1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 22:



            It got to be sort of a habit for Bryant. He certainly didn’t want to eat lunch with all of the people who had come for the training conference. He was bad enough having to spend the rest of the day with them, listening to mostly German, even if it was peppered full of English words about firefighting equipment, without trying to talk it when he was trying to relax a bit.

            And Veda Mae had lunch at the Willard every day.

            “As I said, the first time that they sent me out of town, it was over to Rudolstadt. Fall of 1632, that was. I ran into Lenore again, there. She was taking some kind of class at the chancery. I knew perfectly well that her family was a little bit out of my league, but she was the only American girl in town, so we started to see one another. What with one thing and another, I proposed. Not right away, but pretty near to it. What do they call it?”

            Veda Mae thought a minute. “Propinquity.”

            “Yeah, that’s it.”

            “I saw a program about it on TV once, before we got ourselves stuck here. Oprah or somebody. You were right about ‘out of your league,’ though, if I do say so myself. That’s why I stuck my oar in when Laurie wanted to go to nursing school. And I was right, wasn’t I? Just her wanting to go and get herself above Gary led to a divorce.”

            “And Lenore accepted. I didn’t pretend to myself that I was her ‘Mr. Right.’ Lenore was getting close to thirty and, God knows, she’s no beauty. String bean with a horse face just about sums it up. How she can be so hellishly sexy is beyond me. I was her ‘Mr. Good Enough.’ Maybe even her ‘Mr. The Best I Can Do.’ Hell, maybe I was even ‘Mr. It Looks Like He’s All I’m Going To Get So If I Ever Want Children I Had Better Take Him.’

            “So we got married in January 1633. She wanted to go to premarital counseling at First Methodist, but I told her I didn’t want to. Certainly not sit through a bunch of “holier than thou” from Mary Ellen Jones, calling herself a minister when the Bible forbids it. So we went to Brother Green, at his home. With ‘obey’ in the ceremony, like it should be. At least they had sent her prissy stick of a father off to Fulda by then, so he wasn’t around to interfere.”

            Bryant looked down. “Maybe I should have broken it off right after I proposed. Do you know what she said? ‘I hope you don’t expect to be deflowering a virgin on your wedding night. No history of social diseases. Just for informational purposes.’ Then she wouldn’t explain any more than that when I asked her to. All she would say was that according to Dear Abby, that was plenty and I could take it or leave it.

            “I should have realized then that she was a bitch, before it was too late. I should have left it. If a woman’s been somewhere else before she marries, who’s to say she won’t go there again afterwards?

            “Anyhow, we moved back to Grantville a couple of months later, after I finished up in Rudolstadt. Then we had the kid. And Lenore invented a stupid name, so she could call a girl after her father. I’d said that I didn’t care what name she chose if it was a girl. Hell, I was so tired all the time right then that I didn’t even want to think about baby names. But I’d been expecting her to pick something normal. Jessica, maybe. Or Caitlin. Or after one of our mothers. Something like that.”

            “I don’t think I’ve ever heard of any other little girl named Weshelle,” Veda Mae said. “But at least it isn’t a Kraut name. Some of the men around here are letting their Kraut wives give Kraut names to babies that are half-American.”

            “I’d hated it in Rudolstadt, being off in a foreign town. Not very far, but too far to go back and forth every day. Then for the two months after the kid was born, she squalled her lungs out day and night, whenever I was trying to get some sleep between calls, so coming back to Grantville was actually worse in some ways. Given the way that kid yelled, I wouldn’t actually have minded being sent to Magdeburg all that much, even if I do have to deal with another batch of foreigners all the time, if it hadn’t been for having Stannard as my boss.”

            Veda Mae thought for a minute. “Weshelle should be beyond that crying stage now. She’s almost a year old.”

            “Yeah. Instead, she’s starting to walk and gets into everything if Lenore doesn’t keep her penned up. Smears food all over her face and into her hair. And all over me, if I let her get near. A whole handful of mashed squash on my good blue shirt.”

            Veda Mae nodded solemnly. “Sometimes kids that age can get to be a real pain. Now take Alden Junior’s kid, my great-grandson, he’s just a couple of months older and the way Alden Junior’s wife Kim lets him get away with things…”

            Bryant rearranged the silverware on his plate, pushing the last of the food to the side. “Roasted turnips are not the same as baked potatoes, no matter what the menu here claims. Sometimes I wish that I could get drunk.”

            “Well, don’t. I’m proud of you for sticking to the Baptist teetotalling line. I do myself, for the Methodists. Even though they’re getting slack, these days.”

            “Damn kid. Here, I’ve been gone for nine months and it’s pretty clear that Lenore didn’t miss me much. Stays in the nursery until Weshelle is sound asleep. Jumps up out of bed in the middle of the night and goes to sleep on the cot in the nursery if she hears the least little bit of fussing.”

            “You’re right about that. It’s nothing but spoiling. If the child goes to the bad, it will be Lenore’s fault. Just like Alden Junior’s wife Kim. I could tell you…” Veda Mae stopped, annoyed, because Bryant was interrupting her again.

            “She probably said ‘yes’ because she was far too proper to have a baby in anything but marriage. If not too proper to have sex outside it beforehand. Boy, but that grated on me. I’d been around a bit, myself, had a few girlfriends, but it’s different for a man.”

            “Ummn.” Veda Mae frowned. “I’ve sort of always thought that what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.”

            Bryant ignored her. “And after we got married, I thought, she would obey me, at least. We left that in the ceremony. I thought that after she agreed to be married by Brother Green, she’d change over to Baptist, but she won’t. Just because, she says, I hardly ever go myself, so why should she change?”

            “Well,” Veda Mae said, “I’m Methodist myself, so I don’t think that you should really complain about that. After all, Methodist is really the right church. The others just sort of try. And it’s teetotal too, like the Baptists, or it should be. Though I have my doubts about the Reverends Jones. Maybe you could change.”

            Bryant glared at her.

            “Get that expression off your face, Bryant Holloway,” Veda Mae said. “I’m your cousin and old enough to be your grandmother, so I can say what I please. Especially when it’s the truth. There’s no reason for her to change churches.”

            “Plus, now she wants to go back to work. She has more education than I do and wants to show it off, I suppose.”

            “Maybe that’s why she doesn’t want to sleep with you,” Veda Mae suggested. “Having another baby would interfere. But I already told you what I think of women who have more schooling than their husbands. I know what it leads to. I went through it myself.”

            “So I’m stuck, I guess. She’ll never do anything to give me a reason to divorce her, now that we’re married. Well, probably not. She acts as prim and prissy as old Wes Jenkins himself, but… You know. She wouldn’t ever have been to my taste, up-time. I would never even have asked her out. The only reason I did was that she was the only American woman that I could date in Rudolstadt that fall.”

            Veda Mae nodded. “There’s this guy here in Grantville,” she said. “He’s a foreigner, but not a Kraut. He’s working for Gary. His name is Jacques-Pierre Dumais, and he’s pretty nice. A good listener, as Oprah would have said. Maybe it would help if you could talk some of these things out with him.”

            She felt pretty pleased with herself, for a change. Jacques-Pierre was always so grateful for introductions. He was anxious to get to know more Americans, he said, to improve himself and get to understand how they did things. That was a really proper attitude for an immigrant to take.