07 Escaped Bethesda MD - Friday

Escaped: Fighting my way home

© Copyright 2009

Written by Banzai Ben and Amazing Anastasia

ben@banzaiben.com

 

 

Chapter 07 – Friday 28 September 2007

 

Bethesda Maryland – Friday Day Twenty-eight

 

An unusual noise woke me out of my sound sleep. Jens was snoring lightly making it hard to hear so I poked her in the side. She rolled over and stopped snoring.

 

I listened intently and there it was again. Someone is trying to sneak down the stairs and not doing a very good job of being quiet. From all the noise it can't be a professional – it must be Mom and Dad.

 

I reached over to the nightstand and grabbed the Kimber with the tactical light with my left hand and the squirt gun with my right hand. I slid out of the bed and hid behind the door – and waited.  

 

I heard the door knob turn and the door slowly opened. Two figures crept into the room. Whew!  I can tell by their shapes and perfume that it's mom and dad. They moved closer to the bed.

 

I flipped on the tactical light; they spun around and froze like deer caught in the headlights of a car. Both had a pot in one hand and a spoon in the other.

 

I fired the squirt gun and yelled, "Great Chief Run-amok heard clumsy paleface on stairs."

 

Mom let out a shriek, and dropped her pan and spoon. Dad started banging the hell out of his pan with the spoon.  All the noise scared the hell out of Jens and she fell off the bed.

 

I kept firing with the squirt gun and they both laughed as they ran out of the room. I chased them all the way up the stairs making sure they both paid for their attempted prank.

 

At the top of the stairs Dad yelled, "PT in ten minutes. Be ready or else."

 

I walked back towards the guest room, the light was on. Jens was rubbing her butt as I walked through the door.

 

She gave me a pissed look. "I'm getting damn tired of being woken up by having the hell scared out of me." Then she got a serious look on her face when she saw the Kimber in my left hand. "You could have shot them."

 

I waved the squirt gun, "Correction I did shoot them."

 

She wasn't in any mood for that this morning, "This isn't a joke and you know what I mean. Someone could have gotten hurt."

 

Still trying to lighten her mood, "Well – you know you aren't having fun until you have to dial nine-one-one."

 

I could tell that she was getting ready to let me have it for that comment. So I sat the Kimber on the dresser, walked over and grabbed her in a big hug and fell on top of her on the bed and started loving on her.

 

I whispered in her ear, "I heard them on the stairs and I knew it was them."

 

"Ouch" She complained, "That damn squirt gun's poking my back!"

 

She flipped me over on my back and straddled me, "Ben, this is serious. What if you hadn’t heard them?"

 

I was going to argue with her and remind her that I would never fire without knowing my target, but she was seriously upset.

 

"You're right Jens, we need to call a truce to the wake-up pranks. I'll talk to them this morning."

 

That made her happy and she rewarded me with a smoldering kiss.

 

"That was some kiss Xenia." I remarked.

 

She pulled back with a puzzled look, "Xena! Plu-ezze tell me you're not comparing me to that fat Lucy Lawless bitch with the fake tits from 'Xena Whoriorr Princess .' She's so fake! I'd kick her butt any day of the week with one hand tied behind my back."

 

I smiled and said, "No I wasn't thinking of her. Since you seem to like to be on top of me, I was thinking of that beautiful Bond Girl from 'Golden Eye,' Xenia Onatopp."

 

"Mmm," she purred, "You mean the hot Russian female assassin that tried to kill James Bond by squeezing him to death with her legs?"

 

She gave me a sexy-wicked look and then squeezed hell out of me with her legs and gave me another hot kiss, pulled back and said  "Lbumyeets1," sounding remarkably like Xenia.

1(Transliterated Russian – My love)

 

She gave me a smoldering hot sexy look took the squirt gun away, "You don't need that gun … Commander Bond."

 

Remembering the line from the movie I said, "That depends on your definition of safe sex."

 

She squeezed me again. I continued in character with the quote, "That's close enough."

 

She wrapped her arms around my neck, "Not for what I have in mind."

 

I knew we needed to get moving or we'd be late for PT. I extricated myself from Jens clutches.

 

She looked at me and just as in the movie said, "Buliatch2."

2(Transliterated Russian – In the movie it is subtitled as buliatch, they probably made a mistake and it should be bliatz. Which means whore or sometimes bitch – but usually suka is used for bitch.)

 

I gave her a wicked look and replied, "Pasasee mayu peesku3."

3(Transliterated Russian – Suck my dick.)

 

Jens scrunched up her eyebrows and thought for a minute trying to figure out what I said. Her mouth dropped open and she turned all red.

 

Then she called my bluff, "That's big talk! Bare it and I will."

 

Now it was my turn to blush.

 

She looked at me and laughed, "Just what I thought. All talk and no action. Just to let you know, I'm ready anytime."

 

I blushed even more but was saved when Mom came in the room, "You two aren't ready yet. What have you been doing?"

 

Jens was going to tell her until I interrupted, "Sorry Mom we got distracted. We'll be right out."

 

Jens smiled at me as Mom left, "I should have told her. It would have served you right for saying that to me. Next time you say that to me you better mean it!"

 

I didn't know what else to do or say so I picked up the squirt gun off the bed and aimed it at Jens.

 

"Don't you dare squirt me with that again. If you do I'm going to make you eat it." She threatened.

 

I figured that Jens had enough of my pranks, at least for right now, so I lowered the squirt gun.

 

She ran over and gave me a kiss, "That's much better. Let's get changed."

 

I grabbed my clothes out of the travel pack and started changing, trying hard not to be too distracted by Jens. Today's shirt had the picture of a skull with a Marine cap on it and said, "Natural born warriors – United States Marines."

 

I looked over, Jens was wearing a long sleeve underarmor shirt and tights instead of the shorts. I went over and gave her a big hug and kiss.  She pressed against me and said, "Mmm, somebody likes the tights I have on."

 

I swatted her butt, "I do. But you know you have VPL?"

 

"VPL," She questioned.

 

"Yes Visible Panty Line." I laughed.

 

She twisted around trying to see her butt in the mirror and finally did.  "Shit, you're right. I guess I'd better fix that." She stripped off the tights, pulled off her underwear and threw them at me.

 

"I'll just go commando and let you think about that all day." She teased.

 

Damn! This was going to be an interesting day.

 

We walked out into the family room and Mom and Dad were already waiting by the Bowflex. They had the towels and water ready.

 

Dad looked like he wanted to say something but was holding back.

 

"Sorry we're late. We lost track of the time." Jens remarked.

 

Dad said, "If we were late we'd have to do penalty reps."

 

I looked at him, "You're right. Since we're late we'll do the penalty reps and you two can just do the aerobic parts longer."

 

Mom gave him the same dirty look Jens gives me, "I told you to keep your mouth shut. But you wouldn't listen."

 

I looked at Mom, "You're right too. Why should you have to do extra aerobics just because he mouthed off? You can take it easy when we do the penalty reps."

 

Mom smiled and Dad grumbled.  "Is there something else you'd like to say Dad?" I asked.

 

"Let's just get this over with so I can rest." He said.

 

"Did you forget Glen? We're all going shopping today." Mom replied.

 

"Shit!" Dad said.

 

We did a full upper body workout again today with slightly different exercises than two days ago. Everyone did really well, even Mom in spite of her cast.

 

We were all working as a team and encouraging each other. Dad didn't even gripe with the extra aerobics and I did cut him some slack and let him take more water breaks.

 

We finished and Dad said, "I suppose you two are going running again?"

 

I looked at him and said, "No, all four of us are going running today."

 

Mom said, "Great, I'd like to get out and do a little run."

 

"I don't have any shoes." Dad groaned.

 

"Great! You run better barefoot anyway." I told dad.

 

"Are you crazy?"

 

"Yes, I'm crazy about running and running the right way. I'm going to teach you how to run right today. Once you're done, running will be easy for you." I answered.

 

"That's the biggest load of crap I've ever heard." He remarked.

 

I was going to say something pretty nasty but Jens saved me, "Daddy! Is that the right attitude to have?"

 

He looked at her and she smiled, "I guess not. I'm sorry Ben. It's just that I've always read that you need good running shoes to keep from getting hurt."

 

"We have better designed running shoes now than we've ever had. And if you look there are more injuries than ever. That's because shoes let us run incorrectly and that's very hard on the body." I answered.

 

"Enough of this gabbing. Let go so we can get back and go shopping!" Jens ordered.

 

"I'll call the Secret Service." Mom offered.

 

We headed upstairs to grab a quick meal replacement shake and wait for the Secret Service. The doorbell rang just about the time we finished.

 

I answered the door and let Buddy and Phil into the house.

 

"Good morning, Ben and Jens, Ma’am and Sir." Buddy said.

 

"Please call us Glen and Evelyn," Mom answered.

 

"Thank you Evelyn. Are you all ready to go?"

 

"Come on! Let's get going!" Jens yelled grabbed my arm and pulled me out to the van. Mom and Dad followed behind.

 

Dad chuckled, "You're sure in a hurry today Jens."

 

"Damn right! I want to take my man shopping. He needs some more stylish clothes."

 

I frowned at her, "Don't go getting any ideas that you're going to dress me in some silly galuboy3 clothes. I'll wear Levis and a few other brands, but none of that Calvin Swine or Donna Kraphead New Fricken York clothes or Ralph Whoren'."

3(Transliterated Russian – The color blue or in this case homosexual.)

 

"That's Calvin Klein and DKNY – Donna Karin New York and Ralph Lauren. And you'd look great in some of those."

 

Dad laughed, "Oh boy. You're in trouble now."

 

"What are you talking about Glen? I plan on getting you some stylish clothes too. Jens and I have this all planned out." Mom quipped.

 

We both groaned. "I wonder if it's too late to take off." I remarked.

 

Jens grabbed me tighter, "Oh no you don't. You're not getting out of this now."

 

I pulled back with all my strength and brought Jens to a standstill.

 

"Don't tell me you're getting bossy with me?" I asked in a stern tone.

