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Wednesday’s interviews were routine and when Anna arrived on Thursday morning, I told her that I knew one of the day’s subjects.
“You didn’t explain what we are looking for, did you?”
“No. Actually, I just met her. The only person I’ve ever talked to about the project in any detail is working for the summer in a lacrosse camp in her home town. She thought the research might be useful if you were a card shark.”
We set the cycle so that Anna did the interview with Janice. The “kill a puppy” question hit her hard for some reason, but Anna recovered nicely and finished the interview easily. Afterward, as Janice was signing the receipt, I asked her how rehearsal was going.
“Really good. Charlie is in his element. We went to Literratica yesterday, to see what the space was like, lighting, mikes, all the mechanical stuff. It’s tight for seven people, smaller than the stage we played at the union. It seems like the place is more appropriate for one or two people at a time, not a group. I hadn’t even thought about these issues.”
There was a knock on the door and a guy opened it.
“Is this Dr. Branstead’s office?” he asked, flustered because it obviously wasn’t.
“Nope, he’s on the second floor,” I said.
“Oh, sorry, thanks,” he apologized, and backed out, closing the door.
“Anyway,” she continued, “it’s gonna be like musical chairs. So Charlie wants to group the songs, so that we’re not moving on and off the stage all the time. We’ve had to dump one song because it didn’t work into the rotation.” She sighed. “This is so not like classical music.”
After work, when I got home, there was an e-mail from Ruth.
I’m extending the vacation for three more weeks! It’s been so great, we’re going on another river cruise, to Russia! Take care of the car.
“Ruth hasn’t taken real time off since Stuart was killed,” confided Amanda as we ate our wraps in the library’s cafeteria. When I’d called in the morning, she said she’d gotten a similar e-mail from Ruth, and we decided to meet during our lunch breaks.
“It took four years for the insurance, the lawsuits, the construction on the house, everything, to get finished. She just immersed herself in work, there, here, and then she got started doing the appellate briefs. Then there was the club. But for, oh, the last 18 months, she’s been feeling lonely,” Amanda sighed.
“Being the community crying towel takes a lot out of you. When the idea of the river cruise came up, I encouraged her to go, take some of her accumulated vacation time. She was reluctant, but she needed to get away from this place.”
You’d never thought of Ruth as having a life outside of the club, have you? Like mom and dad. Or grandma. Or Chrissy. Well, maybe not Chrissy, she rubbed your nose in it sometimes.
“So is there something I should be doing, or Margery and me, to help?”
“I don’t know. We’ll see when she gets back. But I am glad that you and Margery are getting into making the club tick. I’ve been thinking about you two, wondering if things are okay.”
“Margery takes on too much. Her prof, classes, the RA job, we talk a couple of times a week, get together at least once a week for dinner and —” I stopped, realizing I was about to go too far.
“Good! I know she’s got a lot on her plate. You’re a good friend not to neglect her.
“And Lisa? And Carrie?” She seemed to know a lot about everybody.
“Lisa’s like a locomotive, just keeps charging ahead, writing, working, and writing some more. I haven’t seen her enough. Carrie, yeah, her too.” I was not liking where this was going.
“Other, uh, distractions?”
I couldn’t help it. “Six months ago I didn’t have friends, all I did was jerk off and obsess about my photographs. Now I feel like I have too many responsibilities, lots of activity but no direction.”
“But you’re getting laid?”
I blushed at her bluntness. “Well, uh, yeah,” I admitted. “But everything’s got strings. I’m coming and going ” — Amanda hooted — “I don’t know if I’m made for this kind of life.”
“You’re doing fine. And so is Margery. Keep being a friend.”
“70 down, 80 to go,” said Anna, as we ushered out the last subject on Friday.
“Is it always gonna be like this? Log ’em in, play with their heads, pay ’em, then send ’em on their way?”
“Yeah, like you’re the madam of a reverse whorehouse, eh?” She scooped the pages of her script into their folder, straightened the chair, and we locked the door. There would be no interviews tomorrow, since it was the Saturday of the Fourth of July weekend and there were no classes. The only person who had signed up for Saturday had realized her mistake and re-booked.
“What’re you gonna do this weekend?”
“Saturday night there’s the bluegrass show at Lit that I told you about.” On Thursday, when I’d explained how I knew Janice, I’d told her about the concert. “I’m not even bringing my pocket camera, it’s not cool to distract the audience by taking pictures. I don’t have beylikdüzü escort plans for Sunday.”
