his thoughts.

“No. No clue who he is.” Rick resolved to get out of the shop as soon as he could, and stay gone for the remainder of the day.

“Well, before you get too involved in anything, you have to call what’s-her-name. She left you a message to call.”

Rick raised an eyebrow. “You mean Rita?”

“Of course, I do. What other customer’s name would I rather forget?”

“What does she want?”

“How should I know? She asked you to call as soon as you got in.”

Rick sighed and grabbed the phone. It seemed best just to get it over with.

Rita answered on the first ring. “Ricky! How are you?”

“Hiya, Rita. I’m fine. How about you?”

“Oh, just insanely busy, Ricky. I called because I had a teensy little question for you. If someone wanted some bulldozing and clearing work done, who would you call?”

Rick chewed this one over. Rita occasionally asked him questions on practical matters; this was a new one. “Just clearing a building lot, or doing some digging?”

“Probably both.”

“What kind of job is this?”

“I’m not ready to say yet. But it’s not a small one.” Rita’s voice took on the clipped, controlled tone he’d heard her use in business calls.

Rick ran his fingers through his hair. “There’s a couple of contractors you could call. Marv Rosberger right here in town does good work, and he’s fair. Carl Neurath can be kinda pricey, but he always leaves a site in perfect shape. When he’s done, the place is immaculate. Tomczak Brothers over in Meridian will tackle anything.”

“Are they cheaper?”

“Yes, usually. But you have to watch them, because they’ll take shortcuts and leave a mess behind.”

“Okay. Cheaper.” There was a pause on the other end of the line. Rita was taking notes. “Now, can they handle a big excavation job?”

“I think so. They bid on the high school project a few years back, but didn’t get it.”

“Who had the paving contract for that job?”

“Um, let me think a second.” Rick searched his memory. “I think it was Patternitti, out of Milwaukee. I remember there was a big stink because the contract wasn’t local. The School Board went with the cheapest bid, and they took a lot of heat for it.”

“Right. Patternitti. Cheapest bid.”

As she wrote, Rick wondered what she could be planning. When she resumed speaking, her voice had changed again. Rita was no longer the ruthless real estate queen of the North Country; instead she exuded charm. “Now, Ricky, I also called because although it was lovely of Heinrich to invite me to lunch with the two of you today, I’m going to have to beg off. I’m so sorry.” Her tone wasn’t entirely apologetic.

“Wait, lunch with me and Dad? Today?” Rick felt a slow burn beginning.

“Of course, silly. Really, you should put things on your calendar. Doesn’t that awful Irene woman do that for you?”

“And you can’t make it because –”

“I’ve had a really important client meeting come up today. I really have to be somewhere else at lunch. Work gets in the way. You understand.”

“Oh, yes, yes. I get it. No problem.” Missing out on lunch with Rita and his father was no skin off his nose.

“You can tell Heinrich I’ll have to take a rain check. Or maybe you and I can just have lunch together on our own, hmmm?” Rita’s throaty contralto dripped with suggestion.

“Hey Rita, I’ve got to run. Work gets in the way, like you said. I’ll be sure to tell Dad.” Boy, would he.

Rick put the phone down.

“What happened now?” Irene studied his face.

“She called to cancel a lunch date.”

“Didn’t know you had one.”

“Neither did I. Seems like Dad made one on my behalf.” Rick made a sour face.

“You want me to tell Heinrich for you?”

Rick sighed. “No, I ‘ll do it. I’ll call him over at Shunke’s later.” He took out his little, spiral notepad and added that call to his list.

 

Rick was happy to slide into his usual booth at Jahnke’s for lunch. Jerry Guttmacher was already there to greet him.

“Hey, Rico. Long morning?”

“Hoo, boy. You said it. How about you?”

“Can’t complain. The world of automotive service is a fast-paced, ever changing vista. What happened to you?”

“Took up most of the morning on a wild goose chase over on Crescent. Low pressure. I looked all over for leaks, wet spots, anything. Nothing. I was getting ready to start digging up the incoming water line.”

“Whoa, get ready to spend a couple of days on that.”

Rick grinned sheepishly. “Well, it’s a good thing I thought of something else first. Turns out the problem was in the valve in the basement.”

“What made you think of that?”