 

She gave me a sad look, "Sorry my dear. I guess I was becoming a little pushy. Please forgive me. I just think that you'd look so nice in some stylish clothes. Would you please wear some if I bought them for you?"

 

I looked at her and she smiled. Damn! She sure knew how to get her way.

 

"I will if I get total approval of the clothes."

 

"As long as they're some other color than camo." She pleaded.

 

I laughed, "Okay, I guess so. But not pink – or purple!"

 

She laughed and we shook on it.

 

"Deal?" I asked

 

"Deal. Now let's get moving!" She took off towards the van with me.

 

Jens was happy and was humming to herself the whole ride over to the school. I figured out what she was humming so I started humming harmony to it.

 

Mom looked at us, "What are you two doing?"

 

Jens grinned, "We're making beautiful music together."

 

"That's not what it sounded like to me. It sounded like two bumble bees in heat." She chided.

 

"Well, it was a pretty hot song." I replied.

 

"What song was it?" Mom queried.

 

I looked at Jens, nodded and gave her a pitch note.

 

She smiled real big and started singing, flipping her head and hair around. I provided the harmony:

 

         With a taste of your lips
         I'm on a ride
         You're toxic I'm slipping under
         With a taste of a poison paradise
         I'm addicted to you
         Don't you know that you're toxic

         Intoxicate me now
         With your lovin' now
         I think I'm ready now
         I think I'm ready now
         Intoxicate me now
         With your lovin' now
         I think I'm ready now.

 

Mom gave us a funny glance, "I've heard that it was – oh what's her name? I know it was that Swords girl."

 

Jens and I both laughed.

 

"M-o-o-o-m-m." Jens admonished, "It's not Swords, it's Spears – Britney Spears. Sometimes you're an old fuddy-duddy."

 

Mom raised an eyebrow, "At least I don't use antiquated phrases like, 'fuddy-duddy.'"

 

"I could have said BOB – Bitchy Old Broad." She shot back.

 

"You're not too old for a spanking, young lady." Mom threatened.

 

The van pulled to a stop and Jens bailed out the door shouting over her shoulder, "But you are too slow to catch me. You old fuddy-duddy."

 

Mom took off after her. I looked at dad and we both smiled.

 

Then I reached behind my back and pulled out the squirt gun and pointed it at him.

 

"Great Chief Run-amok says run ass off paleface."

 

Dad took one look at the gun and said, "Not again." Then jumped out of the van and started running.

 

Buddy and Phil had finally had enough and couldn't contain themselves. They broke into laughter. So I shot each of them with the squirt gun.

 

"Hey, cut that out." Phil yelled.

 

"Yeah, you're getting us wet." Buddy added.

 

"Great Chief Run-amok take no prisoners." I shot each one again and then hopped out of the van to chase the rest of the family down.

 

Dad was easy to catch, he couldn’t run very fast.

 

"Stop, I'm wet enough already." He yelled as I ran by and soaked his back and butt.

 

Jens and Mom had a bigger lead. Damn. Mom ran well for her age but Jens was taking it easy on her. I caught them in about a lap and a half, coming slowly up behind mom.

 

"Great Chief Run-amok gets even with sneaky paleface." I started squirting the hell out of her back.

 

"Son of a bitch! Where'd that damn squirt gun come from?" She yelled and started trying to catch me.

 

I got in front of her and squirted her some more, "Ha! Paleface woman too slow to catch Great Chief Run-amok."

 

"If I catch you I'm going to run-amok spanking your butt and make you eat that damn thing." She threatened.

 

I shot her a few more times, once even in the face, just to get her more upset.

 

"You'd better run or I'll scalp you." Mom yelled as I took off after Jens.

 

Jens had seen what was happening and was beating feet. This was going to be a challenge to catch her.

 

I ratcheted up my speed and was slowly gaining on her. I ran past Dad again and gave him another couple sprays.

 

He took off chasing me, "Dammit, if I was younger I'd catch you."

 

"Great Chief Run-amok not worried has fleet-feet of horse. You never catch me."

 

I ran past the van. Phil and Buddy were outside laughing so I shot them a couple more times.

 

"Hey, cut it out." One of them yelled.

 

"Great Chief Run-amok not listen to silly paleface in wet and funny clothes."

 

Mom was just ahead. I passed her and shot her twice more.

 

"Dammit! I warned you young man."

 

"Great Chief Run-amok laughs in the face of silly threat from wet paleface woman."

 

I had finally caught Jens and started squirting her.

 

"Great Chief Run-amok take no prisoner, kill all paleface today."

 

She tried to sprint ahead but I stayed just close enough to keep squirting her.

 

"Honey, quit your getting me all wet." She pleaded.

 

"That idea of squirt gun – paleface."

 

I had all my attention on her; she was quite sexy running in her shirt and tights. And it was fun as hell spraying her and hearing her complain.

 

"Ben! Stop, I'm getting cold."

 

"Great Chief Run-amok like to squirt hot paleface – Ugh – find her hot, leave her wet."

 

"Dammit, I'm getting angry. You'd better quit."

 

I sprayed her a couple more times.

 

I rounded the last turn right behind her, we were headed towards the van. She ran towards the front of the van. Mom, Dad, Phil and Buddy were standing there.

 

"Mom, save me!" She yelled.

 

For some reason Mom had an evil look on her face.

 

I understood why as Jens ran past them and mom raised a hose and started spraying me. Shit! Where did she get that!

 

Dad ran out and started to tackle me, Jens figured out what was going on and joined in on the fun. Mom continued to spray all of us with the hose. Buddy and Phil, not wanting to get their suits ruined took off running.

 

In seconds I went from being the only dry one to being totally soaked.

 

Jens and Dad had me on the ground and we were wrestling, me trying to get free, them trying to keep hold of me.

 

"How does Great Chief Run-amok like being hosed." Mom teased. She soaked my head, "Looks like you're all wet behind the ears."

 

She kept it up. Finally I broke free and took off running but – Shit – I dropped the squirt gun.

 

Jens ran over and grabbed it and held it up. They all started cheering.

 

"No more squirt guns for you anymore. And Great Chief Run-amok has run his course." She yelled.

 

They celebrated by passing the squirt gun between each other like a spoil of war. I kept on running around the track and they'd try to hose me every time I ran past.

 

Jens ran out to meet me my next time around, I eyed her warily making sure she didn't have the squirt gun. She didn't so I was safe and she fell in beside me.

 

"Damn! I'm cold." She said.

 

"You look pretty hot to me."

 

"Thank you my love. But you forgot. I'm going commando today and spandex doesn't keep me very warm."

 

I checked out her tights, "But you do look awesome in those tights. And at least they dry. This cotton t-shirt will be wet all day."

 

"So, you think you've had enough running for today?" Jens smiled at me.

 

We ran past the van again and Mom tried to spray me with the hose.

 

"I'm not stopping until she puts down the hose."

 

"I'll go talk to her." Jens said and headed back to mom.

 

I ran around the track and mom still tried to spray me. Jens ran back out.

 

"She's having too much fun, I don't think she's going to stop."

 

"Okay, I think I'll just run back to the house. Go tell Buddy and Phil I'll see them later."

 

I took off running out the gate.

 

Jens fell in right behind me, "Hey wait. You can't do this, you'll get lost."

 

I hit the street and picked up the pace, staying just ahead of Jens.

 

"Honey, stop. We can't do this." She complained.

 

It was lunchtime and the sidewalks were busy with people heading to lunch. I was having fun dodging around them, scaring some of them and eliciting rude comments.

 

"You fucking idiot, watch where you're running."

 

"Hey asshole, where's the fire."

 

Finally one guy said to Jens, "Owwee mama, why don't you run over to my place."

 

I slowed up and let her run beside me. "Ben this is crazy we need to head back to the track."

 

"It's too late Jens, the van's right behind us."

 

She turned and looked and there it was.

 

She grabbed my arm and pulled me to a stop. "Come on, were getting in the van. We shouldn't be running here."

 

The van stopped and we walked back and opened the door. Jens jumped right in.

 

First I looked inside and I didn't see the squirt gun.

 

"I'm not getting in the van unless I get my squirt gun back." I demanded.

 

Mom replied, "Then I guess you're walking home. We gave that damn squirt gun to a bunch of kids that came out of school. No more Great Chief Run-amok for you."

 

I smiled and hopped in the van, "You really got rid of the gun?"

 

"Thankfully, it's gone forever."

 

I looked at Mom and Dad, "So tell me, how was your run today?"

 

Mom replied, "I don't really know. I was too busy trying to keep from getting wet."

 

Dad looked at me and smiled, "You sneaky bastard. You did this to keep us distracted from running. Didn't you?"

 

Jen gave me an amazed look, "You did do that!"

 

"Chief Run-amok has taught paleface well. It is time for him to travel to happy hunting ground."

 

Jens hopped in my lap and started kissing the hell out of me. "Thank you my love. I'm sorry I got so mad at you."

 

I kissed her, "Dogs get mad, people get angry. And you my love are certainly not a dog!"

 

She gave me another big kiss.

 

"We're here." Buddy yelled.

 

Phil opened the door and we jumped out.

 

Dad was in the back and said, "Ben you were only partially right. Dogs get mad, people get angry – but Marines get even." And he started squirting me with a water bottle.

 

I grabbed Jens and spun here around using her as a shield. Dad kept spraying us.

 

"Hey, I thought you were supposed to protect me."Jens griped.

 

"Well, you were a little stinky so I figured that you could use a shower."I teased.

 

The water bottle was finally empty and I let Jens go.

 

She spun around and acted huffy, "So, today I'm the stinky one?"

 

"Not yet, but if I tickle you enough you will be." I answered and grabbed her waist.

 

We started wrestling, rolling around in the front yard. Laughing and playing like a couple of kids. The playing gradually gave way to making out and the making out gradually lead to serious making out. Until we were both shocked back to reality when mom poured an icy cold bucket of water on us.

 

"Son-of-a-bitch that's cold." Jens complained and jumped up.

 

"Correction, that's DAMN cold." I yelled.

