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    Parker Owens
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Double Concerto - 3. La Calunna

No special warnings needed for this chapter.

"What the hell is going on here?"

 

The sound of Oskar Kohler's voice had been running through Rick's brain lately – ever since his trip out to Cedarcrest. The echoes of it disturbed his sleep and infiltrated his brain at work.

Only two people knew the real story. The whole truth. Rick wasn't about to tell what Willy had done to him, and the older boy wasn’t about to say anything about it either. But the older boy shamelessly laid the blame for the empty bottles and the mess on the floor right at Rick's feet. "I don't know how he got into the liquor, Dad, but I found him down here, drunk as a skunk."

 

He'd been too horrified and sick to defend himself. A wave of shame, disgust and self-loathing came back every time he recalled it.

 

Rick sighed, trying to will away the past. He angled his welding torch a little. Lying on his back on the cold tile floor, he tried to get the clear blue flame in just the right spot on the drain pipe.

Maybe he needed a fire to burn away the memories. Heinrich Senior never let Rick forget about the humiliation and stain on the family's pride. Heinrich Senior knew how to yell and cuss. His tight, intense voice scared him more.

 

"You disappoint me, Ricky. I'm deeply disappointed and embarrassed. You realize we will never get work from the Kohler family again? Or from their friends? This could ruin us. Ruin our reputation." His father had gone on in that vein for a while. And it continued throughout the months of grounding and extra work which followed.

 

Willy had laid the blame on thick and well – Heinrich Senior wouldn't listen to his feeble defense that Willy had started the drinking - and his old man still remembered.

 

He heard footsteps.

"You just about done here, Rick?" Walter Heinemann’s voice echoed on the hard surfaces of the room.

"Just a minute or two." He knew his voice was a bit muffled by the protection he wore on his face.

"It's about lunch time. Come and join me in my office when you're done."

Walter was an older guy, and a decent man to do business with. As Director of Buildings and Grounds for the Eagle Lake School District, Walter called on Rick often enough to deal with problems or disasters that his own team had neither time nor inclination to handle.

Today was a case in point: horseplay late on Friday afternoon resulted in catastrophic damage to a urinal in the second-floor boy's bathroom. Walter was lucky that there wasn't any significant water damage elsewhere in the building.

The young guy on Walter's staff who might have made the repair on Saturday had specifically requested to be off – and so Rick had been called in. It was part of the network of old customers who knew the quality of his work. Slowly, he was emerging from the shadow of his father. He was making the family business as much his own as he could.

As it happened, the Kohler boycott of Heinrich Ernst and Son did not ruin the business after all. A few of the summer customers looked for alternatives, but most everyone else had stuck by Heinrich Senior.

But Rick was not allowed to forget about his colorful finale at Cedarcrest, not ever. Heinrich Senior said it dozens of times, in countless different situations: "What you need is supervision, boy. Can't have you wandering God knows where and getting puke-drunk all over the place, can we?"

 

Rick never told anyone about what had happened on the pool table. Guilt had been laid upon guilt.

The work on the boy's room urinal was finished. The break was repaired, at least. Someone else would fix the tile. That wasn't his job. For the umpteenth time, Rick wondered what the hell those kids had been doing. He could guess, of course. He shut off the torch and grimaced. Would the students who'd managed to rip an entire urinal off the wall ever be allowed to forget their transgression? Probably. Someday.

He inspected the weld. Repair completed. With slow deliberation, Rick gathered together his gear and tools. He could manage everything in one trip to the truck, he decided. Out at the van, Rick deposited his materials, found his lunchbox and carried it back into the school building.

He marched down the hushed, dimmed corridors to the back wing where Walter Heinemann's office and workshop was located. Rick knocked at the door to the cluttered office.

"Oh, hey, there you are." The older man looked up. A muted, but genuine smile shone under a white mustache. "Have a chair."

Rick pulled up the battered metal frame chair – probably a chair he himself had used in the school library once. "Thanks."

"For what, keeping an old man company? Forget it."

