Izzy was waiting, and he knew that to leave a woman wanting and waiting would only lead to disaster. The shortcut required a trespass across a cow pasture. It was almost 600 yards from the tree that he used to scale the barbed wire, to the tractor gate on the lane. It was a long trek through the minefield of cow pies and green-headed biting flies, but it saved more than a mile going by road.
The Jones Z farm was about the only dairy left in the area, there were a few small dirt farms, but most of the fields Jeromy had played in as a child and then hunted in his teen years were now crammed with cookie cutter houses and plain vanilla condominiums. The rural community was surrendering to the destructive siege of urban sprawl. Life was changing.
Jerry and Izzy had been best friends since the fifth grade. In grade school everyone called her Isabel, but by the time they reached high school, the two were commonly known by one polysyllabic name, Jerry-and-Izzy. No one ever said, “Hey Jerry,” or “What’s up, Izzy?” If you saw one, you saw the other, and people spoke to them as if they were one person in two bodies.
On a small knoll 70 or 80 yards to his left, Jerry watched the bull snort and scratch the ground with its front hoof. Unflinching, he kept a steady pace. Jerry knew the animal well and it was certainly not the first time that Blackie was out during his trek through the fields. The bull was benign enough as long as he wasn’t provoked; he knew better than to run.
Jones Z’s prize Angus stud began a lumbering walk, matching Jerry’s pace stride by stride. Coming of age working on dairies, the seasoned farmhand knew that the bovine’s movement was a sign of curiosity and not of an impending charge. Jerry was only half way across the pasture, so if the bull did charge, there would be no way to outrun him. His gait unchanged, he kept a close watch on both the bull and his manure pocked path.
When he was nearly fifty yards out from the tractor gate, he checked the bull one more time. Smiling at his unspoken joke, he knew he could run 50 yards faster than the bull could cover 120; he had already taken six long strides before the bull started its charge. Jerry hit the gate laughing and waited astraddle the top rail until the bull caught up to him.
Blackie snorted between his labored breaths and lifted his face to the man on the fence. Jeromy patted the polled head of the thousand pound beast and renewed his old friendship. Up close the bull’s eyes recognized the playful man as someone he knew and liked. Slipping off the gate back into the pasture, Jerry stroked the strong shoulders of the amiable giant, and grabbing the bull’s head with both hands, laid his forehead against its face in a greeting that they had used for nearly ten years.
Nothing can be sweeter than a friendship based on respect. The man knew the bull could trample him with the slightest instigation and the bull knew that men were the masters capable of inflicting great pain.
Izzy was waiting inside her trailer home and watched as her friend and lover ambled through the dust and into her yard. They were three years out of school and everyone but Izzy was surprised that they were not married or living together. The first time they had been intimate was in their sophomore year and Jerry announced as he zipped his pants that they should get married someday and raise a big family.
But in the years since graduation, Jeromy’s parents’ marriage had turned bitter and angry. The eventual divorce left Jerry with a pessimistic attitude and marriage became a taboo subject that often resulted in loud angry arguments. Izzy resigned herself to a maiden’s life.
Izzy knew Rory Horshein well; Jeromy still lived with his father. She knew him as a man with a sense of humor but also a quick temper that had at times become violent. The pills the VA gave him to ward off his pain affected him like an on / off switch. With each dose, as the opiates hit his system, he mellowed, joked and put on the genuinely affable front that she had known since childhood. Later as the prescription’s concentration in his blood rose, he would doze and sleep for hours before waking angry, nervous and in pain from the wounds he suffered four summers ago at the Army Reserve camp. It was in this pre-medicated state that he frequently cursed his “whore” wife who left him to sleep with “every asshole in the fucking county.”