“I didn’t want to dig.”

“I always said you were a lazy bastard.” Jerry grinned.

“Speaking of bastards …” Rick brought himself up short.

“What? Which bastard?”

“Sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”

“Come on, Rico. You know I won’t tell your secrets.”

Rick made a face. “It’s my Dad. He told me something yesterday, and it really bothered me.”

Jerry nodded but said nothing. The chatter and clatter of lunching diners filled the space between them.

“He said my Mom had wanted a vacation; had asked for it without actually coming out and begging.”

“And?”

“And Dad said once he figured out what Mom wanted, he strung her along, kept her talking; but all the while he knew he was going to put his foot down and tell her ‘no.’ Because he didn’t want to be bothered or spend the damn money.” Rick spat bitterly.

“That’s bad.” Jerry shook his head.

“I mean, you and Cheryl are going off to Hawaii this fall. Does the money matter that much?”

“You know I don’t give a crap about that. I’m just so glad to have her whole and getting healthy.”

“Exactly. You love your wife, and you want to celebrate what you two have while you have it. And my Dad …” Rick pressed his lips together.

“I remember your mom. She was a great lady.”

“Yeah. Yeah, she was.” Rick blinked back a tear. “And my Dad is a cheap, controlling bastard.”

“Well, at least we know whose genes you got.”

Rick allowed himself a small smile as Wanda Jahnke arrived to take their orders. “Hiya boys, nice to see ya, what’ll you have for lunch?”

“Reuben special, with the fries, and a root beer,” replied Jerry.

“Same, but with the salad, no fries, and water,” added Rick.

“Coming right up.”

“No fries? A salad? Water?” Jerry expressed disbelief.

Rick looked away. “Just trying to eat a little better, okay?”

A knowing smile grew on Jerry’s face. This was more familiar territory. “Oh, I get it. Rita Baby told you to lose weight, huh?”

“No. I just… oh, I don’t know. Not sure I like what I see in the mirror.”

“Oh, come off it, Rico. You’ve got nothing to worry about there.”

Rick flushed. “Sorry I mentioned anything.”

“Remember, it’s Rita who’s chasing you, buddy. Don’t tell me it’s for your personality.”

“Very funny.”

“No, I’m serious. She’s the one who seems to want you. Doesn’t seem like the other way around to me. She must see something, even if you don’t. Not that you’ve ever been a guy to put yourself forward.”

Rick shrugged and inspected the advertisements on his paper placemat. He made no outward reply. It’s not Rita I’m worried about. Not that I can say anything about the real reason. No way.

“Hey, listen to me, buddy.” Jerry appealed softly. “I know Rita McKee isn’t your idea of perfect wife material, and, hell, I don’t blame you. I know your old man is being a pain in the ass about it. Sounds like he’s had lots of practice. Look, we’ve been friends a long, long time. I’m sorry if I’ve kidded you too much –”

“No, that’s not it,” Rick interrupted.

“Let me finish,” Jerry insisted. “I just want you to know I think you’d make a helluva husband. Someone’s gonna be damn lucky whenever they get around to finding you. You’re too good a man to stay on the shelf forever.”

“Quit your joking.”

“I’m not. Really. But if it isn’t going to be Rita, that’s fine by me.”

Rick wiped at his eye; something must have found its way in. He tried to chuckle. “Fine by me too.”

Their meals arrived. “Need anything else?” Wanda asked.

“Nope, thanks,” said Jerry.

Wanda turned to go.

Rick spoke up. “Um, Wanda? Could I get some house dressing?

The woman hesitated and frowned. “Oh, yeah, right. Sorry, I forgot.” She moved off.

“Hey, Jer, there was something I wanted to ask.”

His friend had his sandwich halfway to his mouth, but paused. “What?”

“I was wondering if you could spare Jared this Saturday.”

“You promise you’re not gonna stiff him again?” Jerry warned.

“Hey, that was my Dad’s doing, not mine.”

“I know the kid is counting on what he earns this summer for school. And Jared is a good guy.”

“I get that. I promise. Dad cancelled completely without my knowledge last week.”

“Okay, fine. You can borrow Jared. Whatever job it is you have to do, just make sure he’s back in one piece.”

