Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wrangler, Jerrie, Porsche in this week's installment of WHITE TRASH IN THE SNOW - Chapter 87, 88, 89

by Allison


Wrangler was taking his mother to do the weekly grocery shopping and the topic of  conversation in the truck was, of course, Calc.  “Mom, it’s okay.”  Wrangler said, “Once the Saplins adopt him, you can visit. And I can bring him over, too.”
“It’s not fair, Wrangler. I’m grandmother, too, and I won’t get to see him, not hardly at all. Not the way she’s travelin’ all the time. You know how they are. Look how that little girl of theirs is never home, hardly ever in school, either, so you know what that means.” 
Wrangler didn’t engage. Jerrie wasn't letting him off easy. She kept on. “It means  he’ll be away most of the time. It’s not fair. I don’t think it’s best for him.”
Palming the wheel, Wrangler reached for the package of chew on the dash and avoided looking at his mother.
“Why can’t you two get married?” Jerrie asked. “Actually, I don’t care if you get married or not, but either way, you three could live with me. But, I think that Cristol would have to get married, bein’ as her mother is governor and all.”
He sidestepped the question, “Mom, you know Cristol and I can’t take care of him with all the medical stuff and the special attention that a DS kid needs.  We ain’t got real jobs, just, you know, part-time stuff, and, besides,  the Saplins know how to take care of kids. They’ve had four. “
Jerrie snorted. “Four. So they had a litter. Those four Saplin kids  run around like strays and get into all kinds of trouble. I’ve seen dogs do a better job raising their young.” She got a wry smile out of her son with that one. “I can tell you agree. You know I’m right. You know why Field went to Michigan. And you know, don't you, that  Lydia Krebbs grew up in Michigan. I'm sure she made the arrangements. From the day Field was born, his father -”
“Don’t give him excuses, Ma. All that stuff with Field was his own fault.” Wrangler had seen Field’s problems from the outside and inside the family. “He can be a jerk. And when he’s using, he’s crazy. So don’t go makin’ excuses for Field.”
“I’m just sayin’ those Saplin kids haven’t been properly supervised.”
“Cristol isn’t her brother, Mom, Cristol, she’s …well, maybe… she’s…”   He couldn’t think of anything to say that would sound impressive. She was fun to hang out with, especially when she was drunk. She took risks, she stole her mother’s credit cards, she could lie with a straight face. She was one of the first girls to get big boobs in eighth grade. “Cristol is, um, she's a nice girl.”
“Right,”   Jerrie said, drawing out the word to accentuate her sarcasm. “You think I’m ignorant? I’ve seen those pictures Porsche put on the computer. You kids looking stoned. Everybody drinking all kinds of stuff. Porsche too.  So, you know,   I’m not saying my kids are perfect. But at least I have an idea what you are up to most of the time.  It’s different with those Saplins, either  they don’t know or don’t care. And Wrangler, whichever it is, it’s bad parenting.” It felt good to have said it, so she kept going. “Cristol has a lot of growing up to do.  All those times she broke up with you and then wanted you back. She’s been playin you for a fool. Didn’t want you. Didn’t want anyone else to have you. Now she’s had your kid so she’ll always have a hook in you. Even if Rachael and Tad adopt him, you and Cristol have this connection. Don’t tell me she didn’t get pregnant on purpose because I won’t buy it.  Cristol is a canniving little brat. That’s the one thing Rachael taught her. There. I said it. That’s what I really think.”.”
At first, Wrangler didn’t say anything. He kept his eyes on the road. Jerrie could tell he was mad. Still, she had no regrets. Everything she’d said was true. He was young, but he was smart. Not book smart, something more useful – survival smart. He could lay a trap and he could recognize a trap. After he calmed down, he would know she was right. 
In strained silence, they reached the grocery store. He parked in a reserved for customers with disabilities. Going around the truck to the passenger side, he helped his mother climb down. Her back had been acting up all day and this trip to the store was out of pure necessity. 
Wrangler hadn’t had time to tell his mom something he’d done that morning – something he knew would please her – and the time seemed right to bring it up. “Next week, we can’t do food shopping until after two because I signed up to coach hockey on Saturdays.”
“That sounds like a perfect job for you. Who you gonna coach?”
“It’s kids, ma.”
“Like, beginners?”
“Oh yeah, all beginners. It’s for a special program they got.”