“Well, I can think of one thing you could do,” she leered.
Actually, I did have that in mind: tonight was catch-up night with Carrie. Her cell had gone straight to voicemail when I’d called on Wednesday morning, but she called back and we’d decided to have dinner on Friday.
“I’ve got things under control,” Carrie bubbled as we walked off our dinner, through town, then along the river, eventually looping back to my apartment.
“My English prof decided to re-schedule to mornings, so I’ve got the afternoon completely free for the food stands and I don’t have to work on Fridays. Saturdays and Sundays are great! We get the game in before it gets too hot, I check in at the food stands, and then it’s SOL till midnight.
“Oh, and I forgot to tell you! Lisa Fernandez’s Touring All-Stars team is coming to town!”
“That’s terrific. I think. Who’s Lisa Fernandez?”
“She’s just the greatest softball player of all time, that’s who! Deadly pitcher, zero-point-zero ERA. She led the American team when it won the gold medal in the 2000 and 2004 Olympics. When she got out of college, she played pro ball, got married, had a baby, now she coaches at UCLA.
“She set up this touring team to raise money for charity. They field five players against our nine. They’ll probably kick our ass, but man!” — her eyes were blazing — “I’m gonna bat against Lisa Fernandez!
“I’m hitting over .400 this summer. My strength coach says my shoulders and arms are just about right, and I’m getting off the throw a lot quicker. The first baseman says the ball comes in flat, too, which is good.”
Thanks to the humid night, we had worked up a sweat on our walk, so our lips were wet and ready when we kissed after shucking our sandals inside the apartment door. As I locked the bedroom door and turned, Carrie was standing at the end of my bed. She launched a pre-emptive, super-charged kiss.
I reciprocated of course, pulling her ass into my crotch and grinding my erection into her shorts-clad pussy. When we broke for air, she pulled her shirt off and I was on her zipper before she finished. I could smell her arousal through the shorts.
“This is gonna keep me going for a week,” she said as I pulled off her panties. I hungrily fluttered my tongue on her pussy lips, then pushed it between them as she moaned her approval. I saw her bra fly by as she opened her thighs and pulled me into her.
“Make me cum, Carl, make me cum. I haven’t — ohhh yes, that’s it, ohhhh.” She humped her pussy into my face as I was resumed fluttering my tongue around her lips. I found her clit out and flicked it.
And off she went! “Oh god yes, yes, do it, you’re making me, oh god, I’m cumming, oh godddd yesssss!” Her knees buckled and she fell back onto the bed. I got out of my clothes as fast as I could and joined her.
“C’mon now, let’s go for a ride!” she said as she grabbed my cock and pulled it toward its destination. She’d trimmed her pussy so there were no stray hairs to impede my entering, and I was balls-deep in two strokes.
“Ohhhh goddddd, yesssss,” she groaned as we stroked against each other. We were both completely sweaty and her breath was ragged as our bellies slapped, building to our climaxes.
“I’m gonna cum Carrie, oh god am I gonna CUMMM!” I announced, unnecessarily loudly.
“Me first! Fuck me, keep on fucking me! Push it in, fuck — oh yeah, you, I’m, OH GODDDDD!” and she gripped me with her thighs, bucking, jerking, her fingers nailing my shoulders to her chest.
We drained the water pitcher as we lay beside each other, savoring the damp sheets and each other’s chests.
“I like these,” I said, running my fingers across her shoulders and arms. They were much stronger, even I could see that, the muscles firm and prominent.
“Notice anything else?”
“Your tan stops at your jersey, so, let me check,” and I rolled her onto her belly. “Nope, no nude sunbathing.” I kissed both her ass cheeks.
“Nope, you missed it, it’s on the front,” she giggled, sitting up and cupping her breasts. “The strength training has firmed up my chest, too, so I’ve had to go out and buy new bras. They’re the same breasts, but they stick out more.”
“Is that a problem, I mean on the field? They’re not a problem here,” I said as I kissed each nipple.
“Well, I’m just on the edge, where they can interfere when I pivot on the double play. I got a stronger sports bra, and I think it’ll be okay.
“Fernandez’s team is barnstorming around the country. They play five, six days a week, they travel in this elaborate bus, like they’re a rock band. They’re gonna pull in Friday night, two weeks from now, and we’ll play them in the afternoon on Saturday and again after dinner.
