Making It - M
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Making It - M
Now, it didn't bother her that he watched her, or even touched her, when she was watching TV. He'd learned, too, that her emotions while watching TV didn't really count. Just as he'd come to enjoy her expression during orgasm, even if it looked as if she was in agony, so tears while she was watching a show meant that she was enjoying the show. When she wasn't watching TV or having sex with him, when he wasn't experiencing intense emotions through her, she was mostly content; and he could experience her contentedness.
His work was going well. If most of the problems he saw were mundane, he could take pride in producing the cleanest possible solution to the mundane problem. If every question had stretched him, it would probably have worn him out, but he really enjoyed those problems which did stretch him. Even the commute wasn't bad in the spring, although he knew that the summer would bring its own problems, just as the winter had. He was a Chicagoan; he took good weather for the rare blessing it was.
Now that Marilyn was less stressed-out from work, he thought of asking her for more sex time. Still, he wanted her to think of him as a comfort in the world of stress that school had to be. He didn't want her to experiencing his nagging as one more stress, especially nagging about sex. That should be something they both enjoyed mutually. Then his patience paid off; she relented.
"There's nothing wrong with bringing me off, first," she said. "That doesn't mean the first ten times; that means the first time. Still, I expect you to participate in the second act of the night. Really, it feels much better for me when you're in me." Well, that would be much better. He enjoyed his orgasms, really enjoyed them, but watching her orgasms was an entirely different pleasure.
"But you look so cute and sexy when you writhe." She didn't say anything, but she looked stern. Every once in a while, Marilyn was a schoolteacher when he wanted a wife.
"And, Andy, remember the books you were researching back in school? Maybe we could try something new, or somewhat new, on Saturday nights. We'll both be rested then." That was great to hear, although he'd used up most of the possible variations that were primarily his action. He'd have to direct her, but she'd just given him permission to direct -- or, at least, suggest -- her posture and actions. He couldn't understand why she was more rested on weekends during the summer. She had to be in church on Sunday, after all, and didn't really have to be anywhere else. Maybe she was considering continuing the experiments through the teaching year, as well.
He started immediately. She writhed under his hand that night, and they made love on her dresser with him seeing her and her reflection that Saturday.
If the engineering continued to be satisfying and home life went from good to better to even better, the commute got worse. It wasn't the occasional rainstorms; it was the car. It resisted his changing gears, and the grinding sound got louder and louder. When he took it to the garage, they said that the transmission needed to be replaced. He checked with Marilyn. While that couldn't have been in the budget, she said that they had enough money. She lent him her car while his was in the shop.
Annual review at YKL was always in the weeks before vacation. He came into Mr. Kraus's office.
"You wanted to see me, Mr. Kraus?"
"Yes. Andy Trainor, isn't it? You've been with us for a little more than a year. How do you think you've done?"
"I think I've done all right. Gary Davis gives us problems, and each of the team suggests a solution. My solutions have been adopted a fair share of the time -- not at first, but I learned from those mistakes. Sometimes, he gives me some pedestrian problems to work out by myself. If those solutions aren't acceptable, he hasn't said so."
"You solve the problems you're given do you? How about the tuner? Was that the problem Gary stated?" How could that be misbehavior? Hadn't they gone with that design?
"Well, basically it was. The problem was squeezing a tuner into less space. I turned in a solution which was a tuner and was in the space that the customer would allow us. If it wasn't quite the way Gary had described it, it was the basic problem. And Gary said that it was okay."
"Well, he may have told you that it was okay. He told me that it was fucking brilliant. Do you want to be on his team next year. You know that we rotate engineers between teams?"
"Yes, I know that. I'd like to be back on Gary's team."
"Well, he wants you back, too. Anyway, the maximum raise we give after the first year is $2,000. The minimum is $1,000, although not for guys like you we've paid a premium for."
"Skip that. Sometimes the best resumes aren't the best engineers. That's a personnel problem that won't worry you until you're running a team of your own. In your case, we chose damn well. Anyway, the maximum raise after the first year is $2,000. That's what you'll get. Keep up the good work." That was okay, then. He'd really thought that he'd been doing all right, but people sometimes had weird standards. When Marilyn told him that they would judge him on what he wore, he believed her. People did the most amazing things. Luckily, she took care of that part. Anyway, Mr. Kraus seemed to be pleased with what he'd done.