“Oh, a special program,” Jerrie repeated. “Like a class for kids with the most potential learn from the best? Because you are the best this town’s seen in a long time. “
“Well, not exactly like that. This is for the Special Needs Ice Hockey program. It’s a fun thing for kids who need to work on motor skills and stuff. It helps them with coordination. And I guess the teamwork part of it is good for communication and coorperation and, just a lot of challenges they might have. So, you know…”  he shrugged, “they need a lot of coaches. A ‘high coach to player ratio’ is what they call it. So I volunteered.“
“Oh, Wrangler! That’s such a great thing for you to do. It’s gonna help you prepare for-“
“Shush, Mom!” Wrangler looked around the parking lot to see if anyone was close enough to hear. There wasn’t. “Be careful, what you say in public, okay?”
“Fine, So, how  did you hear about that special program?”
“Cristol’s grandfather said they needed somebody. He said it would be good for me to be seen as an upstanding member of the community.  But I’m not doin’ it for that. I really like hockey, and little kids, and…you know…”
 “That’s  great, those little kids will love you.”
Jerrie had visions of a future time when her son would  teach his own son to navigate the puck down the ice in the Azzolla Sports Arena. Wrangler’s thoughts were very much like Jerrie’s. He  imagined himself  lacing up hockey skates on a three- year- old Calc.  The mother/son disagreements of earlier were momentarily set aside.


When Calc was medically ready for discharge from the hospital, Rachael was not ready to “give birth.”  She asked Dr. Barten-Curtain not to release him, but the doctor said it would bring unnecessary attention to Calc if the insurance company investigated his case. It was bad enough that a couple nurses recognized "Joy Sherman." Dr. Barten-Curtain didn’t confirm their suspicions;  she only reminded them  that HIPPA laws were federal laws, and hospital accreditation could be lost if an influential public figure's privacy were to be violated.  Who would hire the out of work nurses if the hospital closed? Not another hospital. 
Calc came home without fanfare, discreetly taken out a back door of the hospital after the  release papers were signed.  Helen drove, and Cristol sat in the back, watching her son sleep strapped into the car seat next to her. Until Rachael carried her faux gestation to term, “home” would be Aunt Helen’s house.
His first two days without round-the-clock NICU nurses had gone well.  Cristol was feeling  exhaustion and exhilaration with occasional bouts of panic.  She was happy when Wrangler arrived for the weekend. Happy for the extra hands and eyes. Happy that they could be a family, albeit a temporary little family.
Wrangler had no experience with babies. None, zero, nada, zip. As he tenderly lifted his son and laid the tiny fellow against his chest, the new dad discovered one of the great mysteries of life – how six pounds of humanity can intimidate a young man who can bench press 40 times that weight.
Wrangler was in awe of Cristol, too. Watching her nurse, soothe, and sing to the baby, his love for her approached cosmic levels. He would have nominated her for mother of the year solely on the basis of her ability to change a dirty diaper without gagging. All of it was beyond his understanding. 
“I love you, Cristol. And I love Calc,” he’d told her as they stood together, watching their napping son.
“I love you, more,” she said. Words that many months ago would have been meant to tease now had deep meaning.
 “Nope. Not possible,” he said, not able to take his eyes off their son.“My love for you guys is bigger than the Alaskan sky on a winter night.” 
Cristol glowed. “Oh.. My. God. Wrangler, when did you get so romantic?”
He smiled back and put an arm around her waist. “Since you made this perfect little baby.”  There was no hesitation over the word “perfect.”  To Wrangler, his son was as perfect as any other baby. 
“I can’t take all the credit. I had some help.”
Wrangler blushed. “My pleasure,” He joked, attempting to cover a sudden embarrassment that took them both by surprise.
“I didn’t mean you, Mr. Sperm Donor!”  She gave him a playful nudge with an elbow. “I meant God.”
He faked an injury. “Ouch! Cut that out.”
“Awe, did Mommy Bear hurt the great big Daddy Bear?” she asked using silly baby-talk. “Can I kiss it and make it better?”
Sensing that this was foreplay, a “new parents” type of foreplay, Wrangler said, “Soon, but not right this second. I’m still looking at our son.” He began to stroke her arm and they both continued to watch Calc’s chest rhythmically rise and fall under a light covering. “So, do you-“
The baby stirred. Wrangler and Cristol both held their breaths. “Shhh, don’t wake him,” she said.
“I have no intention of waking him,” Wrangler whispered into her ear.
No one else was home. They hadn’t made love since last weekend.  This was their chance. He touched her chin and gently turned her face so that he could look into her eyes.  She felt herself succumbing to the visual seduction. But before anyone took off their shirt, she had an even more pressing need - a promise she wanted to hear.
“Wrangler, will you always love us? Will you be there for us no matter what?”
He answered too quickly. “Of course.”  He tried to lead her toward the bedroom, but she balked.
“Wait a minute, this is important.”