 

Mom and Dad were laughing. "Well you two were getting so hot we figured you needed cooled off." Mom teased.

 

"I've been cold and wet all morning. I hope I don't get sick." Jens complained and headed in the house.

 

I looked at Mom, stripped off my soaked t-shirt and threw it at Mom hitting her in the face.

 

"That's cold and stinky you little snit," She yelled, "You never let anyone win."

 

Dad was laughing his ass off, until Mom slapped him in the face with my t-shirt.

 

"Evelyn, that's nasty." He complained.

 

Further discussion on the subject ended when the automatic sprinklers came on.

 

"Shit! Those aren't supposed to come on now." Dad said.

 

I ran to the porch, just beating the sprinklers. Mom and Dad weren't quick enough and got soaked.

 

"Dammit to hell! I'm soaked again." Mom complained.

 

Jens walked out on the porch wrapped in a towel.

 

"Aww, I only got two of you. I was hoping to get all three." She laughed.

 

"I was too fast for you this time." I boasted.

 

"Young lady, did you turn on the sprinklers? You know that wasn't fair." Dad grumped.

 

"Daddy, you taught me that all is fair in love and war."

 

I slipped past Jens and stood in the doorway of the house.

 

"If that's the case then I'm taking the first shower." I yelled and ran towards Jens's bedroom.

 

"Ben NO! I'm cold and want a shower." Jens ran after me yelling.

 

I beat her to the bedroom and closed the door, waiting right behind it.

 

She opened the door and ran right into my arms. I hugged her tight.

 

"Now where were we before we were interrupted?" I asked.

 

"Mmmm, I think you were going to make mad passionate love to me." She teased.

 

I pulled back and looked at her.

 

"Not today dear. I've got a headache."

 

She playfully pounded my chest, "You just wait, someday I'm going to say that to you."

 

I pinched her butt and she jumped. "That'll be a cold day in hell. I do have to say, making out with you is much better than shopping."

 

"Shit! Look at the time, we need to get moving." Jens said slipping out of my arms and heading into the bathroom.

 

"Are you leaving the door unlocked for me this time Honey?"I asked and grinned at her.

 

She turned and smiled at me while she started stripping of her clothes, "No way in hell! If it wasn't you dumping a bucket of water on me, it'd be Mom or Dad."

 

"Why don't you run downstairs and shower so we can be ready faster?"

 

That was a great idea, beside my travel pack was down there anyway. I headed downstairs to the guest bathroom, locked the door and took a nice hot long shower.

 

It felt really good to wash off all the sweat and to get warm again. I stepped out of the shower and – shit – all the towels were gone. Then I heard laughing in the guest bedroom, it was Jens.

 

"Ben, are you missing something?" She yelled through the door.

 

"All the towels are gone." I replied then faked a sneeze. "I'm getting cold and I think I'm getting sick."

 

The bathroom door opened and Jens had a concerned look on her face as she handed me a towel. I took the towel and smiled, she realized I was faking it.

 

"You big fibber, I was worried. It would serve you right for getting everyone so wet today."

 

I laughed, finished drying off put on my undies and walked into the guest bedroom. There were clothes on the bed for me.

 

"What's this?"

 

Jens hopefully smiled, "I hope you don't mind. These are a little gift from me. While you were asleep the other day I went and bought you some nice clothes."

 

I looked at them and they were classy; a black pair of Murano wool slacks and a dark gray sweater shirt with black accents and zip turtle neck made by DKNY.

 

I glanced at her and she was biting her lower lip, I could tell she was worried what I would say. I walked over and hugged her.

 

"Thanks for the clothes my love. They're not what I would have chosen, but their very nice. And with the tag hidden no one will know the sweater is from DKN fricken Y."

 

She hugged me back enthusiastically, "You're going to look so nice in those. Especially when you're on TV."

 

"Don't tell me that Ms. Morgan is going shopping with us today." I complained.

 

"Not just shopping my dear. They've been filming all of today. I guess you didn't notice them." Jens answered.

 

I thought back, "I remember seeing them now. They were in the bleachers. I guess I was blocking them out of my mind. They must think we're crazy."

 

"Don't worry about it my dear. Remember we can tell her what she can release. I'm going to head upstairs and get dressed come on up when you're done."

 

She jumped off the bed and gave me a peck on the cheek and a swat on the butt and headed out of the room.

 

I put on the clothes, the pants fit me just right and the sweater fit me like a second skin, it was one of the most comfortable sweaters I'd ever worn. I looked in the mirror and Jens was right I looked really nice.

 

I looked around; she'd even given me a new pair of dress socks and new Italian leather shoes. The shoes were just a touch tight, but would be okay as they stretched.

 

I was all dressed and sat on the bed; I needed a minute to think. No one had bought clothes for me since my Mom died years ago. I thought about it and came to the conclusion that Jens didn't do this to control me or to even change me – well maybe a little bit to change me – but to change me for the better. She did this because she loved me and she wanted me to look my best on TV. It seems like almost everything she did for me was to make me a better man.

 

I hopped off the bed and walked upstairs. Mom, Dad and Jens were waiting by the door for me.

 

"Jens was certainly right. You do clean up well." Mom said.

 

Dad laughed, "Looks like they made you dress up too."

 

I spun around, "Yes, my wonderful Jens took her time to make sure that I'd look good today. I don't know how I'll repay her for that."

 

She beamed and came over and gave me a hot kiss. Then pulled away and whispered in my ear, "I know one thing you can do for me."

 

I swatted her butt, looked in her eyes. She continued, "I know, someday!"

 

Mom and Jens were wearing similar black mini dresses. Jens's was a lot shorter and a bit tighter. They even wore matching pearls.

 

I looked at them, "Both of you look lovely today. I'm wondering if I'm going to need a gun to keep the men away from you two."

 

They both gave me big smiles, "Thank you Ben."

 

"Let's go." Jens said and started towards the front door with me in tow.

 

This time I noticed Ms. Morgan and the news crew when we walked outside. Jens waved at the camera and blew them a kiss. Damn! She sure liked the news media.

 

The van had been replaced with a limo.

 

I looked at Dad and said, "This riding in limo crap is getting old."

 

Jen interrupted, "Yeah Daddy, what's with all this limo crap."

 

"I'd feel better in a Humvee. How about getting us one from the base?" I finished.

 

Jen added her two cents, "Yeah I want a Humvee too!"

 

The limo driver interrupted, "We have a nice H3 that I can request next time we pick you up."

 

"Plu-ezze! That's not a real Humvee, that's as fake as the tit's on a Hollywood actress." Jens chided.

 

I looked at Jens, "If you're driving, we'd better see if we can get an M1-Abrams4."

4(The M1 Abrams is a main battle tank produced in the United States.)

 

She gave me a dirty look and then smiled, "Hey! I like that idea even better. Then if someone got in my way I could either shoot them or run them over."

 

"At least I'd be safe." I teased.

 

"Are you insinuating that I'm not a good driver?  I'm an excellent driver." Jens asserted.

 

"Isn't that exactly what your driving instructor said?"

 

"My driving instructor?" Jens was confused.

 

"Yes, your driving instructor. You remember his name was Rainman." I answered.

 

The limo erupted in laughter, even the driver was laughing.

 

Dad said, "Damn! I saw that one coming this time but it's still funny as hell."

 

Mom was laughing too hard to reply.

 

Jens pouted; I could tell that I hurt her feelings this time. I pulled her close to me.

 

"Sorry my love. I guess I went too far this time." I apologized.

 

"Do I really drive that bad?" She asked.

 

"No way my love! You're an excellent-uh-great driver. That's why I teased you about it. If you didn't drive well, I would never tease you about it." I replied trying to save face.

 

Jens looked at me, "Well – you did tease me once about being fat and I know I'm not. So I guess that you're telling me the truth."

 

"You tell me since you can always tell when I'm lying. Jens you are a very good driver." I answered.

 

She gave me a kiss, "You're not lying! Good, you had me worried for a minute."

 

"Not only that. Next week I will prove to you that I think you're a great driver." I replied.

 

"How are you going to do that?" Jens queried.

 

"It's a big surprise. If I told you I'd have to kill you." I teased.

 

"Not just a surprise, but a big surprise?" Her eyes twinkled.

 

"It's huge! I've been planning it for weeks." I kept up the tease.

 

"A huge surprise!" Jens was so excited she was wiggling in her seat.

 

"Can't I get a little clue?" She had the pleading puppy dog look in her eyes.

 

It was hard as hell but I said, "NALTS!"

 

That earned me one of the best pouts I'd ever seen.

 

I laughed, "You can pout all you want. It's not going to help this time. This surprise is too big for clues."

 

"Too big for clues? Wow it must be really big. It's okay my love, you don't have to tell me anything about it. I'll patiently wait." She smiled.

 

I looked at her and my Bravo-Sierra5 detector went off. Damn! I'm going to need to be careful until next week.

5(Bravo-Sierra = Bull Shit.)

 

The driver stopped the car, we were at the Montgomery Mall and it was fricken huge.

 

Jens informed me, "This is the largest mall in Bethesda, it's going to be so much fun shopping here. They have over one-hundred-ninety stores here. You're going to look so nice after we're done shopping today."

 

We'd had a reprieve from the press for a couple days, but that didn't last. The media including Ms. Morgan was in full force today when we stepped out of the limo. Damn! How did they always seem to find out where we were?

 

Jens and Mom were smiling and waving. Dad and I waved and faked some good smiles.

 

Shopping was something that I didn't like to do in a normal situation, and with the press it was even worse. They followed us everywhere and watched everything we did and everything we looked at. Taking pictures of all the clothes we were trying on.

 

I tried to maintain a good attitude, but it was getting to be too much for me.

 

Jens figured this out, "Honey, you're really getting upset."

 

"I'm trying my love, but this is too much." I told her.

 

She goes over to Ms. Morgan and they have a discussion. Ms. Morgan talks to the rest of the press and everyone leaves.

 

"Thanks my love. What did you say to them?" I asked.