With his vacation coming up, Marilyn made some plans. April and Molly were going to be in town the second week of his vacation, and Marilyn wanted to do some swimming the first week. That sounded good. But she had been teaching, and he didn't know much about what she had taught.
"And, really," he told her, "I said I'd read the books you teach. I'm not going to go over grammar again. I used better grammar in high school than I can use at work, anyway. But literature is what you love. I don't want to be ignorant of what you're doing."
"I don't think they're any different from what you read in school." Well, one of them wasn't. The other three, however, were. They agreed that he would read the three he hadn't read before.
They went swimming on the first Monday of his vacation, the 18th. After dinner, he sat with her head in his lap. He read the poetry from one of the books to her. She seemed happy, and indeed relaxed. Having her head resting so near his cock prevented him from feeling as relaxed, but he was very happy. They'd first done something like this as juniors on campus, and the verse then was Les Fleurs du Mal. That memory might contribute to his arousal.
In bed, after they'd finished their reading, her arousal matched his. She writhed delightfully under his mouth, and then around his cock. The entire week was as sexually enjoyable as their honeymoon had been. He read the rest of the poetry to her on later nights, and the prose by himself when she had other things to do.
The next week, the girls were in town. Dad invited Marilyn and him to join in the family occasions. Sometimes, they had the girls to themselves. One of those afternoons, the 4 of them went to the lake. Molly and April were happier swimming than they were walking, but they seemed to tire of it fairly soon. Well, they got in more swim time in San Diego than he and Marilyn did in Evanston.
The girls' bikinis were scandalous, but Marilyn had told him not to say anything about that. He held his tongue, but Molly wasn't under any such constraint.
"I used to have a little sister I taught about becoming a woman," she said. "Now, I'm between two women, and I'm in the shade of both of them. Andy's optics books can't explain that." Well, that wasn't the sort of shade she meant. The sun was coming almost straight down.
"April, sure," Marilyn said. "Way back at the wedding, I thought she had already become a beauty. But me? I'm an old married woman in a matronly suit with my belly button covered." Marilyn was strangely blind to her own beauty.
"Hah!" Molly said. "My brother isn't the only man on the beach who's lusting after you. After all, April keeps what they really want covered, too."
"I'm not only vertically challenged," Marilyn said. "I'm challenged in the mammaries." Well, she had less breast than either of the girls did, and she kept them decently covered, but what she had was incredibly sexy.
"Yeah? Hold your towel so it covers your left hand. Walk to the end of the beach and back. We'll check how many men follow you with their eyes." That was an incredibly bad idea. He didn't want Marilyn flirting with other men, and he couldn't see why Molly, of all people, would suggest that.
"Andy," April said, "you're jealous." Of course, he was jealous; he had to keep Marilyn. At least, she didn't look like she would follow Molly's suggestion.
"Well, I have a license to be jealous." He held up the wedding ring.
With the girls living with Dad that week, he and Marilyn practically moved in as well. They went home at night, but they ate dinner and two lunches there. Marilyn and Molly walked outside one evening after dinner. They were gone a long time. April was watching television, and he watched her. It was much less fun than watching TV with Marilyn.
"My turn tomorrow night?" April asked when Marilyn returned.
"You see, Marilyn?" Dad said. "You thought you were marrying one guy. What you were really signing up for was being counselor for an entire family. When do I get my turn?"
"You don't," he said. He wasn't all that fond of sharing Marilyn, even that aspect of Marilyn. "She took Developmental Psych in school, not Abnormal Psych."
"'Honor thy father and thy mother,' Andy," Marilyn quoted. The conversation turned to other things, and then they got interested in the TV show. It was a love story, and Marilyn occasionally looked at him during it. As they were in front of witnesses, they sat in different chairs. After the news, he and Marilyn went home.
"Is engineering turning out to be what you expected?" she asked in the car.