He saw the pouty look coming on, and knew he had to play it right or the moment would be lost. If he weren’t very careful, tears would be next, and with them, unreasonable anger aimed at him. This was becoming all too frequent a scenario.
He gave her a look that meant to say, “I’m listening, take your time.”
“It’s just…it’s because…well, Calc’s got a lot of challenges ahead of him.”
“We all do.”
Softly and reassuringly he explained himself.  “We’ve all got a lot of challenges,” Calc’s not alone in this. We’ll do it together.”
That was exactly what she needed to hear.  Feelings of love flooded her whole being. Love for the boy/man beside her. She knew right then- at that very moment - that Wrangler Strauss would be a good dad. She hoped they’d have a dozen kids together. Cristol had no more questions. She took her boyfriend’s  hand and led him down the hall.


As lovely as the first days together were, Cristol and Wrangler’s bright romantic notions about parenthood tarnished quickly. Cristol discovered that being a mother was not remotely the same as babysitting. When her baby cried – mewing kitten-like cries – her front got wet. When, after a middle of the night feeding, she laid him between Wrangler and herself in bed, she’d fall asleep only to be awakened every time Calc stretched or kicked or grunted.  (Wrangler slept right through. How did he do that?)
Wrangler took most of the baby-stuff in stride. Crying? No problem. Check the diaper, offer a bottle, burp and walk and soothe the little guy with gentle words and sounds. Cristol was Wrangler’s bigger challenge. He’d lost none of his libido, but, Cristol, chronically exhausted, had only one use for bed and that was to sleep in it whenever she could.  If he was a Helen’s house, he was on duty. Cristol, more likely than not, was asleep or pretending to be.
 This better be temporary, he told himself, or I’m going to have to spend a lot more time hunting.
Now that life was difficult, Cristol was beginning to look for favorably at the arrangements made for Calc. After he became her “brother” Cristol could have fun again. Right now, she was having no fun at all. And, behind closed doors, Cristol would be doing lots of mothering. A win/win.
In two years, Wrangler and Cristol would get married. They would have more children, and Calc and his “cousins” would be raised together. One big family. And no one would care. That was the best thing about Azzolla - people minded their own business. Except – and this worried Cristol a little bit – Governor Saplin couldn’t control the Internet. The younger generation of Azzles were openly gossiping, fighting, insulting, and posting pictures which their parents’ never saw. The Azzolla mind-your-own-business creed was not being closely followed by those in the valley who had discovered social media.
 One of the more active MySpace pages was owned by none other than Porsche Strauss.  She posted pictures, flirted, argued, displayed poor grammar skills, and made pronouncements of value to other fourteen year olds.  
One day Porsche read something on Dan Carver’s MySpace that sent her flying into the kitchen to find her mother. “Mom!” Porshe, “You have to see this!” She made Jerrie read the screen for herself. .”Look! Right there.  See what that kid Dillon asked Dan?”
“Who’s Dillon? Do I know him?”
“He’s some kid who knows Cristol. A kid from another school. In the capital, I think.  But that’s not important. Look! Right there – he wants to know if Cristol Saplin had a baby!”
Jerrie stood, looking and blinking, as if she’d never seen a computer before. She didn’t freak out like Porsche expected. Didn’t she understand?
“Mom! Doesn’t that make you mad? Cristol had mono, not a baby.” Porsche was frantic to make her mother understand. “This is about Wrangler, too. If Cristol had a baby, then they are indirectly saying she cheated on Wrangler.”
Jerrie didn’t want to lie, so she chose her words carefully. “You are right, Porsche. People in the capital need to mind their own business.”
“I’m going to tell Wrangler what people are saying about his girlfriend. Where did I leave my phone?”  She started looking under an accumulation of papers and pictures near the computer, and then she froze. “Oh my God!
“What? What now?’
“Do you know what else people must think?”
Jerrie shook her head slightly, she wasn’t going to say it. Nope, she wasn’t going to say “Wrangler fathered a baby and the governor’s daughter is the mommy.” Oh, no, not gonna risk it,  what if their house was bugged? Computers can do a lot of stuff these days. Maybe the governor had their house bugged. Maybe she would hear the tape and only the part about Wrangler and Cristol and the could set her off...
Porsche saw her mother shutter.  “I know, Mom, it’s awful. Maybe Cristol was cheating on Wrangler.”
“What?" Jerrie focused on Porshe again. "Why do you think Cristol’s been cheating?”  Jerrie was confused.