“Thanks.” Rick took a bite of his sandwich. The rich taste of corned beef and cheese flooded his mouth, followed by the tang of sauerkraut.

“I’ll tell him to call you about it this afternoon,” Jerry said between mouthfuls.

“Okay.” He made no mention of what he had in mind.

“And tell Heinrich Senior that he doesn’t have to control absolutely everything.”

Rick rolled his eyes. “Jeez. Tell me about it. Just today, I learned he’d made a lunch date for him and Rita and me.”

“Really? I’m honored you stood them up for me.” Jerry laughed.

“Sorry. I didn’t stand anyone up. Rita left a message this morning cancelling, thank God. She had some important client meeting.”

“Oh, is that what I saw?”

“What are you talking about?” Rick asked, confused.

“On my way over here, I passed her downtown, going into the Lorelei Restaurant. She had some guy in a suit on her arm.”

Rick frowned. Who’s her new beau?

“Beats me. You know someone tall, heavyset, with a bad comb-over?”

A chill ran up his spine. Willy Kohler. “Just half the Chamber of Commerce.” He tried to ward off he shiver with a joke.

“Yeah, that’s about right.”

“Could be anyone.”

“You don’t know the guy?” Jerry asked.

“I doubt it. Anyhow, business is business, and I’m not going to complain.” What does Rita want with Willy Kohler? And why should I care?

“I didn’t think so.” Jerry smirked.

 

Later that day, Rick stood under the shower, letting the water’s heat wash away his weariness. There was plenty of hot water, and multilevel jets delivered it with a vigor and authority not many other homeowners experienced.

Rita could probably point out where his house needed updating, but the bathrooms wouldn’t make that list.

Rick felt drained by his day’s labors and demands. It wouldn’t be too long before his brain simply yielded to exhaustion.

As the water cascaded over him, Rick pondered the power of memory and fantasy.

Willy Kohler was back in Eagle Lake. Or, at least, he had been for the last couple of days. Willy Kohler, who called himself ‘SexyHunk,’ and who somehow remembered him.

He felt sure in his identification of the man at the bank. It was his eyes – that fleeting, momentary connection across the lobby floor – which confirmed it for Rick. Those eyes belonged to the boy whose memory seared and cursed his soul, casting his darkness in a lurid glare of if only, if only, if only.

If only he’d been able to swim or waterski; if only he’d known how to drink whiskey or play pool; if only he could have made Willy smile at him. Those eyes had captivated, then discarded him.

If only he’d learned to be competent like Heinrich Senior. If only he had grown into the kind of son the old man wanted. If only he’d been good enough.

But he never had been good enough – not for Willy, not for his father, not for anyone.

At every critical point in his life, he’d chosen badly: to stay in Eagle Lake, to work in his father’s business, and to push his desires as far back into the darkest recesses of his mind as he could. Rick figured if the old-time farmers he’d heard stories about could handle it, he could too. Who knows, maybe he could have held his nose and dated Rita McKee in earnest.

That was ridiculous now.

Once upon a time, Rick would have endured any humiliation for the chance at a smile from Willy Kohler. Now, the man seemed to be pursuing him, and he couldn’t run away fast enough.

With just one smile, Gustavo Morales had broken open the long-locked cellars in his mind. Once again, yearning and fear stalked each other. He knew instinctively that fear would eventually tear his hopes apart.

Rick faced the spray and tried in vain to clear his mind. He knew that path in his brain led nowhere but down, down into a gulf of self-hatred. There wasn’t any sense dwelling on his own mistakes and cowardice.

His internal gaze shifted. He still had a hard time believing his own eyes. How could that worn-out husk of a man he’d seen at the bank really be the boy for whom he’d harbored a thousand fantasies? What had happened to the bronzed, blond-haired god of his youth? How much of his life had he wasted on Willy Kohler?

Rick’s right hand strayed down his body, handling his flaccid manhood.

Pictures from a summer long ago flashed through his mind.

Nothing.

Damn you, Willy Kohler.

His mind recalled a scene; he was on his knees on hard tile; the stench of urine in a seedy tavern’s bathroom permeating everything; an older guy in jeans and woodcutter’s boots fucking his face. He could hear “I Got Friends in Low Places” blaring through the cheap door. And all he could focus on were the words American Standard etched into fixtures behind the man he was blowing.