"Yeah. More." How could he explain this? "The classes were all learning with a few problems to solve along the way -- and those somebody else had already solved once. Now there are problems most of the time, and you only learn something to solve a particular problem." She was silent, maybe digesting this information, while they drove home and climbed the stairs. As usual, he let her go ahead, and he watched her hips flex. Inside the apartment, he bolted the door. That was his own symbol that they had left the world outside and were only dealing with each other.
"What do you want?" Marilyn asked suddenly.
"You." An honest answer, correct long term, too, but he wanted her more immediately right then.
"Well, you have me." Now, that was good news.
"So, how do you want me?" That sounded intriguing, and the sexual implications seemed to be deliberate, if he understood her tone.
"Really? Not limited to two orgasms?" Would she go that far?
"You can have me tonight the way you want me, so long as I can get you when I want you." Well, that was all right. When she wanted him, then he had to stop teasing.
He picked her up to kiss her, and then to remove her blouse. He kissed some newly-revealed skin. Then he had to put her down because the bra was really a job for both hands. That revealed less area of skin, but the revealed skin was even more attractive. He kissed the smoothness of both breasts before getting to the nipples. After a bit of that, it was time to remove her shoes, her jeans, her pantyhose, and her panties. By that time, she was not only cooperating, she smelled like she was aroused.
"You, too," she said. So, he stripped and dumped the clothes on the top of his dresser. When he picked her up this time, he slid her skin along his. He kissed her face, her breasts, and just above her navel. Then he put her on the bed.
"I love your strength," she said. "How you can pick me up." And he loved her smooth skin. Sliding it against his made picking her up such fun. Well, sliding it against his was fun, but the real function of that skin was to be kissed. She'd said anything he wanted, so he started on her toes. He sucked each one, and then moved further on her foot. She pulled it back when he got to the bottom of her foot.
"Tickles," she said. Well, he was used to skipping her feet. She'd granted him freedom, but only limited freedom. He started on her ankle and kissed higher. As he got close, he could smell her arousal clearly. Moreover, she was moving under his kisses and licks. She wasn't writhing yet, but she was wriggling.
By the time he got to her center, she was nice and wet. He lapped up some of that moisture. She seemed likely to be so close that any clitoral stimulation would have her writhing. Well, he should give her a little more time to store up her arousal. He licked her labia, but avoided her clitoris. She, however, didn't want to wait. She tugged on his hair.
"Andy, do it," she said. Well, he'd promised her that she would get him when she asked for him, and that probably included his tongue. He licked the inner labia in a long stroke that ended on her clitoris.
She writhed. He held on to her pelvis to keep his mouth on her clitoris. He licked and then sucked. She writhed beautifully. If he couldn't see it, he could feel it under his mouth and around him.
"Andy, let up." This time she was pulling his hair away from her. He raised his head. Maybe if he did what she asked, he could see her writhe again. His right cheek was resting on a soft thigh, and he turned his head to could kiss that softness.
"I love you," he said. She didn't answer for a minute, and he went back to kissing her and listening to her breath. It was rough and fast, but slowly coming back to normal.
"You, too." She presumably meant that she loved him, too. That was always nice to hear. He switched to the thigh on his left and kissed down to her knee and back in very small steps. Her breathing sounded more relaxed, and he started licking upwards.
"Give me a minute," she said. Well, as long as he could kiss her beauty, he would be happy to give her as long as she wanted. He kissed down towards her knee, again. When he got there, he got his arms under her knees. He pushed his arms up the bed until his hands could reach her breasts. He stroked her nipples, which responded immediately.
Figuring that she'd had her minute, he kissed upwards on her thigh. His shoulders were under her legs and raising them. He didn't go directly for her labia this time. He wanted to see her writhe instead of just feeling it. His kisses trailed up the top of her thigh to her mound. His kisses on her pubic hair were mere touches of his lips instead of any sucking.
To see her, he had to use his finger on her G-spot instead of his mouth on her clitoris. He had to get his right hand back, and he withdrew both arms at the same time to keep his balance. He parted her labia with the fingers of his right hand. He slipped his index finger into her, watching as it went in easily. He pulled it out, and slipped two in. She was well lubricated, and they went in with no resistance.
He found her G-spot and wriggled his finger tips on it. She responded immediately. He could see her tense. He looked over her body from his position between her legs. His fingers were operating by feel. She stiffened.
