“I just don’t like it Rochelle. What do you want me to say? I’ve already made my arguments and now I’m asking you nicely do to as I say.”
I guess this point comes in every female’s life at some point. It was easy to obey Dad … I mean he was my dad and all. It was easy to obey Coach because he was coach. And when I was just plain ol’ Rocky, whether playing at being a guy or being my true female self, it was also pretty easy to obey Thor because he was the security boss, the most alpha of the alpha males. I haven’t a clue though why now that I was Rochelle and his significant other it was so blasted hard to give in on this one thing. It really wasn’t such a big thing but it was still bothering me. I was competitive and it really bothered me that I couldn’t exploit that. On the other hand when it came down to priorities maintaining my relationship with Thor was way more important than the momentary satisfaction of winning some game.
“Fine,” I told him but it wasn’t exactly a graceful concession.
“Rochelle … Hon …”
“Just forget it Thor. I sort of understand it, I do. But on the other hand it burns my biscuits that I have to basically cower in fear.”
He shook his head, “It’s not cowering in fear to use good sense and …” I threw him an angry look. “OK, poor choice of words. It’s strategy Hon. Right now there is a threat to your life and …”
“Thor there has been a threat to my life since before my birth. The doctors wanted my parents to terminate the pregnancy. They had me on a feeding tube in the beginning and people went to court to make the hospital remove it, luckily my metabolism stabilized and I was able to begin eating on my own. I’ve had all sorts of threats made against me for as long as I can remember. You can’t imagine I’ve forgotten San Francisco have you?! But I never let it stop me from being … being a real person and participating in life around me. When I do that …” I stopped and said more quietly and calmly, “When I do that … let the greenies and eco-freaks completely manipulate my life … I’ve no longer got a life to live.”
“You didn’t tell me who you were in the beginning,” he reminded me.
I put my hand on his arm to try and make him understand. “Thor that was about being female and had very, very little to do with being a GWB. I was more worried about what my fellow man would do to me because of my gender than what they would do if they found out I was a freak.”
“@#$% it, you aren’t a freak! Stop saying things like that. You are a tall, strong, beautiful woman … my tall, strong, beautiful woman … and by God I am not going to let anyone take you from me.”
I laughed a little carelessly and told him, “Look around Dude … you don’t exactly see anyone queuing up for the privilege do you? Besides, you said that it was about me being a GWB and not about being female.”
He crossed his arms and I could tell he was losing patience. “It’s both. You heard what Doc said. And maybe I am being a chauvinist and a caveman about the whole thing but you knew that about me from the beginning.”
I rolled my eyes and muttered, “That’s certainly true.” We gave each other dirty looks and then our lips twitched at the same moment. Blow up diverted but issue still present.
Thor drew me into his arms. “I know it’s not fair. I know you can do this and make a good showing whether you win or not. I know that I’m not being completely reasonable. …. But the fact of the matter is I don’t feel like being reasonable and I don’t feel like being fair. I know I can’t put you in a gilded cage and expect you not to rip the door off now and again and I know for a fact if our positions were reversed I would be less than pleasant about it. And !@#$ I was prepared for a real fight and to be honest I’m not sure I understand why I’m not getting one.”
I sighed, “I’m not too sure that I understand why I’m not giving you one except that for me when I agreed to spend the rest of my life with you the honor and obey thing kinda got mixed up in there somewhere too.” I shrugged before adding, “I trust you Thor. You’ve never given me a reason not to. I don’t have to like it all the time but I’ve agreed to give you authority in my life and until you prove me to be a fool for doing it I’ll go on trusting you and your judgment.”
Thor’s face went blank and he stepped back a couple of paces then scrubbed his face with one of his large hands. “Aw Hon, now I do feel like a heel.”
“Hey, that’s not what I meant,” I said feeling a little trapped by my own words.
“I know.” He worked the tension out of his shoulders and then said, “I’m sorry Rochelle. I wish … no I don’t. I don’t want you to play these games. I don’t want you to make yourself a target anymore than you might already be. I don’t want you to risk re-injuring that shoulder. But … I can’t ask you to do something I’m not willing to do. Let’s just pack up and leave.”
“You were looking forward to it too,” I said quietly, completely flummoxed.