Damn you, Willy Kohler.

Again, his inner eye changed focus to a snug bungalow in Milwaukee; he was completely undressed and lying on a massage table. The voice of Marshall rang in his ears. “Oh, for heaven’s sake, honey, ask. We both know what you want, but you have to ask. Don’t you know that?”

Damn you, Willy Kohler.

He’d never had the courage to ask, or to be unafraid of who he really was, or what he really wanted. He could blame it all on bad luck or bad choices, but in the end, it boiled down to his own inadequacy.

But did it have to end that way? Would he soon be as used-up as Willy Kohler looked?

A memory of Gus, holding him as they descended Prospect Rock on College Hill entered his mind; one beautiful moment he could hold onto forever.

His cock stirred.

No, don’t ruin it by making it into something impossible.

His hand moved up and down his shaft.

He could still remember what Gus felt like, his scent compounded of spice and sun. What if he’d just picked Gus up and carried him down the path? What if he’d tried to kiss the man? What if Gus had kissed him back?

Rick closed his eyes and stroked himself, falling headlong into the fantasy.

He could feel Gus’s lithe frame in his embrace, and the muscles in his back and flanks. He could feel Gus’ hands pulling them together, those long fingers slipping under the hem of his old shirt. Gus would be enjoying this as much as he was; sinews tensed in pleasure.

He was hard now, and he jacked himself quickly, enthusiastically.

Rick imagined running his fingers through fine black hair and feeling the answering swell of desire as Gus ground into him.

Already, he was close.

In the vision, he felt Gus cling to him, kissing him hard.

“Please, Gus…” he whispered to the steam and hiss of the water falling.

What was he asking of the vision? Don’t let go? Love me? Rick’s brain failed at self-analysis; it hardly mattered.

His release was upon him, making him groan as he painted the shower wall four, five, six times.

Rick stood there, recovering as he panted, chest heaving. The vision had been vivid, and his orgasm as intense as he’d experienced in a long time.

If only.

Later, as he cleaned up the shower, Rick recalled something else. Gus had held his hand. Even if they hadn’t actually had a passionate encounter in the woods, that was something real. There had been no fantasy, and that small thing still warmed him.

What was it Jerry had said? Someone’s gonna be damn lucky whenever they get around to finding you. Rick didn’t know about anyone else, but he felt fortunate to stumble across Gus. Incredibly so.

He hung up his towel and washcloth.

Rick recalled the day before at the bank: Gus had smiled at him, making his day.

The memory of that moment nearly made him forget about his call to the shop. Even through the tinny speaker phone, the other man’s anxiety was plain to hear.

“Hello, Rick? Sorry to call you at work, but I didn’t know how else to get in touch. We’re still on for tomorrow, right? The way Marta and Joey fight, I’m going to have to hide the sharp knives if we’re not. . Can you pick us up early? You can call me at this number….”

Rick had returned the call right away, all relief and reassurance. He wondered what the event would be like. A bunch of orchestra concerts? Kids playing their strings badly? It hardly mattered. As long as Gus brought his smile, he could take any amount of screechy violins.

Rick discarded thoughts about Willy Kohler, about Rita, and whatever plans his father seemed intent on making for him.

All he remembered was Gus laughing about being a chaperone.

His face wore a wide grin. In that moment, he cared nothing for the past, neither his own mistakes, nor the hurts he’d had to bear. He wanted something better – to be someone better – than he ever imagined.

The hell with Willy Kohler.

@AC Benus and @Carlos Hazday were immensely helpful in making this story better, and I thank them. If you have comments or reflections, I am always glad to see them.

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



2 hours ago, JeffreyL said:

I was glad to read Rick's thoughts about himself and his life, and how he wants things to change! I won't hold my breath, but I would enjoy an HEA for Rick and Gus! Thanks. 

Rick may be looking beyond his past. Gus may have given him a way to see a different future than the one he has understood for many years. But there is always that pesky present to live through...  thanks very much for reading, and for your thoughts.

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50 minutes ago, weinerdog said:

Talk about a nightmare combo of people for Rick to hear about having a lunch meeting Willy and what's her name. Irene may be on to something let's call Rita what's her name. I have a thought whatever project Willy and what's her name may have maybe Rick can ruin by saying what happened between them years ago.