 

"I told them that you would really appreciate it if they gave us a little time alone to shop for private things. But we're going to need to meet them at the food court later." She smiled.

 

"Thanks my love. At least we'll have a little time alone." I replied.

 

Jens looked at Mom and winked, "Besides, someone said he wanted to make sure we went to Victoria's Secrets. Let's go."

 

She took my arm and Mom took Dad's arm.

 

"You know, I was just kidding when I said that." I answered.

 

Jens smiled and looked at Mom, "He sounded serious to me. Didn't he to you?"

 

"He most certainly did." Mom replied.

 

They drug us off towards the waiting torture.

 

Dad looked at me, "You and your big mouth. I told you not to let it overload your ass."

 

"Come on boys. You're going to enjoy this." Mom chided us.

 

I looked at Dad and winked, "The only way I'm going to enjoy this is if that hot Victoria's Secret model is there."

 

Dad figured out what I was doing, "Which one do you mean. They're all hot."

 

"You know, that Miranda Kerr. She's the one that's in all the TV ads." I teased.

 

Mom piped up, "Isn't she the one that's engaged to that Miami Flower guy?"

 

"Mo-o-om! How do you get things so confused? She engaged to Orlando Bloom." Jens reminded her.

 

Dad and I both chuckled.

 

"Alright you two. Keep it up and we'll stay there even longer." Mom threatened.

 

"I don't care if she's engaged to him. She's still really hot!" I continued.

 

Jens stopped and looked at me, "Ah ha! You're trying to get us upset. Forget that. It's not going to work. Besides, I look better than that skinny little bitch! I heard that her tits are so small she still wears training bras."

 

Dad and I both laughed.

 

I said, "Anything more –"

 

Jens interrupted, "– don't go there!"

 

Dad looked at me and shook his head. And I decided that I'd better not push it.

 

We walked into the store and were the only guys in the place. All the other women stopped and looked at us, a few even pointed. Thank goodness there were a couple chairs right inside the door. Dad noticed too and we both made a beeline for them.

 

"I'm tired and I want to sit." Dad said.

 

"I'll keep him company." I volunteered.

 

"You boys be good." Jens said and they took off for the back of the store.

 

We were just sitting their minding our own business when five teenage girls walked in the store. They noticed us and started whispering to each other and giggling.

 

I leaned over to Dad, "Great. I bet they think were perverts. We should just leave."

 

"Let me tell you son. The one thing we don't want to do is leave. I did that once when Jens and Evelyn were shopping and they were both pissed at me for over a week." He said.

 

The girls were pretending to look at things, but were still sneaking sideways glances at us.

 

I tried to ignore them.

 

Finally the one that looked to be the oldest came over and stood in front of me.

 

"Excuse me sir. But are you Banzai Ben?" She asked.

 

I looked at her, "Yes miss I am."

 

She giggled and ran back to her friends. They started pretending to look at things and whispering to each other.

 

They were gradually moving closer to us.

 

One would find something and hold it up against the clothes they were wearing. To try to figure out how it would fit.

 

They one that talked to me was wearing a short blue jean mini dress. She pretended to drop something and bent over to pick it up. I quickly looked away and turned red.

 

The girls noticed and giggled even more.

 

Dad said, "Well, isn't this interesting. It looks like someone's giving you a show."

 

Gradually they were getting closer and bolder in their flirting.

 

Another one of them held a bra up against her chest and then started massaging her breasts. I blushed and turned away. The girls giggled like a gaggle of geese.

 

Next thing I know they're all standing around me, holding various undergarments.

 

The oldest looking one holds up a thong that's barely more than a few pieces of string, "Tell me Mr. Ben, you think I'd look good in these?"

 

I blushed and tried to say something, all that came out was, "Uh-uh-uh."

 

Another one held up a garter belt, "Mr. Ben, can you tell me what this is for?"

 

I blushed and turned away.

 

But I'm facing another one and she grins and holds a push up bra under her breasts, "I think you'd like to see me in this.

 

I turn back to the front and the oldest one starts pulling up the front of her already short dress. I was just getting ready to bolt for the door.

 

"YOUNG LADIES! Just what do you think you're doing?" Mom's voice cuts through the crowd.

 

Simultaneously, they all blush and separate. Jens strolls between them, walks over to me and gives me a smoking hot kiss.

 

She turns and looks at them, "I hope that these LITTLE girls weren't bothering you. I'd hate to have to take them over my knee and spank them."

 

Mom added, "I think I should just call their parents."

 

The oldest looking one said, "We're sorry, we didn't really mean anything. It's just that – uh well – we'd been talking about how we'd love to meet Mr. Ben and how sexy he is – and then – well uh - we walked in the store and there he was. And then – uh – we started doing things and he started blushing – and OH MY GOD – he is soooo CUTE when he blushes. And we – well – just sort of got carried away trying to make him blush."

 

Jens gave them all a very stern look, "You should all be ashamed of yourselves! Is that anyway for young ladies to act?"

 

They all hung their heads.

 

"Ben my love, will you please tell these LITTLE girls how what they did made you feel?"

 

I cleared my throat, "It was very embarrassing and made me want to run away."

 

They hung their heads even more.

 

Jens asked, "And did you find anything they did sexy or alluring?"

 

"Not at all! If anything it made me want to throw up."

 

A couple of them started sniffling.

 

"Why is that?" Jens queried.

 

My voice cracked, "I'm not sure I can explain this, but I will try. It made me sick to think that these little girls are trying to act like not grown women, but sluts. They're missing out such an important part of their lives. It also made we worry that some day they would try this with someone that would take advantage of them."

 

Several of the girls started crying. Even the oldest one was sniffling.

 

Jens and Mom moved closer to them; they all embraced in a group hug and started crying.

 

I looked over at Dad, "What the hell do we do now?"

 

He shrugged his shoulders, "The hell if I know."

 

It was one of those awkward moments for guys where we don't know what to do. My flight response was trying to kick in and I wanted to run.

 

Jens sensed this and looked over at me. "Ben my honey; don't you dare leave. We'll be done in a few minutes."

 

"Jens, we're not leaving. We're just going to wait outside in the mall." I answered and Dad and I escaped to the mall.

 

We walked into the mall and Dad said, "Thanks for getting me out of there; that was way too much estrogen for me."

 

"It was just as bad for me. So did I say something wrong?" I asked.

 

"Hell if I know."

 

At least we were away from the women, the estrogen and all the damn frilly underwear. Plus there were other things for us to look at.

 

I saw a sporting goods store and looked at Dad, "It's better to ask forgiveness than permission. I'm headed to Shenk and Tittle sporting goods."

 

"Shit! I'm not going to stay here and face their wrath alone. I'm going with you."

 

With that we headed to Shenk and Tittle. I was thinking what sort of stupid name is Shenk and Tittle. I didn't have to guess when I walked in the store.

 

I looked at Dad, "Toto, I've a feeling were not in Colorado anymore."

 

He laughed at my quote, "I guess you're not used to sporting goods stores out here."

 

He was right about that.

 

A muscle-bound salesman that looked like he spent too much time in the gym and took too many shots of testosterone came up to me, "I'm Lou, may I help you?"

 

"Sure Lou, can you tell me if there's a real sporting goods store in the mall." I answered in a smug tone.

 

He gave me a dirty look and tried to sound positive, "Sure right here. We have all the supplies that you need."

 

Dad was watching with interest and chucked softly.

 

"Okay, where are the guns?"

 

"Oh, we don't sell those." Lou answered.

 

"Do you have any rock climbing gear?" I asked.

 

"We've never had anyone ask for that."

 

"Hum, how about kayaks? Do you have any kayaks?" I questioned.

 

I heard Dad chuckle some more.

 

"Ah, no we don't sell those." Lou was getting frustrated.

 

"Surly you sell mountain bikes?" I hoped

 

"No, there are not many places to ride those here." He replied and was starting to get upset.

 

"So tell me. What exactly do you sell here that's sporting goods?" I bugged him.

 

"Well, we have a nice selection of brand name outdoor clothing in all the newest styles. We have a great selection of golf gear and my favorite, a full selection of home gym gear." Lou bragged.

 

"Let's see the home gym gear. That's the only thing that's probably worth a shit in this entire store." I griped.

 

Lou gave me a real dirty look and took us towards the back of the store.

 

I remarked loudly to Dad on the way back, "Look at this fricken outdoor gear. It's all crap! If I wore this on a camping trip, it's fall apart."

 

He started laughing and several people that were looking at coats looked at me, looked at the coats and left the store.

 

Lou was definitely upset at me. He had turned quite snippy and cold.

 

"Here's the home gym gear. Do you understand how to use any of it?" He challenged.

 

I looked at him and smiled, "I certainly do; I understand how to use all of it. But what I was wondering is if YOU understand how to use any of it."

 

Lou started regaling me with how much weight he could bench press and squat and all the other battles he'd won in the gym.

 

"I'm in excellent physical condition. Much better than you." He boasted.

 

Dad started laughing, "That sounds like a challenge to me."

 

It did to me too, "Yes, I can see that you have big muscles, at least between your ears. But are you really fit and are you really strong?"

 

Lou looked around the store, "I can kick your butt on any workout, any day of the week."

 

I smiled, "You any good at pull ups?"

 

Lou replied, "Those are old school. I prefer to do lat pull downs."

 

I teased, "I thought you said you'd kick my butt in any workout, any day of the week. I guess that doesn't include pull ups. Or maybe you're just chicken?"

 

"You're on. I'll kick your butt on pull ups." Lou smugly announced.

 

"Great! Here's how we'll do this. You take one of the pull up stations and I'll take the other. You can go first and do one pull up and I will follow. The winner is the one that does the most pull ups without letting go of the bar." I said.

 

"Just to make it interesting. If you beat me, I'll buy that full Olympic weight set over there." I said.

 

I could almost hear the cash register going off in his head. That was a thousand dollar weight set.

 

"You're on Mister. Hey. I forgot to ask, what's your name?" Lou replied.

 

"You can call me your worst nightmare." I answered.