“So were you. Let’s just head out and …”
“No,” I told him. “I’m a big girl Thor. And like I said, part of me does understand the logic behind your concerns. Nor can I complain about the potential danger the greenies represent with one side of my mouth and then with the other say and do things that only makes me a bigger target for them to notice. You play; the free food means we use less of our supplies … at least for a day or two. And if you win anything that’ll be jelly in the doughnut.”
He chuckled and shook his head. “Shouldn’t that be icing on the cake?”
“I’m not in the mood for cake, I want doughnuts. Mom used to make really good homemade doughnuts and fritters and I’ve been hankering for some, especially her jelly doughnuts. She’d poke a hole in them and then use a pastry bag to fill them with creams and jellies and stuff like that.”
Suddenly my chest got heavy and my eyes wanted to water and I turned away so that he couldn’t see … but he did anyway. “You OK?” he asked softly after putting his arms around me from behind.
“I just keep running up on these things and suddenly it hits me all over again that I’ll never see them. They aren’t going to be there when we get home. I won’t ever hear their voices again. Dad won’t ever say good job and pat me on the back and Mom won’t smile at me all soft and sweet. I won’t ever hear them say I love you again.” The tears fell anyway and I was unaccountably embarrassed by them. “I’m sorry … I’m just … just hormonal I guess.”
Thor whispered, “You’ve got me.”
I sniffled and wiped my eyes with the handkerchief he’d passed me and I told him honestly, “I know and it’s brought me the kind of comfort I don’t know if I can ever explain. I don’t want you to ever feel that just because I miss my folks that somehow it’s less important that you’re with me ‘cause that’s totally not true. I’m not with you just because I’m not with my folks. Do you understand?”
I turned around in his arms to look in his face to make sure that he understood. His eyes were serious but he was smiling too. “Sure Hon.”
We kissed a bit but only a bit. One I wasn’t exactly feeling amorous and for two because the first game that Thor had signed up for was starting soon. It was the standing stone put.
The rocks being used were all roughly the same size, shape, and weight. Most were river rocks worn smooth and round by who knows how many years of being washed and tumbled by the Cumberland River, but a couple were made of dry granite whose black and white pattern used to remind me of the Dominique hens my great grandmother liked to raise for the county fair.
Thor didn’t stand out from the competitors near as much as I thought he might. There was no one bigger but hardly any much smaller either. It tickled me for some reason that had to do with wondering if we were going to have a large brood and if we did what they might look like together in a group.
Most of the men, like Thor, had allowed their hair to grown below their collars and a beard to form. Some had obviously gone with this fashion for years as their braids and beards were long and well developed but some of them looked like they would be better off shaving the stringy things and starting over after giving the hair a chance to fill in the thin spots. Thor kept his trimmed back, though it was still long, for convenience since long hair and beards are dirt catchers as I was relearning the hard way. I mentioned cutting my hair again but decided against it when Thor went so far as to give me puppy dog eyes of all things. I told him that if I let my hair grow again then he was going to have to help me wash it. You can guess where his mind went then. Honestly. Men.
The object of the game was from a standing position the men were to “put” the rock as far as they could. It looked like the caveman version of the Olympic sport of shot put. Despite their similar sizes it became obvious from the first round that not all of the men were of equal strength, or maybe it was skill in that particular event. Thor wasn’t getting knocked out but he wasn’t the top scorer either; a red headed giant that seemed to be a local favorite was.
With each round the weight and size of the stone increased. Thor kept up and knowing what he’d done in the past I thought it strange that he wasn’t doing better. My competitive personality was irked until I realized he really could have been doing better. It took me three rounds, almost the whole game, before I realized he was holding back intentionally. He wasn’t winning because he chose not to win yet he was still putting a lot of pressure on the top players.
He came in second and I had to endure the woman beside me going ga-ga over the local guy and then she said, “Guess that big guy isn’t so much after all. I knew Marcus would show him up. What do you think of that?” I had obviously been on Thor’s cheer squad which had not made the little queen bee very happy.
“Oh probably about the same thing that you would think if someone said that about your man,” I told her genially but my eyes said something a little more dangerous.
“Oh. … Oh!” and she decided to vacate the area when Thor came over and kissed me.
“Hmmm,” was all I said with an upraised eyebrow.