Her vagina clasped his fingers. "Oh, yes," he said. He could see her writhe, see waves of tensing muscle cross her abdomen, feel her vagina clasp his fingers, relax, and clasp them again. The sight was both arousing and endearing. "Darling." That didn't express how much he loved her then.
When she stopped writhing, he pulled his fingers back from her G-spot but kept them in her. He kissed her sweet belly. When he looked up, she was looking at him. He tried to express his love through his eyes. Unsatisfied that he could, he went back to kissing her thigh.
"This time, you," she said.
"But I am in you." She hadn't said "his cock"; at least, he didn't think she had.
"You said." Well, he had made a promise, and he didn't want to quibble over the precise words. He wanted her to trust him.
"Okay." When she said 'this time,' she probably hadn't meant 'right now.' Her tone wasn't desperate. So he kissed a path up to her mouth, stopping at many of the interesting places along the way. That didn't include her vulva, which she'd sort of put off limits, but it did include her breasts with their responsive nipples.
When he did reach her mouth, she took his cock in her hand. As she wasn't tugging, he took his time exploring her mouth and tasting her tongue. As he moved higher on her face, she placed him at her warm, wet entrance.
"Oh, darling!" She was a darling; she was his darling, and she welcomed him into her. She was slick around him as he went in. Her walls moved aside easily, but she clasped him warmly when he was all the way in.
After kissing her hairline, he began the oldest dance. As he moved in and out, he watched her face. Her expression was loving, then thoughtful, then somehow inward. She looked worried, then almost pained. She grimaced just before he felt her clasp his cock. He managed one more stroke through those warm clutches.
"Oh, love," he said as he drove into her and emptied himself in her receptive depths. When he collapsed, he managed to collapse to his left side. He came out, and the last drops were spent on the sheet. When he'd recovered, he cradled her in the spoon.
"I love you."
"You lust after me," she answered. Okay, but that wasn't all his emotion towards her.
"Well, yeah. That too."
"That's okay. Sometimes, I lust after you, too." She was a darling, and funny too. They fell asleep cuddling.
After breakfast the next morning, he returned to bed and went back to reading the Freshman literature book. Marilyn only wanted him to read the poetry to her. He could see why. The stories were mostly short with thin plots and teenage characters. They were interspersed with factual, and vastly over-simplified, essays. Still, it was fun and he had to remember that Marilyn didn't want him hanging around watching her all day. Then he heard the vacuum in the living room. Why hadn't she asked him?
"That's my job," he reminded her.
"Not in the summer, Andy. "When I'm done in here, move onto the couch. I'll do the bedroom." But she still cooked in the summer. Well, not this week, and maybe that was why she reassigned that task. Anyway, the household tasks were hers to assign. He crawled back into bed and into the book.
They had lunch with Dad, the girls, and Mrs. Bryant. George had a new baby daughter. Mrs. Bryant had photos, but Andy's fingers were greasy.
"After lunch, okay?" And after lunch he looked at all the snapshots. Marilyn glanced at them and then left with The Moppet for their talk.
After he'd examined the pictures and said how cute the baby was, he and Dad carried their chairs out to the back yard. Molly sat on the rattan couch that was out there all summer.
"Well, Molly," Dad said, "I liked your grades. They looked like serious courses, too."
"Yeah," he said. "An impressive record."
"Not as impressive as you made. What was it? All A?"
"Not my sophomore year. Not only was there Phys-Ed, I got a B in Drafting."
"My B s are impressive; your B s are failures?"
"Well, Drafting is an engineering course. Besides, I didn't say that the B s were impressive, but the whole record. You had three A s this last year."
"Really, Andy," Dad said. "Your standards for your sister are more sensible than your standards for yourself. I'm glad Marilyn enjoyed your being on the Dean's List. Somebody should have."
"Well, did you see that she was on the list first semester of her senior year?"
"Yeah," Molly said, "You both were. She sent me a copy."
"And The Moppet's doing great, too. When I got straight A s, I wasn't burdened with gym classes."
"Your 'Moppet' is a grown woman. Some day she's going to rebel against that nickname."