"Since when are you old? Getting ready to retire soon?"

"As a matter of fact, yes – we're talking about maybe in a couple of years."

Rick blew out a long breath. "Been a long time, hasn't it?"

"You mean since I taught you that Industrial Arts course? Almost thirty years. 1990, I think." Walter shook his head and ran a hand through thinning white hair. He chuckled. "You knew more about some of that stuff than I did."

"That's a crock, Walter."

"No, it's not. And besides, if it wasn't you, it was your dad who definitely knew his stuff. I know that's where you got it from."

"If you say so."

"Speaking of your dad, you were here with him when they put in the new synthetic turf athletic fields, right?"

Rick nodded. "I did most of the work, he did most of the supervision." Supervision. Always, under supervision.

"Well, would you have time next week to walk the fields with me? They seem to be collecting more moisture than I'd like."

"You remember I said at the time the storm sewer connection to the rest of town downstream wasn't completely adequate."

"Yes, I do." Heinemann agreed. "And your dad overruled you; said it cost too much. But we have a few dollars left in this year's budget, and I'd like to see if we can at least put in a bigger storm water junction box."

Rick made a face. "That'll use up your spare pennies." He yawned. "You have any coffee?"

"Sure thing, Rick. Machine is on the shelf behind you. Help yourself."

He got up again and fixed two mugs of black, industrial-grade brew. Rick handed one to Walter and sat again. "So, what did Angela put in your lunch?"

"Turkey sandwich," the older man grimaced. "Ever since that damn doctor said something about my blood pressure, she's been hell on cholesterol. What I wouldn't give for a decent roast beef or salami sandwich .…"

Rick dug out something from his lunchbox. He raised an eyebrow at it.

"And what's that you've got?" Walter smirked.

"I'm not sure. I was kind of in a hurry this morning when I made it."

"And hung over, too, I'll wager."

"The hell I was," Rick returned with a bit of heat. "You know I don't do that crap. I was just tired, that's all."

"Okay, okay." Walter put up a hand in apology. "Don't get all defensive on me. Nice to know I can still get a rise out of the younger generation. And what does a sober bachelor pack for himself?"

He examined his sandwich. Some kind of meat peeked out at one corner of the bread. "Umm, not sure. Bologna. I think." He took a bite. "Definitely bologna. " Possibly on the edge of going bad, but he wasn't going to tell Walter that.

Walter laughed. "Don't worry, kid, I've got plenty to share. Angela may be watching the fat, but she still puts plenty in the lunch pail."

"Kid? Who are you calling kid?"

"Sorry, Rick. To me, you'll always be a sophomore in high school – that's how I met you, first. Hell, that's how I remember all of you. I did say something about getting old, didn't I?"

"Yeah, I think so." Rick grinned.

Walter changed the subject. "How's business going?"

Rick shrugged. "Could be worse."

"You sound just like your father."

"Yeah, well, he's having a grand time in Tucson, now."

"On the golf course?"

"If I know Dad, he's contracting to bury the irrigation system at the country club. He'd rather dig holes with a shovel than a five iron."

"Well, it's exercise one way or the other," the older man sighed. "Angela had us outside, doing a hike for my health last weekend."

"Sounds serious. Where'd you go?"

"Up in College Hill Park. You know the trails up there. My grandfather said there was a nice view of the town and lake from up at the top when he was a boy. Unless you want to climb up to Prospect Rock, there’s nothing but blackflies now."

Rick nodded. He'd been up the on the Hill many times, and even knew where there were openings in the trees, here and there. "How'd that get to be called College Hill, anyhow?" Rick asked. "There's no college for thirtyy miles, unless you count the Technical College in LeHavre."

Walter smiled. This was the kind of lore he enjoyed dispensing – it had made him an interesting teacher in the high school, before he took on the Supervisor's job. "When the town of Eagle Lake was granted its charter, it came with the stipulation that land be set aside for an institution of higher education. They had big plans for building a college there at the turn of the twentieth century. But then the panic of 1907 came along, and the plans got shelved. After that, the timber industry petered out, and so did the idea of a college. But the Eagle Lake School District still owns College Hill. It's a little-known fact – everyone in town thinks it's a town park, but really, the School owns it, waiting for the day it can build a college there."