Rick has some scheme of his own it seems.I guess he wants Jared to come to the concert to keep Marta occupied but if the point is for some alone time with Gus well Joey is still there.You notice how Mrs. Lee smiled when she heard Rick wanted to borrow her car so he could take Gus and the kids? She even told Rick to have a good time. Hmm you think Mrs. Lee has figured Rick out?

You hit upon the horror of what might have been a ghastly lunch for Rick. I'm sure he's glad to have missed seeing What's-her-name and Willy headed into a restaurant. You've also seen Rick's plan. Perhaps it will work, even. In any case, Mrs. Lee likes the Takacs children, and Gus. How could she not smile? Thank you for reading!  Your thoughts are encouraging.

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36 minutes ago, 84Mags said:

Rita scheming for the cheapest contractors for the infrastructure part of her project is worrisome, but much less so than her working with Willy. I don’t like him being connected with Rita; but hold hope there is a way that they will fail together.

I’m cautiously optimistic Rick is starting to realize those who truly care about him and consider him a friend, neighbor or regarded businessman, do so with a respect that will not be altered by Rick following his desires. The title of this chapter foretold of absolution and laying the dead to rest. Perhaps this is a turning point for Rick to begin to do so with his if only’s. Maybe if he gets off the porn hook up sites and starts reading about a couple of those old-time farmers @Headstall he will find there can be a way forward. This chapter left me very hopeful for Rick and Gus.  


 

You made me smile when you offered that connection Rick made to old-time farmers. The if-only's have haunted Rick for a long time. It was nice to write a sequence in which he could try to banish them, and so be liberated from his past. As you astutely pointed out, he is trying to lay an old death to rest. Now perhaps he can look forward to the future, as long as the present doesn't get in the way. Thank you very much for reading! 

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21 minutes ago, drsawzall said:

FINALLY!!!! The psychological dam just may have burst and we NOW see Rick does have a smidgen of, well four, five, six times, testicular fortitude! 

Rita and Willy, should they not both carry a combined warning????

We need a Willy warning, something like...we can see your willy...Willy's out to indiscriminately play...look out for the rampaging willy????

If Willy is involved, it can be predicted with certitude, that his 'local connections' will be used and abused. Willy, having just sold the family property is a sucker for his $$ involvement with Rita which will more than likely leave him busted...another thought, one has to wonder what is current financial status is/was before selling Cedar Point?

Here's hoping for Team Gus and he finally tears down the last of Rick's defenses!!!!

One has to wonder what the price will be for Rick having to step in and save Eagle Lake from itself?

I loved your Willy Warnings. Indeed, if Willy and Rita combine, one might worry about a Rilly Vortex: two operators looking for suckers. However, Rita is being very careful not to reveal her plans - though it's clear from her questions that they're bigger than Rick first guessed.  Gus has found his way into Rick's heart, that's certain. The man occupies his mind more and more. The pianist appears to enjoy Rick's company, too. Rick seems to be laying down his past with Willy, so that he can imagine something better for himself. Thank you very much for reading this chapter, and for your responses!

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3 hours ago, 84Mags said:

Rita scheming for the cheapest contractors for the infrastructure part of her project is worrisome, but much less so than her working with Willy. I don’t like him being connected with Rita; but hold hope there is a way that they will fail together.

I’m cautiously optimistic Rick is starting to realize those who truly care about him and consider him a friend, neighbor or regarded businessman, do so with a respect that will not be altered by Rick following his desires. The title of this chapter foretold of absolution and laying the dead to rest. Perhaps this is a turning point for Rick to begin to do so with his if only’s. Maybe if he gets off the porn hook up sites and starts reading about a couple of those old-time farmers @Headstall he will find there can be a way forward. This chapter left me very hopeful for Rick and Gus.  


 

Lol. :P  :hug: 

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Perhaps Rick will find out what Rita's schemes involve and might be able to interrupt them for the sake of Eagle Lake!  I hope he gets into a real argument with his father and stands up to him for his own good.  That would be a real step in healing!