“The university got sticky about letting us use the varsity field, but Lisa’s a DRAW! We were gonna have volunteers sell beyoğlu escort the tickets, but the union wants the work, and I can’t say I blame them. I got SOL to front the guarantee. If necessary, they’ll donate 25% of their food-sale gross, but with decent weather we should cover the guarantee, even with paying the ticket-takers and cleanup.”
“Need an official photographer?”
“Your photos from when you came to the game were pretty good, and I hear you’re making a specialty of publicity photography,” she said innocently.
“Who —” I started to ask.
“Lisa. She said you did this really great picture for the group that’s playing tomorrow night at Lit. She brought over the flyers, so I asked her who did the picture, and she said it was you.”
And a little nervous. These two talk about me?
“Don’t be, but you’re good. You got the job.”
“Thanks, And speaking of jobs, how’s yours?”
“I like being in management. Slinging drinks six nights a week, even if it’s a juice bar, is tough. I’ve been getting leg cramps more often, so being able to cut down to just weekends is fine with me.
“The food stands are a gold mine! Even with payroll, we’re raking it in. I’m making more than when I worked weeknights. And I think I can send $75 a month to mom.
“My brother Bob — I told you about him, right? — he got a promotion, and he’s moved mom into a nice apartment.” Carrie’s father had taken off when she was 10 and she came to college after growing up in a trailer park.
It wasn’t late, but the exercise of the walk and the sex was taking its toll. I nodded.
“I wore you out? You’re getting old, Carl,” she teased.
“Don’t remind me,” I groaned. “I’ll be 20 on the fourteenth.”
“Goody! A birthday party.”
Carrie’s version of a wake-up blowjob had evolved to where she spread herself out, leisurely sucking just my cockhead until it was partially erect, then fondling my balls and jacking me until it was time to go deep. She was doing this when I woke up, at which point it was hands, lips, tongue, and occasional rake of her front teeth that got me to blast the over-night accumulation of cum into her.
This morning was no exception.
“You save all that for me?” she asked as her tongue scooped the last of my explosion from the roof of her mouth.
“You snuck up on me,” I gasped. “I’m not sure I’ll have enough energy for you in the shower.”
It turned out that I did. We washed each other until we were pink, ending up with Carrie squeezed into the corner with her legs wrapped around my hips as I pounded into her. We washed again, then wandered into the kitchen.
“Is this it?” she scornfully surveyed the contents of the refrigerator, which were milk, two six-packs of Sprite, and a half-finished container of store-brand yogurt.
“I get the milk and the Sprite, but what’s this for?” She disdainfully held up the yogurt.
“Nutrition,” I brazened.
“You eat out a lot, eh?”
“As often as I can when you’re around,” I leered, and moved in on her.
Carrie squealed as I lifted her onto the counter and spread her legs. We’d washed her pussy enough so that I wasn’t eating my own cum, and I set to work with my tongue on her clit. She leaned back and absorbed the pleasure. As I was flicking her clit and pussy lips furiously, she leaned forward and squeezed my head with her thighs, bucked against my face, and roared “OH GODDDD! I’M CUMMING SO HARD, SO FUCKING GOOD! FUCK! FUCK! FUUUUUCK!”
I helped the temporarily exhausted infielder stagger back to the bedroom, spread her and her long blonde hair out, and slid down beside her, caressing her belly and soaking up her warmth.
I felt Carrie jerk alert, then lift her head and peer over my shoulder at the clock radio. Satisfied, she slumped back and kissed my cheek. “I gotta be at the field by nine for warm-ups,” she informed me.
“What time is it?”
“15 minutes to your dorm and change, 15 minutes to the field. That leaves —”
“15 minutes for another shower so I don’t stink of sex. C’mon, Carl, I gotta leave some energy for the game.”
I’d only been to one show at Lit, when I introduced Martha to Lisa and they’d made the connection that led to this performance. Now I was with Margery and Tom and we were meeting up with Nick, Mike’s squeeze. Maureen, the PR intern that Charlie had taken up with, completed our group. We pushed two tables together.
A guy sat down at the next table and I thought I recognized him, from somewhere.
“Hi. You’re Carl, right?”
“Right. And you’re . . .”
“Paul,” and he stuck out his hand. “We met here, couple of weeks ago. They seated you at our table. Brunch. You took some pictures. Mom loved ’em.”
“Oh, yeah, now I remember. Hey, sit with us.” I introduced Paul to everyone and he took the last chair.
“You guys into bluegrass?” he asked.
It was bizimkent escort the perfect opening, and Nick jumped on it. “We’re with the band,” he grinned, and we all laughed. Maureen explained the situation and gave a quick explanation of the how the group was formed, as though that’s what it was.