Rick made lopsided face. "Fat chance of that happening."

"True enough. But it's a nice place to walk around in and hike in."

"And go hunting in?" Rick teased.

"No, you can't do that. Carrying a firearm on school property, that's a violation of Federal law." Walter looked very serious. "But then, I don't know about trapping. Or picking fiddleheads and blackberries." A grin broke out on the wintry face.

"Don't tell me you've set some…"

"No, no, no. I wouldn’t do that." There was a pause. "Not in the springtime. Maybe in the fall."

Both men laughed.

"Seriously, though, it doesn't matter what the law says," Walter continued, recovering. "There's a higher law that says I can't do any of that."

"Oh?"

"Angela. She'd go nuts if she knew I was trapping."

"Doesn't like the idea of you taking little bunnies, Walter?"

"Not anymore. See? Bachelors like you don't have that problem."

Rick rolled his eyes. "You're not going to give me crap about that now, are you?"

"Hey, hey, I can back off." Walter raised his hands in mock submission. "But your girlfriend seems anxious to give the impression you're serious…"

"Girlfriend? You mean Rita McKee?"

"Yup. That's her."

"I can't believe this. And when were you talking to her?"

"She was at the last school board meeting. She's been to a bunch of them over the winter, Ricky. Does her homework, asks lots of good questions."

"But what is she going to the meetings for?"

"Looks to me like she just wants to get involved in the community. You know, new business owner and resident and all that. It's a good way to make friends, see how people are connected. She's a pistol and hot item, Rick. Real sharp. You'd be smart to hitch your wagon to someone like her, if you want a partner with a head for business."

"We're not seeing each other!" Rick spluttered.

"You're not? What about that dinner date she…"

"The one in Madison? How does everyone know that woman wants to take me to some fancy place in Madison? Anyway, she keeps putting it off. Which is fine by me, Walter."

"All right, fine. Have it your way." The older man was trying hard not to smirk. "But you don't want people telling old Heinrich Senior that you've turned down another opportunity."

"Oh Christ, you're not going to tell Dad about this?" Rick felt his blood go cold. He did not want to endure another grilling from his old man about marital prospects. Yet again.

"Not a chance, Rick. I don't tell tales out of school."

"Good. Because Rita McKee is definitely not my kind of girl. She talks too much."

Rick tried hard to paste a smile on his face. He was getting annoyed, and he knew it. All this useless chatter about that McKee woman. He let Walter change the subject to getting his boat in the water, and gave himself some time to calm down.

But later that evening, he sat in the fading light behind his house in an old Adirondack chair. He stared out over the cold, dark waters of Eagle Lake from his backyard. It was usually peaceful there, his retreat from the phone and from the echoes in his mind. Rick reflected. His little town wasn't so bad. It was known and familiar despite its gossip and limitations. He had a place in Eagle Lake, he was a fixture in the community, even if his was a lonely existence. Idly, Rick wondered what it would be like to be with another man – to have a relationship. Of course, Eagle Lake was no place for a man like himself – the town was traditional, conservative and perfectly comfortable in staying that way. But that hardly mattered, not anymore. It had been a long time since anyone had so much as glanced at him. And he hadn't dared do more than look at anyone else around town, not in years.

He'd tried hard to just put the summer of Willy Kohler behind him. Years had to pass after what happened at Cedarcrest before Rick could stand to let anyone touch him again. Even when his mother died the autumn following that horrible August – pancreatic cancer was a swift killer – it was all he could do to embrace her to say goodbye. Any kind of touch felt like he was being trapped.

And that was the same kind of feeling Rick was getting from this whole girlfriend rumor business. Rita wasn't a bad person. She was a motivated businesswoman; she seemed to enjoy her work. She was good at selling real estate, that was for sure. And for some unknown reason, she imagined Rick as interested in her.