“Isn’t it obvious? If this guy heard she’s pregnant, and thinks it could be true, then he has a reason to believe it could be true, which means Cristol has a reputation with guys in the capital who must be saying she does more than give head, because smart girls know you can’t get pregnant if that’s all…” 
Porsche stopped in mid-sentence when she saw her mother turning green. “Oh, ah, sorry, mom. I thought you knew about, um, well, Bill Clinton said... he said “I did not have sex with that woman”, you should Google it. Oh, that’s right, you don’t Google. Well, anyway, there was this girl, Monica Lewinsky, this was like, before I was born, I think. “
“I know about Monica Lewinsky!” Jerrie said.
“Well so do I, mom.  Me and  my generation know all about that.  Everybody has read that stuff, and so much more. We have the Internet, Ma.  So, anyway, that isn’t sex, the President of the United States said so.” Jerrie frowned and  Porsche finished up quickly. “So, like I said, Cristol must have been having real sex, and guys talk, and that’s why they think she had a baby when what she really had was a bad case of mono. It’s the only thing that makes sense.”
“Maybe there’s another explanation,” Jerrie said. But she didn’t offer one.
Porsche was dubious. “Really, Mom? Like what?”
In her mind, she searched for a way to be fair to Cristol; she couldn’t let Porsche continue to assume the girl had been playing around like that. Something came to mind and it seemed to fit the moment. “Maybe it’s ‘cause Wrangler and Cristol want to have a baby…” 
Porsche’s big blue eyes popped.
Damn, Jerrie thought,  No good can come from a lie.  She tried another tact. “What I mean is, maybe somebody saw how in love they are, …ummm, and it could be just an innocent assumption because she’s living at her aunt’s…but that’s actually, only, umm…. because…”
Porsche’s perfectly plucked eyebrows were arched like the iconic symbols of her favorite fast-food joint.
“Okay, well, I’ve got something on the stove,” Jerrie said, and walked  away.


Faithful readers - Please come back next week and learn how Governor Saplin pulls off her "delivery."  Between now and then, you might want to add your wild guesses in the comment section.  Have fun, and have a great week.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Like Father, Like Son? White Trash in the Snow -- Chapter 83, 84, 85, 86

Welcome back fiction readers.  Today, we find out some of what Field and Tad have been up to. It might be summed up by the phrase a certain ditsy politician used when another ridiculously unqualified person, a male running in the Republican primaries, was accused of sexual harassment;  "Boys Will Be Boys."  This gives me an opportunity to tell new readers (and remind the rest of you) that Shailey Tripp's book Boys Will Be Boys: Media, Morality, and the Todd Palin Shailey Tripp Sex Scandal, is a good read, and it is NOT fiction. It's available on, unlike White Trash in the Snow, which is only available here, at The Palin Place.

Have a fun Friday and a wonderful weekend.

by Allison

The previous summer, while his longtime girlfriend Dee Dee Hoofilter was working in the capital and saving for a semester abroad, Field had been back in Azzolla partying and skipping out on his remedial classes at the community college. He had also  been seeing a local girl, Larissa Pellitiere.
Like everything else their kids were doing that summer, Rachael and Tad hadn’t paid any attention to their son’s love life. They were  too distracted with their own activities. Tad’s summer business had not performed up to expectations. He had been fishing up north until mid-August. Meanwhile, Rachael had capitalized on opportunities to make friends and allies in national politics.  Governor Saplin left the state three times for conferences between June and August and in July, she had visited troops in Kuwait.
Rachael heard about Field’s indiscretions, though. Cristol, angry with. Field for raiding a stash of vodka she was saving for a party, got even by calling their mother.
“…and her name is Larissa. She’s got a reputation.” Cristol knew exactly how to play her mother.
“What kind of reputation,” her mother asked.
“She gets drunk and sleeps around,” Cristol said. 
Now, Rachael accepted that “boys will be boys” but she also believed that boys became men when they served in the military. She and Tad were going to have another talk about that, it was time for a game plan. But, alone and in a hotel room, she wasn’t up to it that night. “Cristol, tell your brother I’m going to talk to him when I get home.”  And if he refuses to stop seeing this town tart, what will I say?
She  picked up the remote and turned on the television. I don't know. I’ll think about it tomorrow.
Rachael didn’t think about it again until the day she got home, and only because her father brought it up when she showed up to get Pride, who had spent the week with her grandparents. Buck knew the timing was poor and all of them were tired, but because his daughter the governor was going out of town in another day or two,  he decided it shouldn’t wait.Buck Heat heard about Larissa from one of his retired friends.
He waited until Pride climbed into the car and he was sure her attention was on electronic things – her iPod and a handheld game – and then he gave Rachael a replay of the gossip going around about Field.
  “Where did you hear that?” she asked, scowling.
Buck was slightly offended by her tone, and snapped back. “Well I didn’t make it up! It came from a friend of mine, one of the guys at the coffee shop. He thought I should know what my grandson is up to . Headed for more trouble.”   He pushed on his dentures with his thumb then wiped his thumb on his plaid shirt. “So, do you want the details?”