 

"Well, I hope you have our credit card with you. Because you're going to be buying a weight set. And you can use it with that scrawny body you have."

 

"Okay Lou. Put up or shut up." I teased.

 

We took our positions at the pull up stations and the contest was on.

 

Lou quickly and easily did a pull up. I looked over at him and smiled and did a nice-slow-easy pull up.

 

"Hey old man, if you can't do them any faster than that we'll be here all day." He prodded.

 

He'd do a pull up and then I'd match his pull up. We kept this up for about five minutes. Word got around the store and we started getting a crowd of sales people and customers.

 

One of the crowd said, "Hey. I recognize that smaller guy. He's that Marine, the fiancé of Jens. What's his name?"

 

That made me laugh and I almost slipped off the bar, "My name is Banzai Ben."

 

Lou looked over at me, "Shit. I knew I recognized you. I just didn't know from where. It's going to be great to sell you those weights."

 

He was strong and was good at doing pull ups. We'd been at it for about fifteen minutes when Jens and Mom walked in with a bunch of nice looking girls.

 

She wormed her way through the crowd, "Hi honey. I knew I'd find you here. What are you doing? I hope you aren't getting your new clothes all dirty."

 

The one guy in the crowd said, "It's her! It's Jens!" And a bunch of people surrounded her.

 

Jens said to the crowd, "Please excuse me a minute and I'll talk to all of you. I'd like to talk to my fiancé first."

 

We kept doing pull ups the whole time she was talking.

 

"So Ben. It looks like you tricked him into a pull up competition." Jens asked.

 

"Yes my love. I got bored and needed something to do."

 

"So how long you guys been at it?" Jens asked.

 

I made sure I had a good grip with my right arm, took my left arm off and looked at my watch, "Only fifteen minutes."

 

"How many pull ups have you done so far?"

 

"I don't know; I haven't bothered to keep count. Hey Incredible Bulk over there, you been counting the pull ups?"

 

"I lost count a long time ago." Lou replied.

 

"What's wrong, couldn't you count that high." I teased.

 

Jens asked, "Why'd you call him the Incredible Bulk?"

 

"Well, his name is Lou. He's about as big as Lou Ferrigno, and he's starting to look a little green. He reminds me of the Incredible Hulk."

 

Jens walked over and looked at him, "You're right he's looking a little green."

 

Lou had slowed up on the pull ups, "Hey, you taking a breather over there. Come on I'm waiting for more pull ups." I taunted.

 

Lou struggled through a few more pull ups, I matched his effort.

 

"Ben, we're getting bored. Can't you finish this?" Jens asked.

 

"What's it worth to you?" I countered.

 

"How about a big kiss and my undying devotion?"

 

"I already have that. You have anything else in mind?"

 

"Well, we do need to meet the news crew in the food court." Jen informed me.

 

"Okay. Hey Lou, what do you say that we switch and do one arm pull ups?" I yelled at him.

 

"Uh – I don't know if I can do a one armed pull up." He faulted.

 

"So, if I can do one arm pull ups and you can't is the competition over?"

 

He looked over at me, "If you can do ten one arm pull ups. Then you win."

 

"Piece of cake – Jake." I replied and did ten one arm pull ups alternating arms. Everyone in the crowd was counting each one.

 

I yelled over to Lou, "Well, does that count?"

 

He dropped off the bar. "You win. Besides I need to get back to work."

 

I glanced over at him and did ten more one arm pull ups, "No hard feelings, I just wanted to show you that I could have kept going."

 

I dropped off the bar. Jens came over and gave me the big kiss she promised.

 

I walked over to Lou and gave him my best Recon handshake. "Thanks for the entertainment and letting me use your workout equipment."

 

"How did you get so strong? You don't look big." He asked.

 

"You don't need big muscles to be strong, you need trained muscles. I've been training my muscles since I was a kid."

 

"I'd like to learn more about this some time." Lou asked.

 

"I'd love to show you but I'm not sure when I can find the time." I replied.

 

"Perhaps you could do an exercise book?" Lou questioned.

 

"I don't know. I never thought about writing." I answered.

 

Jens was done talking with the crowd and came over, "Ben, it's time to go and there's some young ladies I'd like you to meet."

 

We walk arm in arm over to Dad, Mom and the young ladies.

 

I looked at them and smiled, "Greetings it's good to see all five of you again. But you all look so much more beautiful now I almost didn't recognize you."

 

Yes, it was the five teenage girls from earlier. Jens and Mom did some sort of magical transformation in them. Before they looked like spoiled teenage sluts, now they looked like respectable young ladies.

 

They all had nice and modest skirts or pants and very classy sweaters. They looked beautiful.

 

They all smiled at my compliment.

 

The oldest one, "Thank you Mr. Ben. My name is Miranda."

 

I laughed a little when I heard her name. She gave me a quizzical look.

 

"Please just call me Ben. I'm sorry about laughing; it's an inside joke. I was teasing Jens that I hoped I would meet Miranda Kerr at Victoria's Secrets. And I did meet a Miranda that's much nicer." I explained.

 

She smiled at the compliment. "Thank you. Jens told us that you'd say nice things about the way that we changed."

 

I looked at all of them and Jens, "I'll be the envy of every man in America when they see me on TV with all of you."

 

"You - you - you mean we're going to be on TV with you two?" Miranda stuttered.

 

"Well, I am taking all of you to lunch. And the news crews will be there. So yes, you're all going to be on TV." I replied.

 

They all started talking to each other at once. Jens squeezed my arm, "Thanks Hon. That was a great thing to do for them."

 

Jens took my right arm. Miranda smiled and bit her lower lip and came over and took my left arm and we headed towards the food court. The other young ladies were swarming around us like a bunch of bees. Dad and Mom followed behind us.

 

We must have made quite a spectacle because the other shoppers were stopping and looking at us. The young girls were noticing and they became even more excited.

 

Jen leaned forward and talked to Miranda across me, "See, what I told you is true. You all are attracting more attention now than you did before."

 

She smiled, "I never would have believed it; but you’re right."

 

"It's not hard today to see women and young girls dressed like sluts." I added my two cents, "Because that's what so much of the media makes you think is popular and will get you attention. But classy young ladies like the five of you are unique. That makes you stand out from the crowd."

 

We made it to the food court. I pushed a couple tables together for our entourage.

 

"I'll go order pizza and drinks." I volunteered and took off.

 

I stood at the pizza place and watched the table as I tried to figure out how many pizzas to order. I noticed the news crews sweep in like a flock of vultures and setup close to the table. All except for Ms. Morgan, they were headed towards me.

 

I figured that we needed five pizzas and placed my order.

 

Ms. Morgan walked up with her microphone, "Good afternoon Ben. We hope that you had a good time shopping. But we were wondering what the story is with all the young ladies that you and Jens brought with you."

 

The response I wanted to give her, to go fuck herself, wasn’t my answer.

 

"Good afternoon Ms. Morgan. Thank you we had a great time shopping. Jens and Mom met the young ladies in one of the stores. They were sort of lost and confused, so they took them under their wings."

 

"Which store was that?"

 

Damn! I how does she always seem to know everything? "It was Victoria's Secret."

 

"You were in Victoria's Secret with Jens?"

 

I blushed and decided to try to turn the tables, "Sure, why shouldn't I be? It's a store just like any other store."

 

"Well, most men would be uncomfortable being in a store like that. Were you uncomfortable?"

 

"To be truthful. I was busy talking to Dad and didn't really notice much." I replied.

 

The pizza came saving me from more interrogation. "Excuse me, but I need to get this pizza to the table. We have a gaggle of girls to feed."

 

I grabbed the pizza and plates and made a mad dash for the table. The cashier said, "Hey don't forget your drinks."

 

"I'll be back for those later."

 

I made it to the table. Set the pizza boxes down and it looked like feeding time at the zoo. Plates and pizza flew everywhere. I looked at how fast the pizza was disappearing and decided I needed to order a couple more pizzas. I went back to the counter and ordered and paid for two more pizzas, picked up the drinks and went back to the table. Most of the pizza was already gone.

 

I gave them the drinks and moved back out of the way. Jens motioned for me to come and sit beside her.

 

I sat down and she smiled and slid a plate in front of me with two slices of pizza on it.

 

"I saved these for you my love."

 

I gave her a kiss, "Thanks my dear. I’m really hungry." And I started eating the pizza.

 

The questions continued but I was too busy eating to pay much attention until one was addressed to me.

 

"Ben, we hear that you put on quite a show in the sporting goods store." It was Ms. Morgan.

 

I finished my slice of pizza, wiped my mouth and looked at her.

 

"It was nothing. I just did a few pull ups."

 

She continued, "That's not what we heard. We heard that you embarrassed one of the best body builders in the state."

 

More pizza came and Jens saved me.

 

"Ben's hungry from all his exercise today. And no I don't mean the pull ups; I mean all the shopping that Mom and I have made him do."

 

 I interrupted, "Yes, it was hell. I'm so tired."

 

The girls all giggled and Jens continued, "So he needs to eat. I hear he has a secret for me tonight but he won't tell me what it is."

 

I was enjoying my pizza until she said that. Then the press was trying to get the details out of me on what we were doing tonight.

 

I looked at them and said, "NALTS."

 

"Ben, what does NALTS mean."

 

Jens replied, "It means Not At Liberty To Say." And he tells me that all the time." She faked a pout.

 

I finished the last slice of pizza on the table and looked for more, but there wasn't any. The table looked like bombed out Beirut.

 

"I like to surprise Jens, but she doesn't like to wait for her surprises. So I have to tell her NALTS all the time; just like I did about her huge surprise next week."

 

Jens looked over at me. Her eyes were twinkling. "I told you my love. I'll patiently wait for that surprise."

 

Dad and Mom both started laughing and drew the attention away from us. Jens leaned over and whispered, "That wasn't fair."

 

"All is fair in love and war. And you trying to figure out the surprise is certainly war." I quipped.

 

It was getting late and we needed to go. We all thanked the press and they left. Then we said goodbye to all the girls. I politely shook hands with all of them.