A grin split his face when he realized I’d caught him out. When I shook my head and rolled my eyes at his tomfoolery he let out a loud belly laugh that got a lot of people’s attention. Losers weren’t often in that good of a mood but I could tell he’d just had fun playing against opponents that weren’t push overs.
We went back to our camp so Thor could take a rest and change his soaking with sweat shirt but before long we went back to where they’d set up for the wrestling matches. Few of the men that had participated in the rock throwing were signed up for this one although a couple were, including the local favorite. I thought Thor was going to throw his matches again but he surprised me. The local guy went down in the third round and he and Thor never even touched the same ring. I felt free to whistle and hoot with complete abandon when he was declared the winner.
There was a lot of back pounding by the men and unnecessary attention by some of the local lasses before we were able to break off to let Thor go wash up again. “Whew, you are odiferous,” I laughed.
That only made him growl playfully and chase me around a couple of the vendors’ tables. “Sugar, if I had me a man like that I wouldn’t be running from him,” one of the little gray haired old ladies laughed.
“You hear? You’re supposed to let me catch you,” Thor said with a wicked grin.
“Uh huh … maybe in the end … but until then you’ll need to work a little harder for the privilege if you please … and take a wash. You smell like an old boar hound that’s rolled in something it shouldn’t have.” His obviously false outrage made us all laugh and we finally headed to camp in a straight line.
When we got there Thor flopped down on the tailgate of the wagon and said, “Hon, bring me a pitcher of water and some soap please.”
“Oh Thor, I was just jokin’. You don’t have to do this,” I told him concerned that I’d gone too far in my playing.
He smiled and asked, “You mean I don’t stink?”
“Well … you do … but everyone smells. Why be different?” I made a face because it was true. I tried to be upwind of people whenever possible and there was more than one reason why crowds just didn’t do it for me anymore.
“You don’t,” Thor said.
“I’m a girl you goof.”
Thor gave me the raised eyebrow. “Well … ‘girl’ … that you may be but I’ve seen you work up a good sweat too. And you don’t stink.”
“Honestly,” I said, thoroughly embarrassed by the subject.
“I’m waiting. What’s your secret?”
Blushing I told him, “Cornstarch, baking soda, and powdered rosemary.”
He barked a laugh and asked, “What?!”
“Look, I haven’t been able to use that aluminum based and perfumed junk from the stores for a long time. When I first played ball and … well, you know … I was sweating like one of the boys … and smelling like one of the boys too. My sweat glands worked overtime. And of course I was bigger and went through puberty early so everything was exaggerated. Some of the girls used to … make fun of me. I started carrying a stick of antiperspirant and deodorant in my purse and put it on every chance I got and developed some crazy sensitivity to the stuff. I would get these big, painful boils in my pits.”
“Ouch,” Thor said sympathetically. “I’ve had a few of those myself … from salt and from heat.”
“Yeah, they ain’t fun that’s for sure. So anyway my grandmothers and Mom showed me what women used to do … keep your pits and the rest of your hot spots clean and be extra careful when your hormones are in overdrive … and I got to make my own special deodorant up. During the summer I used cornstarch to help beat heat rash, baking soda for odor, and rosemary because it fights bacteria which is really the smelly part of the equation. During the cooler months I’d use a wet deodorant made of witch hazel and glycerin with maybe a couple of drops of essential oil mixed in.”
He looked intrigued, “Who woulda thunk it? Mouthwash for your pits.”
I threw my hat at him and said, “Geez Louise, no one will ever complain that you’re overly refined will they.”
When he threatened to throw his smelly shirt on me I threatened to throw the pitcher of water on him and right as we were about to have a fun tussle a voice broke in, “Excuse me, I hope I’m not interrupting anything.”
It was one of the judges from the wrestling match. “You forgot your prize.” Two men were behind him, one carrying a hundred-pound bag of potatoes and the other a square bale of hay though it looked like poor quality stuff with lots of weeds mixed in.
The two men set their load down then they, the judge, and Thor began talking amongst themselves like I didn’t even exist. Typical. But that was fine with me; I was still a little embarrassed to be caught acting the fool. Then I realized I would have to find places for both in our already loaded wagon. I looked at the wagon and then looked at the two additions and mentally groaned. I was wondering how many potatoes we could eat a day and just how angry my horse was going to be when he felt the added weight he was going to be asked to pull.