He shuddered. Women definitely held no fascination for him. He'd had to go elsewhere for what he needed.

My abiding thanks go to @AC Benus and @Carlos Hazday for their work in reading and improving this story. Thank you for reading. If you feel moved to leave a comment or a reflection, I will enjoy seeing it.

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



1 hour ago, Valkyrie said:

It takes a long time to deal with the aftereffects of such a horrible assault.  I think Rick will do a lot of healing in the upcoming chapters.  I'm looking forward to more.  

Rick has had years to deal with his experience with Willy Kohler.  Time may heal, but that doesn't mean scars won't be left behind. Thanks very much for reading!

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1 hour ago, Tonyr said:

Oh! That sounds great. Could you talk the author into it? Just a little detour...😂

Just little stopover at the sawmill? The whine of the sawblades...

Seriously, thanks very much for reading.

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1 hour ago, Headstall said:

Broke my heart, Parker, but the subtlety made it that much more effective.  His pain was palpable. I can't imagine not wanting to be touched, to remember human contact as a horrible thing. To not even feel comfortable hugging his dying mother... Willy has a ruined life to answer for. I abhor predators... wrote a poem about them, and Willy was just that. Well written chapter... cheers... G.

Rick has managed to bury his pain - or perhaps he's allowed much of it to leach out, to use an analogy closer to his trade. However, he seems to have made some kind of life for himself, with a place in his community. It has taken a long time, evidently; enough time that he can talk on more or less equal terms with his now-aged high school teachers. Thanks for reading this chapter, and for your comments.

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@weinerdog: Willy appears to have been an adept liar.  Heinrich Senior got hooked on his excuses, surely. Rick lost sight of Willy after the events at Cedarcrest, at least. Rita seems to have her own agenda, doesn’t she? Thanks very much for reading this story, and for your interesting comments. 

Edited by Parker Owens
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Willy Kohler needs to pay for what he did. I feel so bad for Rick-- his suffering is greater than I'd previously thought. I hope than he will soon find the happiness he deserves. Great chapter, I can't wait to read the rest of Rick's tale. 

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I'm sure good boy Willy has left a trail of similar incidents that had been 'explained away' or covered up. In the years between the 'incident' and the current timeline, left many more such incidents, he's bound to become sloppy and feel invincible. Like a dam breaching, his past of transgressions will be his downfall as Rick finds the love, healing and security in the arms of a lover who will love him for all his faults. 

Rick's father also faces a pivotal moment when he realizes his son was right all along, that's a festering wound that will be hard to heal. 

An amazing chapter well told!!

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2 hours ago, HanselMuffin said:

Willy Kohler needs to pay for what he did. I feel so bad for Rick-- his suffering is greater than I'd previously thought. I hope than he will soon find the happiness he deserves. Great chapter, I can't wait to read the rest of Rick's tale. 

Rick has managed over the intervening years: just managed. I’m glad you’ve gotten a clearer picture of what that time has been like for Rick. Thanks so much for reading and for your comments. 

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2 hours ago, drsawzall said:

I'm sure good boy Willy has left a trail of similar incidents that had been 'explained away' or covered up. In the years between the 'incident' and the current timeline, left many more such incidents, he's bound to become sloppy and feel invincible. Like a dam breaching, his past of transgressions will be his downfall as Rick finds the love, healing and security in the arms of a lover who will love him for all his faults. 

Rick's father also faces a pivotal moment when he realizes his son was right all along, that's a festering wound that will be hard to heal. 

An amazing chapter well told!!

Willy comes from a wealthy and powerful clan. Rick, alas, comes from Heinrich Sr. Rick couldn’t possibly have told his father about what happened in the basement. Admitting it to himself was bad enough.Thank you so much for reading this chapter and for your comments. 

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Rick has lived with the consequences of that afternoon his entire life. Willy'd gotten what he wanted and probably forgot about it before the year was out.