 

Miranda grabbed me and gave me a big hug; then looked at Jens, "You are such a lucky woman."

 

Jens smiled at her, "Be true to your heart and remember what we talked about. Someday you'll get lucky too. And we'll see all of you tomorrow."

 

"What's going on tomorrow?" I asked.

 

Jens looked at me and smiled, "I want to tell you NALTS, just because you've been such a snit about my surprise. But I'm going to be nice today in hope that you'll be nice to me.

 

"Daddy's getting out the sailboat tomorrow and we're all going sailing."

 

I looked over at Dad, "Are you telling me we're going sailing and a Marine's going to be the ship's captain?"

 

Dad answered, "Damn straight! And if you don't behave yourself tomorrow. I'll either keel haul you or make you walk the plank."

 

"That might be better than staying on the boat and watching you run it into the dock." I teased.

 

"Hey, I'm an excellent captain." He replied.

 

"I didn't know Rainman knew how to steer boats." I shot back.

 

Mom and Jens laughed, "Da-dd-y, I don't believe you fell for that." Jens teased.

 

I grabbed all the bags from shopping. Damn, when did we buy all this crap, and we headed towards the exit.

 

Ms. Morgan slinked up beside me and once again grabbed my arm and pulled it against her breasts. Jens gave her and evil look that she totally ignored.

 

"Today has been a great day. We've gotten so much good video of you two. The playing at the running track was great and this shopping trip was quite wonderful."

 

"I do have to confess to both of you. We did secretly film you in the stores. Ben you were marvelous in Victoria's Secret with those girls. All of America will be proud of how you ignored their blatant flirts.

 

"And Jens, you and Evelyn made such a change in them. I was remarkable.

 

"And the pull up competition was phenomenal."

 

I looked at her, "Too bad you won't be able to show any of that."

 

She stopped short, even pulling me to a stop. "What do you mean I won't be able to show any of that?"

 

"Well, you did agree that we have final say in anything that you show. I've decided that you don't get to show anything today." I glared at her.

 

I'd never seen her look this nervous before, "Why not?"

 

"I don't like the fact that you secretly videoed us."

 

"But-but-but, the video today is priceless. Are you sure we can't show it. I'd do anything if you'd let me show the video." She pulled my arm even tighter against her breasts.

 

I yanked my arm out of her clutches, "One more thing! I'm not sure that I like you! And I certainly don't like the way you're always flirting with me. You'd better stop that before Jens opens up a can of whoop-ass on you."

 

She was surprised that I talked to her that way. I looked and saw that her crew was taping this and smiled.

 

I looked her in the eyes and I could see her desperation. "Look, I'm not the stupid Jarhead that you think I am. I know what the video you shot today will do for your career and your station. I would suggest that you get on your phone with the station and find out how much today's video is worth to them."

 

She whipped out her mobile phone and hit the speed dial. She motioned for her crew to stop taping.

 

"No, I want your crew to continue taping this." I demanded.

 

She finished and hung up the phone, "They told me I could offer you ten-thousand for today's video."

 

"Sorry, that's not enough." I said and Jens and I started walking towards the door.

 

"Wait!" She called, "Tell me what you want."

 

I walked back to her and sat down the bags. "Look, you had us over a barrel when you worked out this deal with us and I never liked it. Now we've got you over a barrel, how would your network like it if they were the only ones that didn't have video of us today?"

 

"They'd hate it and probably fire me." She answered.

 

"How does that make you feel?" Jens added.

 

"I hate it." She replied.

 

"That's the same way we feel." I told her. "Now we're all going to have to start working together as friends. Otherwise this isn't going to work.

 

"I'm not going to be worried the whole time in Iraq that you're going to film something stupid and ship it back to America. We need to have some trust in each other.

 

"I'm not sure I can really and totally trust you, but I'm willing to give it a try. What Jens and I want from you and your crew is to know that you will never, ever try to make America or us, look bad. Is that something you can do?"

 

She looked at all of us, and looked at the crew, "Are you guys okay with this?"

 

They both answered, "We're on board with this."

 

She held out her hand and said, "It's a deal."

 

I shook her hand, "Good Liz. We have an agreement.

 

"One more thing, the station isn't getting the videos for free. We will negotiate the cost to the station of each hour of unedited video that you shoot. For today's video, we're willing to give the station the right to use all of it for fifteen-thousand dollars for each hour."

 

She looked at me, "You know. The video is worth much more than that."

 

I smiled, "Yes I know that. Why don't you and the crew tack and extra five-thousand on that you can split."

 

"Is that ethical?" She asked.

 

"It is if you quit the station and come to work for us." I answered.

 

I could see that she was shocked and even had a few tears in the corner of her eyes, "You’d hire me?"

 

I motioned for Dad to come over, I looked at rest of the crew and said, "Please keep taping, but you two are included on this too."

 

Dad walked up and I looked at Liz, "Liz, there was a time I swore at you and also swore that if I ever met you I'd gut you with a dull deer antler. I've been observing you and I've come to the conclusion that you're a damn fine journalist."

 

She started sniffling.

 

"And that the stories you've done that I didn't like you were forced to do by the network and you didn't like doing them. Am I right?"

 

She nodded, "They forced me to lie to increase the ratings."

 

"And they forced you to physically do things you didn't want to do?"

 

She blushed as she nodded.

 

"It's time that all that changed. It's time America and the world hears the truth and I think you three are the ones to bring the truth to the world." I said.

 

"Ben, what are you proposing?" Dad asked.

 

"Dad, let me know if we have the money to do this. I propose that we start our own news network and that we let Liz run it."

 

He looked at me and said, "It'll have to start small but I think we can do this."

 

I looked at Jens, "How do you feel about this?"

 

She smiled, "I love and live to serve you. And I trust your decisions."

 

I looked back at Liz, "I only have two stipulations."

 

Tears were slipping down her cheeks," What are those?"

 

"First, you must always report the truth. Even if we don't like the truth – shit, even if I don't like the truth."

 

"I'll gladly agree with that." She affirmed.

 

"And second, you'll never-ever again use your body to get a story." I said.

 

She started sobbing and nodded her head. Jens went over and hugged her.

 

I motioned for the news crew to stop taping and to come over.

 

"Jon and Bernie, how does this sound to you?" I asked.

 

They looked at each other and looked at Liz, "I think it sounds great to me. I hated working for CCCN." Bernie said.

 

Jon replied, "Yeah they were bastards. I'd go anywhere to work with Liz."

 

Liz had cried herself out and ran over and threw herself on me and gave me a big hug, the kind I imagined a sister would give.

 

She pulled back and said, "Thank-you! You have no idea what they used to make me do and what you've now done for me."

 

I pulled away and said, "Yes I do. I could see the torture in your eyes."

 

Jens walked up, "I think that you should make those bastards pay."

 

"I do too. After these videos you should refuse to sell any videos to them." I added.

 

Liz got a glimmer in her eyes, "No, it will hurt them more if I just make them pay more than anyone else and give them the lower quality videos."

 

"Liz, I want to say that I trust you to run this news network like it's yours; because you and Bernie and Jon are going to have shares in it."

 

She started crying again. I looked at Dad, "Will you take care of getting this all setup tomorrow. Jens and I still have a date tonight."

 

Almost immediately Liz stopped crying and became a professional, "Good, we're coming to video both of you. Where are you going?"

 

I looked at her, "You can't tell Jens." Then I leaned over and whispered in Liz's ear.

 

She started laughing, "Oh this should be great. I can't wait to see what these videos will be worth."

 

"Can we sell them to anyone besides CCCN? I thought that the gear was theirs?" I asked.

 

Liz laughed, "No, but I can either buy or rent the equipment we need before you two are ready."

 

Jens asked, "Don't you need to give CCCN your two week notice?"

 

Liz replied, "Oh yeah, I forgot about that." She grabbed her mobile phone and hit the speed dial.

 

"Hello, yeah this is Liz. Ben and Jens are demanding twenty-thousand dollars per hour for the videos we shot today. They're the best videos that you've ever seen and you guys will make a fortune with them. No they won't take anything less. Good, I'll send Bernie over with the tapes and the equipment. Make sure you have a check ready for Ben and Jens or you won't get the tapes.

 

"Why the equipment?  Because you mother fucker, my whole crew and I are quitting. And expect to hear from my lawyers, I'm suing you and the station for sexual harassment."

 

She hung up the phone and laughed, "Damn. That felt good.

 

"We just made enough off the tapes for today to cover most of the equipment that we need.

 

"Well, we have to move it if we're going to get the gear for tonight. Thank all of you so much. You're not going to regret this." Liz and the crew scampered off.

 

Jens came over and gave me a kiss on the cheek. "Wow, now that was a total surprise. And such a nice surprise! When did you come up with this brilliant idea?"

 

"Sorry I didn't talk to you about it first. I'd been watching Liz and noticed that she wasn't happy with what she did. I finally figured out what it was right before I offered her the job." I answered.

 

Dad said, "That was a brilliant. You just hired one of the best journalists in the country and have her working on commission. Wait until I tell your advertising firm, they're going to go ballistic."

 

I didn't know what to say. Jens came up and saved me, "So, what's this about a date tonight?"

 

"Oh yeah. We'd better get moving." I picked the bags up and we started heading towards the door. Even though I was loaded down with all the bags it still felt like a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders.

 

I guess someone had called the limo driver. He met us at the door and helped me put the shopping bags in the trunk.

 

We piled in the limo and suddenly I felt tired. I snuggled up close to Jens, she held me tight and I drifted off to sleep.

 

Next thing I know she's whispering in my ear, "Wake up my husband-to-be. We're home."

 

"Huh? We're in Iraq?" I asked.

 

Jens laughed, "No silly, we're at Dad's and Mom's. Let's go inside."

 

I blinked a few more times, stretched, and got out of the limo.

 

"Don't forget all the bags." Jens reminded me.

 

"What am I, some sort of damn horse?" I grumped.

 

"Nope, but if you were, you can bet that I would have ridden you hard and put you away wet." Jens teased trying to cheer me up.