We had burgers and it was getting close to show time when Tom’s cell went off.
“Dumb bastards!” swore Tom as he slapped his phone shut. “The surge protector in one of the racks burned out and half the campus is down. And I’m the one who’s on call.” He stood and stroked Margery’s cheek.
“This is probably going to take all night. I’m sorry.”
Damn. Now you’re responsible for her. You were hoping to take Martha home. Ah well, not the worst thing to ever happen in your young life, sleeping with Margery.
The lights dimmed and Charlie came on stage, to polite applause. The spotlight was flattering and he seemed comfortable.
“Hi, I’m Charlie Waddington and these are my friends. We’re a bunch of musicians who think bluegrass is about as good as music can get.”
And so for the next two hours, Charlie shuffled players on and off the small stage. He featured everyone in some way. The finale, Charlie and Martha doing “Tennessee Flat-top Box,” was perfect. The whole show came across as very casual, but I could tell how structured Charlie had made it.
The place pretty much cleared out afterwards, so we pushed a couple more tables to ours as the seven players joined us.
The owner, Jerry, came by and congratulated everyone. “You guys really ought to turn pro,” he said. “For a summer holiday weekend, we probably had double the number of customers than we usually get.”
The band’s “pay” was a round of beers, which Lisa brought over. When they were gone, Charlie ordered a round of tequila shots. The original seating soon changed, as different people headed off to the bathroom and conversations got deeper.
In retrospect, downing the tequila in one gulp was probably not the best decision I’ve ever made.
By the time Jerry came to tell us they were closing, Martha and Mike were accompanying themselves as they and Paul roared out Irish ballads, Flatt and Scruggs, Bill Monroe, pretty much anything they knew. Sometime during the reverie, Charlie and Maureen, and then Helen and Francis, slipped away. Nick, Evan, Margery, Janice, and I were an appreciative audience.
Whether I lay still or tried to flutter my eyelids, the headache had me begging for death. Luckily enough, someone had had the foresight to close the curtains. I was alone in my bed, jockeys only, in the dark, and I needed to pee. Each footstep sent an unwelcome shock to my brain, and by the time I got to the bathroom I also needed to throw up.
The retching did nothing to refresh me, and the throbbing wasn’t diminishing, so I stepped into the tub and turned on the shower. The hot water was soothing, so after 15 minutes I was able to wring out my underwear, dry off, and unsteadily return to my room.
Where I found Janice, sitting at the top of the bed, knees folded against her chest, grinning.
“I’m from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and I’m here to help you,” she said, soberly.
“That is so not funny,” I grumbled. “What time is it?”
“Nine o’clock. Feel better?”
“Compared to what?” I grumped. I was naked, damp, and didn’t feel like discussing any of my recent accomplishments. I also didn’t remember much about last night, but Janice’s presence suggested that I had not covered myself with glory. What I really wanted to do was pull the pillow over my head and sleep.
“Come here, let me help you.” She patted the bed beside her.
I flopped face down and she began by working my temples with her fingers. When I’d relaxed enough, she switched to kneading the back of my head and down my neck.
The whistle of the tea kettle and the smell of strong tea woke me. Happily enough, I didn’t feel the need to throw up again. I was a lot steadier when I made it to the kitchen.
“Feeling any better?” she chirped as I leaned against the wall, clutching my bathrobe around me. She offered a cup of very strong hot tea and we moved to the couch.
She had on the shirt I remembered her wearing last night, but the jeans were gone, and she was barefoot.
“How bad was I last night?”
“Well, if it wasn’t for the fact that I like you, you’d have been dumped in one of the less-attractive parts of town. The taxi driver followed your inept directions all over for 20 minutes because you couldn’t remember your address. When I finally ransacked your pants for your driver’s license, you resisted and screamed ‘rape.’ We finally got here, but you didn’t have enough money for the fare. You owe me ten bucks.”
“So I’m a cheerful drunk?” I ventured, not really wanting to hear any more details.
Her eyes blazed. “No! You’re a fucking stupid drunk! You either learn to hold your liquor or you learn to say ‘no’ when somebody offers you 80-proof alcohol. And buying the second round was unspeakable.”
You bought a round of tequila?
I really wanted to break the tension with a change of subject.
“Was the show as good for you guys as it seemed to us? I mean, was it a success?” I remembered Jerry-the-owner saying something about turning pro.
“It was.” Maybe I was off the hook.
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