“Thanks, but no thanks, Dad.  But I do want to know where he heard these things which are not true, these stories which, of course, are only meant to hurt me and are lies from the pit of hell.”
 Buck shook his head. “You can use that churchy talk with your mother but it  don’t work on me. My friend, he had a good source. He  and his wife live next door to Myleen Decker, that woman who gives you that fruit drink stuff. And  Myleen and the wife,  my friend’s wife, they was talkin’ down at the beauty parlor and Rev. Hoofilter’s daughter came up, and that Decker woman said Dee Dee Hoofilter’s boyfriend had taken up with some other girl.  And the whole bunch of them women sittin’ under hairdryers, they all got to talkin’ about this Larissa gal and Field cheatin’ on Dee Dee. And everyone knows Field and Dee Dee have been together since they were, what, maybe thirteen? Well, anyway, everyone knows. And everyone loves the Reverend and Mrs. Hoofilter.  And because Field is the Governor’s  son-“
“I’ve heard enough. Pride and I are leaving now,” Rachael said. She went to her side and opened the driver’s door. Pointing her finger at Buck, she said “I don’t care if you call him a friend. This is the stuff that fries my fritters. When will people flippin’ learn to leave my kids alone?”
“ Rachael,,” Buck said.  “Why don’t you have Tad talk to Field? That husband of yours, he knows all about hiding, er, um, I mean, about being careful. He can give him a lesson on being discreet. ”
Discreet? Tad?
Rachael closed the car door so that Pride couldn’t hear this. “What are you talking about Dad? When has Tad been discreet? About what?”  
“Well, all the time, of course. Like with the stuff we’re trying to do for Sally. He made those calls about Ed and let those people know what you expect and he did all of it without there being any way to implicate you. He’s real careful like that. It’s a gift, that’s what it is. A gift. He can cross the line and leave no tracks. That’s what I meant. He’s discreet, and you should thank him for that.”
Rachael thought for a moment. She didn’t want to have this conversation right now. “Okay, right. He’s discreet about the Ed stuff we’re doing. Okay, I’ll ask him to talk to Field. Gotta go.” Quickly, she got into the car and backed out. As she drove away, she continued to wonder,  Is that really all  Dad was saying about Tad? 
And that Mylene Decker! I wonder what else she tells people about my family?

Before Rachael or Tad got around to talking with Field their son became a new enlistee in the United States Army. In the months that had passed since then, they hadn’t given Larissa a second thought, and apparently, Field forgot about her, too.
Dee Dee was the only person who heard from Field very often. His godfather’s parents, Lydia and Kenneth Krebs Sr.,  came in second; they heard from him a couple times a month.  Lydia Krebs was faithful to pass on information to Tad and Rachael – “a report from the Field” she called it, hoping to cover the awkwardness of the situation with a little levity.
Rachael was hurt. Any mother would be. And, she was a little embarrassed. “He probably thinks it’s easier to reach you two than it is to reach me – a busy governor – which, of course, is him being thoughtful not to interrupt important business, even though, also, too, I would take his call anytime! Anytime at all. And you should tell him, that, Lydia. He’s tryin’ to be thoughtful, that’s what it is. Like Tad. He is his father’s son. He should call him, also, too.  But I can understand him not trying to call his father. We never know exactly where Tad is at any given time. Field’s job is hard. He hasn’t got time to try to track down his father. Tad – I mean, Field’s father -  has a goofy schedule.”
Whenever she talked to Lydia, Rachael overused references to Tad being Field’s father.  Tad and Kenneth Jr, for the most part, had made peace long ago, but it's not as easy for women. The truth, as each woman understood it, was nestled inside each of them, nurtured and protected.  King Solomon wouldn’t have been able to resolve their differences any better. All the adults – Tad and Rachael, Kennth Jr.,  (Kenny) and his parents Lydia and Kenneth.-  held on to their rights and their place in Field’s life. It was an emotional arm wrestling match that never ended. There were no winners, no takedown, no surrender.  To the credit of everyone, the co-joined families made the best of their relationship. The men were socially respectful toward each other, Rachael pushed the  Krebs only so far, and Lydia always turned the other cheek.
And so, it was with reservation that Lydia Krebs called Governor Saplin that day in April, 2008.
 “Rachael, sorry to bother you at work. Are you sitting down?” Lydia immediately regretted using that clumsy, trite phrase.
 The Governor panicked. “What is it? Did something happen to Field?”