"Now, Molly," Dad said, "pick your own fights. Actually, I'd prefer that my children not fight each other. Andy says that in love, and April knows it."
"Besides, Andy's enemies can't be Marilyn's friends. She told me so."
"Well, if April wants me to stop, she only needs to say so openly."
"She wants you to stop," Dad said. "She wants you to keep doing it, too. I suspect that the only reason she hasn't thrown a tantrum over your use of that nickname is that she suspects that you wouldn't keep using it if she did."
"She doesn't need to throw a tantrum. All she has to do is to ask me."
"Well, at her age, you threw more than one tantrum because you wanted to throw a tantrum. It had little enough to do with the ostensible subject." The conversation went on to kids. Mrs. Bryant brought out some ice tea. When she went back inside, the conversation changed to her kids and their kids.
"Jealous, Dad?" Molly asked.
"Graduate first. Get married second. I can wait."
"Well, Andy is married and a college graduate."
"Whether a particular couple have children or not is up to three persons -- the husband, the wife, and God. Potential Aunts aren't consulted. Which are willing and which unwilling in a particular situation is no business of anybody else. I've kept my nose out, and you'd be well advised to do the same.
"So," Dad continued. "What are the positives about becoming an accountant?" So Molly told her take on her chosen profession until Marilyn came back with April.
"Mr. Trainor," Marilyn asked Dad, "you tell Andy everything you hear from Molly and April, don't you?"
"Pretty much. They don't tell me many secrets. I suspect that they tell you more."
"So why doesn't it go the other way? Why didn't you tell them that Andy made Phi Beta Kappa?"
"Did you?" Dad asked him.
"She told me to." She had. So why was she arguing about it now?
"Andy! They invited you to join. I said to accept. You're not a member of Phi Beta Kappa because your wife told you to join. You're a member because you had an exceptional scholastic record."
"Actually," Dad said, "he's a member because of both reasons. And, really, I didn't write the girls for two reasons, as well. He didn't tell me, and you didn't tell me." Then Dad turned to the girls and him. "You know, when you were younger, it made sense for me to be the conduit of information. Now, it makes less sense. You could write each other."
"Yeah," The Moppet said, "but one stamp is cheaper."
"Actually," Molly said, "she and I talk on the phone. And, really, if Andy didn't tell you, what makes you think he'd have told us?"
"You see, Marilyn," Jim Trainor explained, "Andy answers many of my direct questions." That was unfair.
"I answer all of them."
"'That's none of your God-damned business,' is not what I'd call an answer." It was an answer; it just was an answer that Dad didn't like.
"It's an answer, and, when I've used it, a precisely accurate one."
"Anyway, he answers questions, but he doesn't volunteer much information. Even when he introduced us, he didn't tell me that you were important in his life or anything."
"I could have been just a casual acquaintance?" Marilyn asked.
"Except that you would have been the first casual acquaintance whom he had ever introduced to me. For that matter, you were president of MYF when he was a member, weren't you?"
"Well, we were both in church most of that year, and he didn't introduce us then. Beside which, Andy may not have a very communicative mouth, but he has a very communicative face. You were damn important to him. How important he was to you was less obvious." 'Less obvious' was a wild understatement. It had been a damned mystery to him, and a crucial one. But...
"Well, it all turned out well in the end."
"Except that this isn't the end," Marilyn said. "We haven't lived ever after, let alone happily ever after." Well, they wouldn't live ever after. The problem was how to keep her happy for the rest of his life.
"Then, you have to tell me what would make you happy. I'm willing enough, but maybe not understanding enough."
"Maybe?" Molly said. "Andy, everybody here knows you're a really bright guy. Understanding, you're not."
"Well," Marilyn told her, "if he wants to know how to make me happy, he's been remarkably successful these past two years." Now, that was good to hear. "I'm not so sure that Andy's devoid of understanding. Now, understanding his sister is a different task. Do you understand Andy?"
"I don't. Does anybody?" The Moppet asked. "I like him. Andy is my very favorite brother, but I've given up trying to understand him." He was her only brother, but she'd called him that before.
"Well, I'll take that from you, being chosen favorite out of such a wide field."
"Dad," April changed the subject completely. "What would you think of Molly and me moving here? It would only be school vacations, of course. But Mom's custody expires next year."