 

Mom and Dad laughed and I gave them a dirty look.

 

Jens walked over and kissed me, "Don't tell me you're going to ruin our date tonight."

 

"Sorry my love; I'm just not fully awake yet." I apologized.

 

"Let me help." Jens grabbed part of the packages and we all headed inside.

 

I gradually woke up and started getting excited about tonight. I tried to slip past Jens, but this time she took off running. "No way in hell you're beating me to the bathroom this time."

 

"That's okay. My travel pack is in the basement anyway. We need to be ready to go in fifteen minutes." I yelled.

 

I dropped the bags in Jens's bedroom and headed downstairs to change. Tonight was going to very fun and interesting. It was about time that Jens got an introduction to a different sort of life.

 

It didn't take long for me to change, but I wanted to surprise Jens so I waited downstairs. I heard the doorbell ring and figured it was Liz and our news crew.

 

I started upstairs and heard talking in the living room. I walked through the kitchen and into the living room.

 

Liz saw me and the crew started taping us.

 

Jens looked great tonight in tight Levis and nice sweater. She took one look at me and her mouth dropped open.

 

"What the hell are you wearing those for tonight?" She asked.

 

"They're perfect for where we're going tonight." I answered.

 

"What are we going to do tonight? Go fight a war." She laughed.

 

"I figured since we're going to Gunny's Bar tonight. One of us had better look like a Marine. That's why I wore my MCCUUs." I answered.

 

"Ohh, maybe I should go change into mine." Jens questioned.

 

Dad said, "Damn! I haven't been to Gunny's in years. Perhaps we could go too."

 

"Sorry, everyone. But we don't have time to wait for all of you. Jens and I need to get moving." I answered.

 

"Oh well, maybe another night." Dad said.

 

I grabbed Jens hand and we headed out the door with our news crew in tow.

 

"Liz, do you know where this is and do you have a way to get there?"

 

"Yes Ben, we have a van and I looked up the address. I have to tell you that I'm worried."

 

"Why are you worried?" I queried.

 

"I remember how angry you were at me and now I'm going to meet a bunch of other Marines that feel the same way as you did." She said.

 

Jens laughed, "I guess you don't know. Just stay with Ben and you'll be fine. No one in the bar will bother you if they see you with him."

 

"If anyone does say something to you. Look them in the eyes and tell them you've made mistakes in the past and that you're going to Iraq with us and you're going to make things right." I added.

 

The Secret Service car pulled up and we jumped in the back, "Thanks guys for being on time. You know where we're going?"

 

Phil said, "No problem. My guess is that you're not going to need us tonight."

 

Buddy laughed, "Yeah, like someone's going to walk into a bar full of Marines and attack one of them. Not even the muslims are that stupid."

 

Phil drove off with the van following.

 

Jens snuggled up beside me, "You're sure full of surprises today. I've never been to a Marine bar."

 

I laughed, "Then you're in for an experience. Stay close to me when we first go in."

 

We pulled up in front of the bar with the van right behind us.

 

I jumped out and was met by Liz and the crew. She looked at the bar, "Are you sure I'm going to be safe in there?"

 

"Just stay with me and you'll be fine. Don't start taping until I let you know. I'll walk in first and the rest of you follow me." I answered.

 

I opened the door and walked in, everyone else filed in behind me. Immediately we heard the yell, SEMPER FI!"

 

Jens and I yelled back, "ORRAAAHHHH." It was just like I remembered it, loud boisterous and fun. The walls were covered with years' worth of pictures and mementos. Marines from bygone eras are still honored there.

 

I looked around the place and then walked up to the bar. Jens was right by my side and Liz and the crew hid behind me.

 

Gunny limped over. What was left of his face looked like leather that had cracked from being in the sun too long. One eye was missing but the other gleamed. He said in his lisp, "Son-of-a-bitch, if you aren't a sight for a sore old eye. How the hell are you Banzai?"

 

"I'm mean as a rattlesnake and twice as fast as a mongoose. Hell Gunny, you look the same as when I saw you years ago, don't you ever grow old."

 

"Shit! I'm too fucking mean to grow old." He looked over at Jens, "Who's this SYT hanging on your arm."

 

Jens piped right up, "I'm Banzai's fiancée, Sergeant Donaldson." She proudly waved her hand in the air showing off our ring.

 

Gunny turned his head and looked carefully with his one good eye, "You know, I'd heard something about Banzai getting caught. But I couldn't believe it, not this old reprobate.

 

"Now that I see you in person, I understand. Please to meet you miss. Did you say you're a sergeant?"

 

"Sergeant in the USMC and Banzia's spotter!" She proudly reported.

 

"SEMPER FI!" He yelled, "I'm a god-damn mother-fucker you’re the best looking sergeant I've ever seen."

 

"ORRAAAHHH!" Jens yelled back. "And I've heard about you Gunny Johnson, you have the CMH for saving all those men in World War Two."

 

"Shit, it wasn't anything any Marine wouldn't have done." He lisped.

 

Gunny started trying to look past us to see who was behind me. I needed to act quickly. I walked up to the bar, "Gunny, I need some help from you."

 

"He-he-he Banzai. Is that SYT of yours giving you some problems? Just let me know and Gunny will take care of it."

 

"Gunny, don't get angry at me. I've brought someone here that you and every other Marine hates. But she's changed. Shit! I've even hired her to come to Iraq with us and report the truth. She needs a second chance." I asked.

 

He turned his head and looked at her with his good eye, "Shit! You brought that news bitch Morgan in my bar. You've got more balls than brains!  But you've never lied to me. And you say she's working for you and she's changed?"

 

"Damn straight Gunny. Those damn bastards at CCCN forced her to lie. Shit they even made her their sex slave."

 

"Hey you! Come on over and talk to old Gunny." He told Liz.

 

Liz tentatively walked over and extended her hand, "Pleased to meet you sir."

 

Gunny grabbed her hand and gave it a good strong squeeze causing her some discomfort, "Listen missy, first thing don't ever call me sir, I work for a living.  You're lucky you're in here with Banzai otherwise I'd throw you out the door on your ass."

 

"I understand sir-uh-can I call you Gunny."

 

"I'm not sure you've earned that honor yet. For right now call me John.  You know why I'm pissed at you. However, Banzai says that you've changed. Prove it to me." He ordered.

 

"John. I have no way to prove it, but CCCN forced me to lie on the reports. I hated it and if I could go back I'd change everything." She stated.

 

"That's still not proof." Gunny shot back.

 

"Ben, please give me your Ka-Bar." Liz told me. I slipped it out from my leg sheath, flipped it around and handed it to her.

 

She put it in Gunny's hand, "If I ever lie on another one of my reports. Take this Ka-Bar and slit my throat."

 

Quick as a wink he had the knife pressed against her throat. She looked him in the eye and didn't flinch.

 

"Damn missy! You've got some grit in you." He kept the knife at the throat and smiled, "You can call me Gunny." He flipped the knife around and handed it back to me.

 

Suddenly we noticed the bar was silent, everyone was hatefully watching us.

 

Gunny scanned the room with his eye - turned towards us and said, "Let me handle this."

 

He turned towards the bar and his voice boomed, "I know what you're all thinking. Because I felt the same way ten minutes ago.  You all know Banzai Ben, he's brought her here, he's hired her to report the truthful news from Iraq and she's his friend and she's my friend. Now if anyone has problems with this they can just get the hell out of my bar and never come back."

 

The patrons started talking trying to figure out what to do.

 

Liz jumped up on the bar, "I know you hate me and I don't blame you! I hate myself for the lies I was forced to tell. I want to make myself accountable to each of you here. If I ever lie again on a report I will forfeit my life to you."

 

There were a few smiles.

 

She reached in her pocket, pulled out a wad of bills and threw them to Gunny, "One more thing. Drinks are on me for the next hour."

 

Jens started clapping and I followed. Then Gunny and slowly the whole room clapped.

 

She jumped off the bar ran over and kissed Gunny on his cheek. "Thank you Gunny, I want to make you proud of me."

 

"Damn! I think you're going to do just that missy." Gunny replied and headed back behind the bar to start pouring drinks.

 

We moved into the bar and found a table close to the stage.

 

The rest of the Marines in the room were still giving her some evil-eye looks, she had burned many bridges behind her and still needed to prove herself.

 

Liz took Jens's and my hand and squeezed them, "Wow that was intense. I wasn't sure if I was going to walk out of here alive."

 

I looked around, "They're still pretty pissed at you and you're going to have to prove yourself each and every day to them."

 

"And that's exactly what I'm going to do."

 

A server came and sat some shots in front of us.

 

"What the hell –" Liz started to say

 

Her talk was interrupted by a ringing bell. The Marines and I started barking and then slammed down our drinks.

 

Jens said, "What the hell was that?"

 

I laughed, "That was the Pavlov's devil-dog bell."

 

"Oh, just like that bar on the 'Two and a Half Men' TV show." Liz remarked.

 

"Except the TV show stole it from here." I answered.

 

"Ben, do you think we can start videoing? I'd love to get some video of the Marines." Liz asked.

 

"Sure, just be discrete about it. And if anyone complains tell them to see me." I answered.

 

She started videoing. Another server came by with more shots.

 

Once everyone had a shot, Gunny rang the bell. We all barked and slammed down the drinks."

 

Liz coughed, "What is that shit."

 

I laughed, "It's the cheapest bourbon money can buy."

 

I reached in my pocket and pulled out some bills, "Go tell Gunny you two want a Pavlov's devil-dog t-shirt."

 

They both headed to the bar to talk to Gunny and get their t-shirts.

 

I looked over and the band was setting up. I jumped up and went up on the stage. "You guys need some help?"

 

The keyboard player looked at me, "Yeah grunt. You can help us move the gear in here."

 

"No problem. What sort of keyboards do you have?"

 

He continued, "I've got a Kurzweil Stage piano and a Roland synth."

 

"Those are nice. I bet the Kurzweil sounds almost as good as the grand piano I learned on."