“Oh, no! No, not Field. He’s fine. Just fine.”  Lydia was in a tough spot. If Rachael got too upset, it wouldn’t be good for the baby, but…  
“Praise God! So what is it, then? You never call me when I’m out of town. Or, rather, when I’m working from this god-forsaken capital district. What were the forefather’s thinking when they chose this isolated –“”
“Rachael, I called about Larissa.”
“Who?” Rachael asked.
“Larissa Pellitiere, she’s-“
“I know who she is. She was Field’s summer fling, and that’s putting it nicely.  I saw her once, from a distance, never met her.“ 
It had been the day the First Family made their appearances at the State Fair. The Governor been walking and talking and shaking hands when she noticed a young couple locked in a steamy embrace behind some carnival vendor’s rig. She continued giving an old couple her “personal attention” while peripherally sneaking peeks at  the lusty, youthful indiscretions that were inappropriate for public places. They stopped, apparently for the girl to light up a cigarette, and Rachael was horrified to recognize that it was her own son who had been practically having sex in public! Or at least that was how she described it later to her sister Sally.
 The memories of that day triggered a steamy warmth inside her shirt. She would not admit, even to herself, the real cause of her sticky discomfort.  “Damn,” she groused as she readjusted the firm padding she’d chosen that morning to represent her supposed stage of maternity. “So, Lydia, why are you calling about that girl? Does she want a reference or something? ‘Cause if she does, she’s not getting it.  The only personal reference I can give her is that, personally, I think  she’s a shameless little tramp.”
 “Rachael,” Lydia interrupted. “If you only saw her once, and that was from a distance, then you wouldn’t know-“
“Oh, I know enough. It’s so doggone bold of her to ask you to get me to give her a letter of recommendation. Disrespectful, too.
"She doesn't want a reference. I wish it were that simple." Lydia sai
“Wait! I bet she wants a job! Of course. Well, I don’t have any positions available.”
“Rachael, Larissa’s  having a baby.” Lydia said. “She’s due any time now.”
“Well that’s not my problem.  No wonder she can’t find a job. Why would she even want to start a new job right now? Tell her I said she should just get government assistance like all the other kids do.”
Lydia was finding this even harder than she expected. She gave Rachael the news without any further preamble.  “She says it’s Field’s. Field is the father.”
“What?” Rachael screeched into the phone. “No! It can’t be true. She’s lying.”
“Take it easy. You need to stay calm. Think of your own baby.”
“I’m fine.” Rachael’s thoughts were racing as she again, rearranged the pillow under her jacket. “God damn.”
"I know. It's a shock. When she called and said she thinks it's his -"
“Wait a minute, she thinks it’s Field’s? She isn’t sure?  What kind of girl isn’t sure who the father of her child is? Didn't I tell you? She's a tramp.”
 Lydia repressed some clever responses and gave her a straight answer. "Whatever she is, she's pregnant. Right after she called, Field called me, he swears it can’t be his. But Larissa is going to have a paternity test, and before that even happens,  I wanted you to hear it from a friend." She paused. "Are you okay?”
 Lydia has always been Rachael’s supporter, encourager, and fan. Years ago, she was the director of the Miss Azzolla pageant and had recruited Rachael to compete. Not quite twenty years ago, Lydia and her husband had been the only people their  son Kenny had confided in, upset that a pregnant Rachael married Tad Saplin. And over the last fifteen years, Lydia Krebs had worked tirelessly on Rachael’s campaigns. Rachael needed Lydia on her team of supporters. They both knew it.
“I’m fine,” Rachael said with a sigh. “I’ve got bigger things to think about. But, Lydia, I really think Larissa is trying to trick Field into marriage. Don't you think she seems the type?”
Again, Lydia found the hypocrisy amazing. “Let’s not go there. Field’s not going to marry her right now, he’s in training. Then he’ll go overseas. If a paternity test says this is his child, he’ll have time to figure out what’s best for him and the child. If it’s not his baby, Larissa will be out of his life.  Time will work it out.”
“You know, Lydia. I wouldn’t be surprised if Larissa isn’t really pregnant. Just  faking it to get Field to marry her.”
“That’s nonsense. You’ve watched too much trashy television.
“Oh, she could do it if she wanted to.  Some pillows, an empathy belly…”  
Shit! What am I saying?   
“Oh,  I guess you’re right, Lydia.  Damn TV shows.  It’s the girls that watch that stuff, not me. I’m too busy. But, still, ya’ know, if the tube’s blaring away, and I’m in the house, that is what it is which made me aware of empathy bellies and breast pumps and such, of course.”
Breast pumps? This is getting weirder by the minute.  “Rachael, you sound tired.  Why don’t you call your doctor? Maybe you need a little time off?”
“What I need, Lydia, is a call from my son. It’s been two months. Maybe now I know why.”