Heinrich Sr. is just another sort of user. It seems to him Ricky is little more than slave labor and a source of embarrassment.

You've written another compelling chapter.

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1 hour ago, dughlas said:

Rick has lived with the consequences of that afternoon his entire life. Willy'd gotten what he wanted and probably forgot about it before the year was out.

Heinrich Sr. is just another sort of user. It seems to him Ricky is little more than slave labor and a source of embarrassment.

You've written another compelling chapter.

Rick can’t forget that day, anymore than he can erase the indelible marks of his upbringing or the ties to Heinrich Sr and Eagle Lake. I suspect you may be right about Willy Kohler, too. I appreciate your comments and am grateful you read this chapter. 

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21 hours ago, Mikiesboy said:

So much hurt ...

Rick's road has been more pothole than pavement. He’s spent a lot of time traveling inwardly. Thank you for reading this and for your thoughts. 

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It's obvious Rick has tried to bury the past experience with the rich shithead but, it still remains in the back of his mind.  It was rudely brought back to the present with his trip out to Cedarcrest.  Perhaps Rita will become a confidant and help heal his emotional wounds!!  I know -  I know,  my husband reminds me all the time, I'm a hopeless romantic!!

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4 hours ago, KayDeeMac said:

It's obvious Rick has tried to bury the past experience with the rich shithead but, it still remains in the back of his mind.  It was rudely brought back to the present with his trip out to Cedarcrest.  Perhaps Rita will become a confidant and help heal his emotional wounds!!  I know -  I know,  my husband reminds me all the time, I'm a hopeless romantic!!

Rick’s attempts at burying that experience have met with mixed success, as you have said. Rita appears to be in quite a hurry - too much so to listen to Rick. Thank you again for reading, and for your comments. 

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I know it’s not exactly on purpose as he doesn’t know the full story but it’s terrible that beyond being raped his dad has repeatedly, admittedly unknowingly, brought it up over the years as how can he somehow forget it(he never will and likely needs therapy) if he keeps being reminded of it? It is however a shame that his own father lays all the blame at his feet in regards to the drinking, clearly cares more about his business & reputation that his son, and also that he perhaps spreads these stories around. I mean Walter’s comment could have been completely unrelated but I can’t help thinking that his father might have warned him that his son is an alcoholic or something along those lines. Poor guy has been haunted all this time and even when miles apart he’s still terrified of his dad’s reaction to things like potentially upsetting an annoying customer or refusing to date someone he doesn’t want to date. He’s still under his fathers thumb and can’t be himself even with his best as well as likely only friend.

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I would like to see Willy living in a trailer park with a trashy wife, and a couple of rugrats after daddy has thrown him out of the family house because he has a lot of children with different women and he owes a lot of money for child support. 

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On 10/1/2020 at 7:23 PM, NimirRaj said:

I know it’s not exactly on purpose as he doesn’t know the full story but it’s terrible that beyond being raped his dad has repeatedly, admittedly unknowingly, brought it up over the years as how can he somehow forget it(he never will and likely needs therapy) if he keeps being reminded of it? It is however a shame that his own father lays all the blame at his feet in regards to the drinking, clearly cares more about his business & reputation that his son, and also that he perhaps spreads these stories around. I mean Walter’s comment could have been completely unrelated but I can’t help thinking that his father might have warned him that his son is an alcoholic or something along those lines. Poor guy has been haunted all this time and even when miles apart he’s still terrified of his dad’s reaction to things like potentially upsetting an annoying customer or refusing to date someone he doesn’t want to date. He’s still under his fathers thumb and can’t be himself even with his best as well as likely only friend.

Please accept my apologies for being so late in replying to this comment. Heinrich Senior bears a heavy burden of responsibility for Rick’s lousy self image. Over and over, he’s dwelt on his son’s imperfections rather than on what is good in him. Rick has friends, as he’s a nice guy by nature, but he has a hard time believing enough that their friendship is enduring. Thanks so much for continuing to read! 

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