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5 hours ago, rockycs said:

Enjoying the story!  I wonder if Rita has ever been successful with her grand schemes?  No one really likes surprises, and I expect that includes many of the Eagle Creek citizens.  There are enough people in on the deal now that word should start leaking out soon.  I wonder what other properties Willy's family owns around town?  I wouldn't worry too much about a Rilly Vortex.  It would be a tossup which one screws the other over first.

I'm very happy you are enjoying the story. That's enough to make any author's heart sing. Thank you. Rita is a very successful salesperson, that appears to be indisputable. However, it isn't clear that whatever plans or projects she's had elsewhere ever panned out. Perhaps she wants to use Eagle Lake to make her mark. Whoever else is in on the deal is keeping mum, but word is bound to get out eventually, you're right. The Kohlers were never landlords in the usual sense; they were lumber barons who made money cutting timber for building, paper and so on. Whatever they owned in Eagle Lake or farther north would have been forest land. Thanks very much for reading, and for your responses.

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6 hours ago, Valkyrie said:

Once Willy Kohler showed up, I had a feeling there would be a connection between him and Rita.  Seems like she's moved on from Rick and Heinrich, now that she's been exposed for her outstanding bill.  She's clearly taking shortcuts on her project since she wants the cheapest bid, regardless of quality.   I hope Rick is really ready to move forward with his life and do more than just imagine a better life.  Gus clearly enjoys spending time with Rick.  I'm looking forward to reading about the music festival.  

Perhaps Rita has other things to think about besides her outstanding bill with Rick and Heinrich. Rick is perfectly happy to steer very, very clear of Rita and Willy, whatever they may be up to. It certainly appears that Rita is thinking about expenses, doesn't it? Rick is much more interested in going to the music festival with Gus than he is in Rita's venture. He's trying to look forward, while still dealing with the present. Given the stresses of the moment, that might be a tall order. Thank you very , very much for reading, and for your thoughts.

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4 hours ago, Headstall said:

There was a lot of sadness in this chapter, but there were happy things too. To be honest, a few times my eyes watered. If only, if only if only. That was powerful, my friend. It feels like things are slowly coming to a head. Rick is getting stronger... and angrier, Heinrich continues to push buttons he shouldn't, Willy had the audacity to contact Rick's work, and Rita's plans are soon going to be impossible to hide... and it appears Sexyhunk is now mixed up in them. :huh:  And then there is Gus... a bright beacon who has stirred a once dormant Rick. I look forward to whatever is coming. :D  Cheers!

Yes, there was plenty of sadness here. That passage of if only, if only  required a number of attempts to write. I hope you think it came out right. I like that you've noticed that the tempo and volume has slowly increased; there are rumbling, ominous bass notes in Willy's appearance, and Rita's plans keep up their staccato beat while Heinrich's braying brass theme plays over it all. If I were Rick, I'd be holding my hands over my ears. If Gus shines through as a sweet melody against the cacophony, one to stir the heart, then perhaps I've done all right so far. Thanks for your reflections, and for reading the chapter!

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1 hour ago, pvtguy said:

Perhaps Rick will find out what Rita's schemes involve and might be able to interrupt them for the sake of Eagle Lake!  I hope he gets into a real argument with his father and stands up to him for his own good.  That would be a real step in healing!

Rick and Heinrich seem headed for a collision sooner or later, don't they?  I suppose it all depends on how long Rick's fuse can burn, and on whether Senior continues his relentless pushing of his son's buttons. Given that fairly constant irritation,  it may be hard for Rick to focus on what Rita is up to. I'm very glad you read this chapter, and enjoyed reading your comments.

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1 hour ago, Parker Owens said:

Yes, there was plenty of sadness here. That passage of if only, if only  required a number of attempts to write. I hope you think it came out right. I like that you've noticed that the tempo and volume has slowly increased; there are rumbling, ominous bass notes in Willy's appearance, and Rita's plans keep up their staccato beat while Heinrich's braying brass theme plays over it all. If I were Rick, I'd be holding my hands over my ears. If Gus shines through as a sweet melody against the cacophony, one to stir the heart, then perhaps I've done all right so far. Thanks for your reflections, and for reading the chapter!

Methinks thou art writing a symphony here!

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16 hours ago, CincyKris said:

My fear is that Willy will tell Rita about his encounter (rape, but he would spin it falsely) with Rick.  Rilly would use it to try to force our hero into doing something he doesn't want to do.  You wouldn't do that to us, would you?