“Let’s look at the bright side. I know that becoming Great grandma Lydia wouldn’t be the worst thing in my life, and being Grandma Rachael wouldn’t be-”
“ I can’t think about this right now,” Rachael interrupted. “It’s a waste of time. I can almost guaranteee that girl is not pregnant.”
“I saw her, Rachael, and  no one in their right mind would fake being eight months pregnant. She’s even bigger than you.  And I got to feel him kick. Can’t fake that.”
“No,” the governor agreed, “can’t fake that.”
Lydia put on a smile and hoped it translated over the phone. “Remember, babies are blessings, no matter what. Let’s just let these kids work it out.”
“Well, okay,” said Rachael. “And if she needs – hold on!  What does she want; what did she tell you to ask me for?”
“ She just wanted you and me and Tad to know. Because…”
“Is it  money she wants?  Because if it is, we don’t have it. We aren’t rich.”
“No, she never said anything about money. Not a word. Field has told her about his, umm, his paternal situation, and how hard it is, and she wants her son to know all his grandparents, and great-grandparents, and that’s it, Rachael. She just wants her baby to have a family.”
“I’m nobody’s grandmother! And he told her what? Field has one father, and it’s Tad!”
“I’m worried about you, Rachael. Let’s stop talking about this now. Think of your baby. Stay calm.”
“My baby’s fine,” Rachael snapped and again shifted her padding.
Lydia needed to hang up. “Let’s see what the paternity test says. That will settle this.  I’m going to hang up now. Please check in with your doctor. Okay?”
Rachael was more than ready to end the call, too.. “Yup, sure, alright.”
“I’ll check in on you in a few days.”
Regaining a degree of composure, Rachael said, “I’m sorry I snapped at you. You’re a true friend, Lydia. And don’t worry, I’ll be fine. My baby’s fine. Really. Just fine. Bye now.”
Lydia stared at the disconnected phone. “Wow, I owe Tad an apology. I thought  he was exaggerating when he said Rachael’s  hormones were making her “even more wacko than usual.”


Lydia Krebs quietly took in the sad scene at her kitchen table. Tad Saplin was sitting across from her, his red rimmed eyes testified of his inner torment, and his hands, wrapped around a coffee mug, trembled slightly. She poured herself another cup and added a splash to his, though he’d hardly taken a sip.
 The gravity of what he had disclosed hung in the air.
 “Tad, you’ve got to tell her. She has a right to know.”
“I can’t. I don’t know how.”
“Do you want me to help you?  Is that why you’re here? If that’s what you want, I’ll go with you when you tell her.”
“I thought maybe you could tell her while I’m up north. You know,  give her time to cool down before she sees me. Maybe that would be easier for her.”
 Easier for you is more like it, Lydia thought. And she wasn’t going to let him get away with it.“Tad Saplin, don’t make me think you’re a coward. Rachael is your wife and she deserves to hear this from you.”
Tad knew she was right. He poured cream into his coffee and watched it swirl. He didn’t even like cream. He liked his coffee black and strong.
He finally looked up. Just as he did he caught a change in her eyes. They softened. “I’m not going to judge you,” she said. “ You two have overcome things that would have split up other couples. You guys will get through this somehow.”
He thought back to the earliest days of his marriage to Rachael. “I’ve always forgiven her!  And I’ve loved Field.  I’m not asking any more of her than what I have done myself. Nothing more!”  His eyes begged her to agree.
She nodded gently, then took a sip of coffee.  He pushed his drink away, folded his arms on the table, and started in again.  “It’s no excuse, I’m not saying it is. But, still…”
Lydia patted his forearm. All those years ago, Tad had accepted her own grandson, her own flesh and blood, as his son. In a way, she owed him. Now she could do something to balance the scales. Lydia  could accept Tad for the weak man that he was, be his friend, and help him face the consequences.
 “Rachael is in for a shock, and at first, she’s going to be very hurt. Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t be worse. Last time I talked to her she sounded very tired. Very stressed. Lord, Tad, here she is, at her age she's going to have another baby, and she’s about to learn there’s a half-sibling being born in another town!”
Briefly, Tad considered telling Lydia the whole truth. The Calc-is-Cristol’s-kid-and-Rachael-isn’t-really-pregnant truth. But that would complicate things even more. Lydia did not make the list of “those who need to know.”   Tad squirmed. Lydia interpreted it as remorse.
“If things get too emotional when you tell her, she might need to get to the doctor fast. And that’s a good reason to have someone with her when you tell her. I’m thinking that someone should be Dr. ABC. When is Rachael’s next appointment? Maybe you should talk to Dr. Q, tell her what’s going on. Abigail could help mediate, she works with families in crisis all the time.  She will probably agree that we should break the news to Rachael there in the office..”