The next part was my fault and I admit it. I wasn’t thinking, at least not about unintended consequences. I knew we needed to get going shortly because Thor was in the knife throwing competition and that was one I was eager to see as well as it would be going on at the same time as the ax and hatchet throwing competition. If I couldn’t participate I at least wanted to watch. But before we could go the potatoes and hay would need to be put away. I picked up the sack of potatoes and put it on my shoulder and then grabbed the bale of hay with my free hand and walked to the wagon. I swung the potatoes into the back and secured them with the tarp then tied the hay bale onto the back of the wagon and hoped Thor’s horse wouldn’t take to nibbling on it too much.
Suddenly I realized it was real quiet and I turned around slowly. Thor looked resigned while the other three men just sort of stood there with their mouths hanging open.
Trying to save the situation I said, “What? You expected me just to leave something so valuable sitting in the dust? Do I look stupid to you?” I inwardly winced at having forgotten that Thor hated that phrase.
“Uh … uh … uh …,” was all that came out of one guy’s mouth.
The judge however was made of tougher stuff and said, “No ma’am and pardon us for staring. We … er … just aren’t quite used to … um …”
Taking pity on him I said, “A farmer’s daughter getting her chores done? Surely that can’t be the case.”
“Well … no … not … not exactly,” the judge replied.
However, one of the other men was less circumspect about it. “My Lord woman … you part ox or somethin’?”
I stepped in front of Thor and pushed the other guy out of his rich just in time. Thor said, “You’ll apologize to my wife or I’ll rip your !@#$ head off.”
“No. I’ve had it,” he said. “I’m getting sick and tired of people saying things like that just because you are a little bit of a tomboy.”
What he’d said had me so startled I nearly couldn’t play my part. “I’m no shrinking violet and if I feel I need to take up for myself I will. It’s just a plain fact that people in our two families are big is all and that I was always more comfortable rough housing with my boy cousins than dreaming about prom dresses and such.”
“Well If I had wanted a woman that I was afraid of breaking every time I wanted a little rough housing myself I would have picked a Barbie doll. As it is, it took me long enough to convince you I was serious and I’m not having …”
The man that had unwisely opened his mouth said, “Well, I apologize. Didn’t have no call saying such a thing. Fact is my sister’s a big girl and … well … I wouldn’t want anyone saying words like that to her either.”
I didn’t know whether he was apologizing ‘cause he really meant it or because Thor looked like Beelzebub and appeared ready to demonstrate he was still up for a little more wrestling. I put on my best southern belle and said, “Apology accepted. I’m sure it’s just been quite a day for you gentleman and everyone could do with a bit of a break. Thor? Let me break out the little bit of cider we have left. Please?”
His eyes warned me I was going a little too far but his mouth also twitched a bit. “Humph. I supposed. I could use a drink myself but …”
“Oh I know, I know. No hard stuff for me under the circumstances.” I rolled my eyes like I was used to his heavy handed male attitude and let the men think whatever they wanted to. I thought Thor was going to swallow his own teeth trying not to let his mouth fall open. Whatever he had been about to say it hadn’t been that but I figured in for a penny in for a pound and this way I’d have an excuse for not participating in the games after all.
I pulled out the small ceramic jug that had the apple jack in it and it wasn’t long before the three men were slapping Thor on the back and were great admirers of him, my unusual display completely forgotten.
After the men left full of good cheer I handed another t-shirt to Thor and said, “Oh brother, I thought they’d never leave. We’re going to be late.”
“Then don’t be so hospitable next time though this time I think it was just right … Mrs. Thoresen.”
Thor laughed when I turned bright red and ducked my head. “Give me a kiss … for luck?”
I gave him a kiss then told him, “You don’t need luck. I’ve seen you play with those blades you pack around.” He just grinned ‘cause he knew how good he was.
We walked over and wound up being just in time. Thor wound up having to hold back a bit in the beginning but as men fell out of play it wound up being Thor against some rather dangerous looking men that weren’t in the least been willing to be amused. They talked some trash and Thor became much less willing to hide his prowess.
One right after the other the bad mannered, foul mouthed cretins were knocked out of the running but I could see they were congregating on the side line getting more and more wound up.