I think your fear is well-founded. Rita is highly motivated by her project, and we both know how little moderation either one of Rick's two antagonists exercise. Events will unfold as they will. Hopefully, neither Willy nor Rita enjoy music festivals.  Thank you very much for reading, and for speculating on the chapter.

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I absolutely love the composition of Libera Me from Faure's requiem.  It so aptly captures this moment in Rick's life:  he needs to be released from the the hell of his existence.  I am looking forward to the "In paradisum", which is the most glorious moment of the progression from the lowest moment of grief to the ecstasy of joy in resurrection. 

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14 hours ago, Danners said:

Seems like Rick has hit an invaluable turning point in denouncing Willy Koehler — at long last — and I hope he meant what he said/thought to himself about ignoring the expectations put upon him by Rita and his father. Ridding himself of that baggage will take guts we know he has, along with determination he’s kept buried for so long.

After all, the self hatred, the self doubt, his low self esteem, and the shame of being gay — at their core is his rape by Willy Koehler and those feelings being exacerbated by living under Heinrich Senior’s thumb his whole life. Being taken advantage of. Snip the core and the rest of the knot is easier to unravel.

He can do it though. Maybe not by himself, but he does have people — friends — helping him already, and he has Gus (or aspirations for a relationship with Gus) as a catalyst for making him feel good about himself for once. Please, Rick, give up no ground; keep moving forward.

And speaking of friends . . . I couldn’t help notice this: “Let me finish,” Jerry insisted. “I just want you to know I think you’d make a helluva husband. Someone’s gonna be damn lucky whenever they get around to finding you. You’re too good a man to stay on the shelf forever.”

Jerry didn’t assign a gender to Rick’s potential spouse. I hope I’m not giving the man too much credit, but the aforementioned and other statements he’s made seem to indicate he’s aware Rick isn’t entirely heterosexual. In his own way, maybe he’s encouraging it. Kudos to him.

Can’t wait for the concert next week! 

Even if it's only an internal denunciation - and an internal turn to something better - this is an important moment for Rick, and I am glad you recognized it here. He is unlikely to forget completely about his relationship to his father, and all the expectations that have come from that. How could he? Yet it seems Rick may have put those expectations into a different perspective, one that allows him room to consider his own wants and needs. You're also right that Rick has support in his community - more than he may realize or hope for. His years of disappointment probably color the way he sees things. Jerry is a good friend, and a constant one. Conscious or unconscious in his choice of words, he said something that cannot help but encourage Rick. And he needs that: he's anxious enough about the upcoming music festival. Thanks very much for your thoughts, and for reading!

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21 minutes ago, pvtguy said:

I absolutely love the composition of Libera Me from Faure's requiem.  It so aptly captures this moment in Rick's life:  he needs to be released from the the hell of his existence.  I am looking forward to the "In paradisum", which is the most glorious moment of the progression from the lowest moment of grief to the ecstasy of joy in resurrection. 

Thank you for making the connection between the text of this chapter and what is perhaps the most well-known setting of these words in the Requiem. You and I both are fans of the Faure Requiem. The Libera Me echoed in my head as I wrote the last section of this chapter. I hope other readers will hear it, too.

 

In Paradisium is another unforgettable part of the Requiem. I wish anything I write could do it justice.

 

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On 1/7/2021 at 8:00 AM, weinerdog said:

Talk about a nightmare combo of people for Rick to hear about having a lunch meeting Willy and what's her name. Irene may be on to something let's call Rita what's her name. I have a thought whatever project Willy and what's her name may have maybe Rick can ruin by saying what happened between them years ago.

Rick has some scheme of his own it seems.I guess he wants Jared to come to the concert to keep Marta occupied but if the point is for some alone time with Gus well Joey is still there.You notice how Mrs. Lee smiled when she heard Rick wanted to borrow her car so he could take Gus and the kids? She even told Rick to have a good time. Hmm you think Mrs. Lee has figured Rick out?

Oh yeah, Caroline DEFINITELY has Rick figured out. Bringing Jared to distract Marta does seem likely to be Rick’s plan, but I think it is more explicitly to give Joey and Marta some separation. Of course, any time alone with Gus is an added benefit. 

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