 

He looked at me, "I'm Greg. So, you a player?"

 

"I've played piano most of my life and guitar for about twenty years." I replied.

 

"Hey guys. We've got a Marine here that says he's a player." Greg said with a bit of sarcasm.

 

"Shit Greg, setup your piano and let him play while we finish." The bass player said.

 

He finished the piano and said, "You need a mic?"

 

"Sure that'd be nice." I answered.

 

He setup the mic and said, "Break a leg grunt."

 

"Okay, but I'm a little rusty." I answered.

 

"Hey guys. He says he's a little rusty." Greg laughed.

 

I loosened up my fingers, put my hands on the piano and started playing the intro. Greg and the band stopped and looked at me.

 

"Shit he can play. Let's get setup and help him." The bass player yelled.

 

I finished the intro and started singing:

 

Its nine o'clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
There's an old man sitting next to me
Makin love to his tonic and gin

He says, son, can you play me a memory?
I'm not really sure how it goes
But it's sad and its sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger mans clothes

La la la, de de da
La la, de de da da da

Sing us a song, you're the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, were all in the mood for a melody
And you've got us feelin alright.

 

The band finished setting up and joined me finishing the song. When it was over everyone was clapping, I looked out and saw Jens and Liz in their new Pavlov's devil-dog t-shirts.

 

Gunny rang the bell and everyone barked and slammed down their drinks.

 

"I'm Mick and I run the band. You want to sit in with us for awhile?" The bass player asked.

 

"Sure, you guys got an extra guitar?" I asked.

 

One of the guitar players handed me his back up guitar, "I'm Steve, you can use my old Strat."

 

I picked it up and looked at it, "This is sweet old Fender, it reminds me of mine."

 

I plugged it in and tuned it up, "What do you want to play?"

 

Mick said, "Surprise us."

 

I messed with the guitar getting the sound just right. I turned and smiled, "Key of E, try to keep up."

 

I fired off the intro sounding just like Eddie Van Halen. They band was shocked and then figured out they needed to play. I passed the intro and into the main hook of the song, doing a dive bomb on the last cord.

 

 I stepped up to the mic:

 

Pretty woman, walking down the street
Pretty woman, the kind I like to meet
Pretty woman
I don't believe you, you're not the truth
No one could look as good as you
Mercy

Pretty woman, won't you pardon me
Pretty woman, I couldn't help see
Pretty woman
That you look lovely as can be
Are you lonely just like me
Wow."

 

The band was cooking and keeping up just fine. We finished the song and I moved right into the next song doing a long guitar solo bridge:

 

Sweet talkin people done ran me out of town
And I drank enough whiskey to float a battleship around
But I'm leavin this game one step ahead of you
And you will not hear me cry cause I do not sing the blues

Gimme back my bullets
Put em back where they belong
Aint foolin around cause I done had my fun
Aint gonna see no more damage done
Gimme back, gimme back my bullets
Oh, put em back... where they belong.


We finished the song and handfuls of ammo flew up on the stage.

 

We stopped and the crowd started clapping and cheering. Gunny rang the bell and everyone barked and slammed down their drinks.

 

I turned around and looked at Mick, "What do you want to do now?"

 

"It's your show grunt. But let's slow it down some."

 

"Can you guys sing harmony?" I asked.

 

"Does Pink Floyd have flying pigs?" Greg answered.

 

I whispered to them what I wanted to do and they started laughing.

 

"Shit, you're gonna get your ass beat for doing that song." One of the guitar players told me.

 

The crowd was getting antsy, "Ladies, and Marines. I'd like to dedicate the next song to all those east coast girls that I've know.

 

"I can just imagine the guy that wrote this song telling his wife or girlfriend he wrote this song for her. Then when he played her the song – he had to sleep on the couch."

 

The guitar player added, "Yeah he had to sleep on the couch forever."

 

I turned back to the group and we struggled finding the starting notes, we finally had them and all moved up to the mics and started singing – acapella

 

OOOOH, you gonna take me home tonight?
Oooh, down beside that red firelight;
are you gonna let it all hang out?
Fat bottomed girls,
You make the rockin' world go round.

 

We started playing the rhythm guitar part when – I couldn't believe my eyes, froze and stopped playing mid-chord.  She walked up on the stage, wrapped her arms around me and gave me a huge kiss. I struggled and pulled away from – Jugs, my old ex-girlfriend Jugs.

 

"Hi sweety, did you miss me." Susan said.

 

Next thing I know Jens is on the stage and in Susan's face, " Get the fuck away from my fiancé you heartless bitch!"

 

"Well if it isn't Ben's little cunt. I hear that you're not woman enough to screw your man." She yelled and slapped Jens across the face.

 

"You bitch," Jens yelled and hauled off and punched her in the face.

 

I stepped back and watched the fight. I saw one of Susan's girlfriends heading to the stage, but Liz caught her before she got there and stopped her from helping Susan.  The next thing I knew, Liz had Susan's friend in a headlock and was giving her a Nolan Ryan nuggie.

 

Jens and Susan were rolling around on the floor, scratching, biting, and pulling hair.

The Marines were all cheering and egging them on.  Jens finally worked her way on top of Susan and was punching the shit out of her face. Blood was everywhere and Susan wasn't fighting back.  Shit Jens knocked her out!

 

I handed the guitar to the band, went, and grabbed Jens, "Leave me the fuck alone. I'm not done, I want to beat her face to a pulp."

 

"Jens, you've knocked her out. Stop it or you'll go to jail." I yelled at her.

 

She twisted around and managed to kick Susan. "Fucking bitch!" She yelled.

 

"Ten-hut Sergeant Donaldson." I ordered.

 

Training kicked in, she stopped fighting and stood ramrod straight.

 

Liz let go of Susan's friend and she slumped to the floor.

 

Someone came in the front door and yelled, "Shit, the cops are coming. Everyone get out of here."

 

Liz ran up on the stage along with Bernie and Jon. I grabbed Jens's hand and we ran out the back door.

 

Phil and Buddy had the car and Liz's van waiting for us. We jumped in and they both took off.

"Shit! What happened in the bar? The police radio started squawking like it was the end of the world." Phil asked.

Jens started laughing, "I finally got to met Ben's slutty ex-girlfriend."

 

Liz added, "They had a little disagreement when she kissed Ben."

 

"A little disagreement, it was a fricken cat fight." I laughed.

 

I leaned over to kiss Jens.

 

"Hey Mister! You're not kissing me with that mouth until it's sanitized. No telling where that slut's mouth had been before she kissed you." Jens demanded.

 

I thought about it, and remembered some of the things that Susan used to do and –

 

" – Hey! You’d better not be remembering crap like that about her." Jens punched me in the arm sensing my feelings.

 

I asked Phil, "Think we can stop by a drug store so that I can get a couple bottles of Listerine?"

 

Phil laughed, "It was that bad?"  Damn! That was another question that had no right answer; I leaned back in the seat and drifted off to sleep.

 

Somewhere Northeast of Khudabah, Pakistan - Close to China – Day Seven

 

Huh? Where the hell am I? I'm sitting on a stool on a stage holding an acoustic guitar and the bright lights are blinding me. I look to my right and see a nice looking girl with long chestnut hair. Damn. She sure is wearing some great retro clothes.

 

I glance to my left and sitting beside me is this hippy looking dude. He has long stringy hair a scraggly beard and is wearing a beat-up black cowboy hat.

 

Just past him I see another guy holding another acoustic guitar. He's skinny and has a nasty looking mustache and goatee.

 

I can hear the crowd past the lights, they're getting nervous.

 

The hippy in the cowboy hat says in a microphone, "Thank you all for coming tonight. We're gonna finish the show with a little song about Raiford. I hope to hell I never go back there again. Hit it Steve and Ben."

 

The other guitar player starts playing a slide into. Shit! I know this song. Shit, shit, shit! I know who these people are. The girl is Cassie Gaines, the other guitar player is Steve Gaines and the hippy dude is Ronnie Van Zant. They're the members of Lynyrd Skynyrd that died when the Free Byrd crashed in 1977.

 

Ronnie leans over, "Don't just sit there boy. Play that guitar!"

 

I join in on the song and we go through the intro again.

 

Ronnie takes a big swig out of a bottle of Jack Daniels and starts singing:

 

Well them four walls of Raiford, closing in on me
Doin three to five hard labor, for goin' awol
I had two years behind, but I could not wait the time
Everytime I thought about it, well I died some more inside

And I had stripes on my back, memories that hurt
For the only time I seen sunshine is when I hit the dirt
Diggin ditches for the chain gang, sleepin in the cold
Oh lord please forgive me for I could not wait no more

And I comin home to see you Jesus
Well it feels so close this time
Please take mercy on this soldier
From the Florida-Georgia line

When they find me they must kill me
Oh Jesus save my soul
I can't go back down to Raiford
I can't take that anymore."

 

The stage slowly dissolves and I find myself floating high in the air. Below me I see a prison. Shit! Am I dead and is this hell? It looks like hell to me.

 

I slowly float lower and lower. Finally I'm over one cell and float down inside, right next to the ceiling.

 

There is someone in the cell. Son-of-a-bitch! I can't believe it! It's Jens! It's my Jens!

 

What the fuck is she doing here? I yell at her, but she can't hear me. She looks really good but really angry! She doing pull-ups and push-ups and working out.

 

"JENS! JENS-S-S-S-S!" I yell until my voice is gone!

 

She looks up, maybe she heard me.

 

NO-O-O! The prison and Jens slowly fade away.

 

Someone is shaking me. I hear a soft muffled voice, "BEN! WAKE-UP!"

 

I open my eyes, hoping to see Jens but it's not her. It's Zarika and Yasmeen and a bunch of others I don't recognize.

 

Zarika and Yasmeen smile as I open my eyes.

 

Damn! I don't feel well! I hurt all over and somewhere there must be a waterfall because there's a roaring in my ears. They're talking to me, but I can't really hear them.

 

I'm tired, I'm really really tired. I want to go back to sleep. Back to my dreams. Back to my Jens.