Friday, September 13, 2019
The Shrewd King 8.5: Penultimatum
Kate found Hunter Chernovsky a place to stay that was in the geographic center of Kates Store, Pray Church and Chernovsky’s Annex a mile from where Gimp Sullivan lived. It was also six miles from where Janelle lived. For a healthy, young man and a bicycle it was a twenty-five minute ride. He saw her four or five days a week.
Hunter Chernovsky finally figured out that he was going to have to let Janelle set the pace and timing of his courtship with her.
It was a hard pill to swallow.
Chernovsky’s biggest successes had always come from going up-tempo. Take the QB out of his game. Trip up the offense by getting ahead of their ability to observe, analyze and react.
As stupid as it sounds, Chernovsky’s breakthrough came when he was pushing Janelle in a tire swing. The swing sets the tempo. Timing the pushes faster only gets you bruised.
Then he remembered the times when a slight hesitation pulled the offensive line out of synch, when they hyper-focused on him and his teammates carried the day.
Five weeks into the courtship Janelle suggested an activity that relieved much of the pressure on Hunter. It was nothing that would ever “make a baby” but it did provide Hunter with much relief. Janelle had learned more than how to bend and join metal in those years on the West Coast.
A week after that, Janelle broached the subject he never wanted to talk about as they were strolling the mile of road Janelle lived on.
“When are we getting married?” Janelle asked.
“Why would we want to do that?” Hunter Chernovsky asked. “We have a great thing going. Why would we want to ruin it?”
Janelle cast him a sidelong glance. “If you aren’t growing, you are dying.”
There were others out for a stroll. One of the others getting the benefit of the last of the day’s breezes and the effects of the mid-evening sun was being pushed in a wheelchair by a thirty-year old African American.
“Hello Mr. Sambaer.” Janelle said to him as he passed.
“Whats with that?” Hunter asked.
“That is his son, Jerry.” Janelle said.
“How old would you guess Mr Sambaer is?” Janelle asked.
Hunter turned it over in his mind. Mr Sambaer’s skin had an unhealthy yellow tinge to it but it was not very wrinkled. On the other hand, he was in a wheelchair.
“I don’t know; 75-80 years old.” Hunter ventured a guess.
“He is a little over sixty.” Janelle informed him.
Hunter frowned. “Was he in an accident or something?”
“Nope.” Janelle said. “Sixty is old if your knees are shot and you can’t get cortisone or chicken-fat injections or new knees.”
“That is the new reality.” Janelle said.
They walked a bit farther as Hunter chewed on that.
“Anyway” he said “we have a good thing going. Why would we want to ruin it?”
“Do we have a good thing going.” Janelle asked.
God, he hated it when women talked in riddles.
“What would you change? It is exactly as if we were married. The only thing missing is a piece of paper.” Hunter said.
“And standing on an altar and promising in front of God and witnesses that we will be true to each other and stay together for life.” Janelle pushed.
“Yeah, well you got that now.” Hunter said. “So what is the difference?”
“If there is no difference then you don’t have any reason to NOT do it. That argument works both ways.” Janelle said.
The corner of unpainted floor Hunter was standing on was getting smaller and smaller.
“I just want to be sure.” Hunter said.
Janelle stopped and reached out both hands to his. He responded by extending his and holding them.
“You just want to be ‘sure’ “ Janelle said. “What does that mean? That you want to see other women?”
“How can anybody ever be sure, one-hundred-and-one percent sure?” Janelle asked. "We could be together twenty-years and a pretty, young girl catches your eye 'Hey hun, hold the phone. I gotta check this one out.'"
“I still can’t see the advantage of getting married. What if it doesn’t work out?” Hunter said. He knew a hundred couples whose relationships had crashed.
One of the things that Hunter liked about Janelle is that she could be logical and rational. That was not working in his favor at this exact moment.
“What if I said getting married was like getting vaccinated. It increased the chances of it working out. Because that is what I believe. Swearing before God and man...most relationships fail because either one party or the other gives up. They just roll over.” Janelle said. “We are both proud people. I cannot see us ‘rolling over’ if we after we married in public.”
Janelle went into a dramatic swooning pose. “There I was, trapped in a loveless marriage!” with huge histrionic emphasis on ‘trapped’.
Hunter guffawed in spite of himself.
“The other thing you aren’t considering are the advantage it offers you as a man.” Janelle said.
“There aren’t any.” Hunter said with finality.
“If there weren’t, then why did virtually every man in the last two-thousand years get married? It is not like Friend of the Court made them.” Janelle challenged.
“Name one advantage.” Hunter said. He was on firm ground here. He and his friends had debated this very point in a hundred beer-fuelled bullshit sessions.
“Who is going to push your wheelchair when you are sixty?” Janelle asked. “Your bastard? Your current thirty-something girlfriend...if she sticks around at all?”
Hunter didn’t dispute that he had abused his knees over the years. Maybe medicine would be back to where he could get artificial ones. Maybe not.
Scrambling over the broken scree of his thoughts, he quickly rejected his parents or brothers and sister..he did not even know if they were alive. He knew that health insurance was history. He also knew that most people were scrambling for basic survival and would be unlikely to help.
“I concede that point.” Hunter said. “I could always just eat my gun.”
“Who will get everything you worked for?” Janelle said. “You are basically the father of a country, Chernovsky’s Annex. You will spend your whole life building and protecting and who will get it. Somebody you never met.”
That cut deep. Hunter Chernovsky was not a man of half-measures. He had strived mightily and accomplished much. He thought about his legacy. To see it blow away like smoke in the wind was a hard thought.
“We could just make a baby.” Hunter offered.
“A bastard. A bastard who will hate you because you did not have the balls or guts to do the right thing. Correction: Hate us because we did not have the balls or guts to do the right thing. No. I don’t think so.” Janelle said.’
“You want everything to stay the same.” Janelle said. “I have a clock that is ticking. I have a limited amount of time I can invest in you. If we ain’t growing, we are dying. You wanna grow or you wanna die. Your call.”
Hunter may have imagined it, but he thought her eyes were filling with liquid.
And with that Janelle gave him a kiss and left him on the road as she walked up the drive to her house, back ramrod straight. She did not look back.