Izzy’s memory of Luann Horsheim did not match the way Rory described her. She had always been polite and attentive to her husband and son. Even after the accident, the love she had for her family was apparent in everything she said and did. But the accident took its toll on the marriage. It was apparent in the arguing and frequent disappearances of Luann. Knowing the severity of Rory’s wound, Izzy once asked about how the husband’s injuries affected their sexual relationship, the answer she got was cold and surprising. “Sex,” Luann said, “is not what marriage is about. You can still love someone even without sexual relations, and I do love Rory. But I will tell you this; a woman can’t live a full life without some sexual gratification. Since my husband can’t perform, I had to find other ways to be satisfied.”
It wasn’t until after the separation when Izzy put two and two together and realized the “other ways” had to do with the manager of the Piggly Wiggly on the north end of town.
The separation changed Jerry. He went from the sweet, lifelong friend, companion and lover to an impatient often hopeless man. The quiet seductive romance of their lovemaking evolved into crass suggestions and profane innuendos.
At first Izzy resisted adopting the obligatory concept of satisfying Jerry, but her love was such that making him happy became her sole purpose. If he needed physical relief, then she would make herself available for him. Unfortunately, the more she acquiesced, the more arrogant and demanding he became, sometimes showing up at her trailer as many as three times a day. Izzy missed their social life; rarely did they go out together as a couple. Jerry’s job kept him busy most of the time and the brief interludes of shared time were spent in passionless copulation. Gone were the intimate talks and common goals that were the foundation of their love and friendship. Her love, it seemed, was expected, but not reciprocated.
Jerry opened the door wearing his all too familiar stoic gaze. “My damned truck wouldn’t start. I had to walk here.”
Izzy put her arms around his neck and stretched up to kiss his lips. Jerry’s mouth was dry from the long walk and his breath tasted of raw onion, but she kissed him anyway, and he kissed back for a few moments. He pulled her arms down and stepped back; the momentary affection had faded. “Get me some water or something. That hamburger I had for lunch left me parched.”
Izzy opened the refrigerator and retrieved a bottle of water. Handing it to him she asked, “What happened to the truck?”
“I don’t know, but I got to get it fixed today. Come on, we need to get this over with so I can get back home.”
She dutifully undressed and laid across the bed still rumpled from the morning visit. He invaded her body with sharp forceful rhythms, finishing much too soon for Izzy to glean any physical satisfaction. Jeromy shifted his weight to the far side of the bed to avoid the damp spots on the sheet and rested his forearm across his eyes. Izzy rolled on her side to look at the man she loved and caressed his chest. “Honey?” she asked in a soft voice. His reply was a whispered, “I’m going to sleep for a few minutes.”
Izzy propped herself up on one elbow and asked, “Before you go to sleep, can we talk for just a second.” Jeromy grunted a sound that was neither affirmative nor negative. Izzy sighed, “Sometimes this gets, you know, almost mechanical. I like making love with you, but sometimes you act like it is more of a chore than a choice.”
Without lifting his arm and in a tired grumbled voice, “It is a chore, Babe. I know what you women do when you ain’t getting enough at home. It starts with those damned toys, and don’t think I don’t know you have one, and it ends with some other man in my woman.” He lifted his arm up just far enough to see her face, “You never know when some punk-ass kid is going to shoot my balls off, so as long as I have this dick, we are going to fuck as often as we can. You ain’t gonna be a whore for any man but me.”
“Is that how you think of me?” Her voice cracked, “A whore? Is that the respect you have for me? You think I am your whore?” Izzy swung her feet heavily to the floor announcing, “I’m getting a water. You want anything?”
Jerry shook his head no and dropped his arm back across his face.
Izzy returned from the kitchen carrying a bottle of water. Jerry laid motionless; the slow rise and fall of his diaphragm evidenced his sleep. Izzy carefully eased back into bed mentally replaying his words over and over. “A whore for any man but me -- fuck as often as we can -- as long as I have this dick.”
The last of her hope evaporated with the thought that nothing could be crueler than love without respect. The cold metal of the kitchen knife felt good against her skin as she reached for her Jerry. “As long as I have this dick.”