There was a long pause while Tad scrambled to come up with an excuse why there weren’t any doctor visits scheduled.  “Ummm.  I think it’s in four weeks. I can’t wait that long.”
“A month? No, Tad, she’s probably seeing the doctor weekly at this stage. Or she will be soon. Find out. Talk to the doctor.”
 “And remember to suggest that I be there, too. My presence will remind Rachael about Field, you accepting him as your own. Not a lot of men would have done that.”
“Don’t think I haven’t thought of that.”
He shrugged and looked toward the window.  The the afternoon was waning. The sky had grown dark. He took a deep breath. “I love him, Lydia.  He’s my kid. MY kid. Legally and,”  his right fist thumped his chest twice, “ and right here.”
“You are a good man, Tad Saplin. I’ve grown to love you like another son.”  She got up and went around the table to him. He stood up and they hugged.
“You’ve been a good dad to my grandson.  I’ll do whatever I can to …”
“You don’t owe me anything, or Rachael. None of this is your fault. You’ve always been there for Field. You’ve done so much for Rachael, too,” he pulled his cap out of his back pocket and held it with both hands. “Thanks, Lydia. I’ve gotta go now.”
“Promise me you’ll call Abigail Barten-Curtain and set it up. I’ll be there.” He nodded and closed the door behind him. Before he got off the porch, Lydia had opened it up again. “None of my business, Tad,  but I’d like to know. Is it a boy or girl? Do you know?”
Tad brightened. “A boy!” he said, “maybe he’ll look like me.”  


Less than a week later, Rachael was summoned by Dr. Barten-Curtain and learned of Tad’s most recent affair and the pending birth of his son. Tad’s real son, but not her son. Lydia Krebs was there to provide moral support (an oxymoron if ever there was one).
Tad was visibly upset. He said little, but was embarrassed, ashamed, and disappointed in himself.  He used to think he was better than her, she was the one who had cuckholded him at least twice during their marriage. Now she  knew he was no better than she. He was human, too. He gave in to temptation. Another round round of infidelity. They would survive,  as long as they agreed, again, to work on the marriage. At least this time there wouldn’t be any consequences that would have to be put through college. Rachael’s tubes were tied.
 Lydia and Abigail agreed that their friend took it surprisingly well. She blurted out “How could you? How could you do this to me?” But, immediately she stopped. The other women didn’t know why, or what she’d done to calm herself, but they admired her for it.
Actually, it was an old saying that stopped Rachael from a full-blown rant. She saw her hand pointing at Tad and remembered that  “When you point a finger at someone else the other three point right back at you.”  Tad could bring up her own indiscretions in front of her two friends! To avoid that, she uncharacteristically shut up and sat down.
Dr. Barten-Curtain fearing Rachael had gone into shock, had her lay down. Her blood pressure was only slightly elevated. That, in itself was puzzling. Dr. Barten-Curtain had expected the news to have had a greater effect on the governor. She’d been expecting some screaming and crying, maybe a flung object and threat of divorce, and an increased heart rate. None of that happened.
Rachael never for a moment considered divorce. Nor would she make her husband  run a gauntlet of emotional punishment. There simply wasn’t time nor energy. Calc was closer to release every day, the charade of pretending to be pregnant was a lot of work, and, most importantly, there was the VP candidacy to work on. Absolutely nothing could distract her from that-  not infidelity, not infants, not anything. 
“So disappointed in you, Tad,” she said. “But, what’s done is done, let’s put this behind us quickly and move on.”
“Guys,” Lydia said. “You’re going to get through this. As they say, life happens.”
 “Ha! Right. Thanks to Tad, life is happening inside some other woman. I’m tellin’ ya, it’s a good thing I’m pro-life, or I’d kill him.”  Rachael pounded out a snappy rhythm on her stomach. Pat-a-pat-a-ping, pat-a-pat-a-ping. 
Dr. Barten-Curtain flinched at what could have  been a a dead giveaway that there was  no real baby under that maternity top.  She stole a look at Lydia who did not appear to have noticed the odd bongo-belly-drumming. Thank God, she though, But Rachael must be more careful. My reputation is tied to that imaginery unbilical cord.
Lydia was absorbed with wonder at how well it went. “There’s a melancholy sweetness to all this, much like an O. Henry story,” she said, and the doctor agreed, it certainly had O. Henry elements.
Rachael misunderstood. She thought they were talking about an old comic strip, one with a funny-looking bald-headed kid. “There is nothing funny about this!” she snapped. “Tad, let’s go home.”
She stormed out, and Tad shuffled after.