"Well, what would your mother think?"
"Mom wouldn't like it. I don't claim that she would. I'm not talking about when she has any say in it. You send Molly's tuition check to Mom. Do you have to?"
"Well, the check is made out to the school. Sending it to her is just evidence that I'm fulfilling my legal requirements. Still, however dead a marriage is, it involves obligations which aren't dead. Despite what she thinks, I'm not interested in doing something just to damage her. I did her enough damage."
"That was her fault."
"Yeah. You came to that conclusion base on your close observation of the marriage." This was an old theme with Dad. Probably the girls had heard it before; certainly he had. "Baby, even Andy, who saw and heard way too much, doesn't know enough about that marriage to make that judgment. Even so, fault in divorce is a legal fiction. 'No fault' is a newer legal fiction. You go into marriage promising to be a good husband to that woman.... Let me start over.
"Anne marries Bob. Anne promises to be a good wife to Bob. Bob promises to be a good husband to Anne. Nobody promises to be some sort of good spouse in the abstract. So you're right; 100% of the blame is Margaret's, but your implication is wrong; 100% of the blame is mine. I was a failure as a husband to Margaret. However good a husband I might have been to some other woman, I failed utterly as a husband to the woman I promised to be a good husband to.
"And, you'll notice, I didn't try again. While I'll entertain the hypothesis that my skills as a husband would have pleased some other woman, as a practical matter I never identified the woman with whom I would risk it."
"Well," April said, "you're a success as a father." The Moppet loved Dad, and it was reciprocated. He couldn't blame him, nor -- really -- her.
"One third of a success. Molly hasn't flown quite out of the nest yet, and you've barely begun. Now, Andy seems to be quite an accomplishment." What made him Dad's accomplishment?
"Hey, don't I get any credit?"
"My son, you get 100% of the credit for your own life -- well, Marilyn has to share the credit. She shares the life, especially the part you enjoy." Dad was dead right, even if he was trying to insinuate something smutty. "You wouldn't claim that there is much credit to go around for your high-school years, would you?
"But my credit, and it is only partial, is for what my child is. There isn't a division between what Andy accomplishes and what Jim accomplishes in Andy's life. As far as I contributed anything, it shows in what you are. I contributed half your genes and a bit of tuition." A smidgeon under half his genes, but a good deal of tuition.
"And some good advice -- and more good letting alone." Marilyn said. She always saw Dad's good side, being generous to a fault.
"Well, yes," Dad responded. "A lot of good parenting is abstaining from pissing in the soup. And, that, April, is why I'm reluctant about pissing in the soup of your life and Molly's. You have to see, too, that your mother's control allows me to be the lax parent. If you did live here, even as an adult, you'd have to follow some rules that I haven't needed to impose when you're on holiday."
"Well," asked Molly, "what?"
"Nope! One thing I'm not going to do is allow you to parent-shop. I will point out a couple of things. I attend church, and you attend with me. That's no imposition three Sundays in the year. You might find it one, and it's one your mother doesn't require. Then, too, I don't restrict your dating when you're in Evanston, because your situation does that. Now, you'll be on campus most of the year, but you might not be as happy spending three months without dating as you are spending two weeks without dating."
"You'd forbid me dating?" Molly asked.
"No. But I'd impose some restrictions as to meeting the boy and when and what."
"You didn't impose any restrictions on Andy."
"As a point of fact," Marilyn said, "he did. What Andy did was his business; what Andy did in the house was your dad's business."
"And," Dad added, "restrictions on daughters are generally stronger than restrictions on sons in this culture. And, if you moved here you'd accept my rules before you saw them. I doubt that your mother would take you back because I was too strict."
"Would you listen to Marilyn?"
"I'd listen to her advice. I'd always listen to her advice on something like this. Maybe not on lending policies, but she wouldn't offer advice on that. The responsibility would be mine, though, and not Marilyn's, and, therefore, the decision would be mine."
"And," Marilyn said, "you have to understand that the advice I give you under seal of secrecy isn't necessarily the advice I'd give your dad to allow. When I was in Zeta House, a girl asked me what were the rules -- rules between he sexes. I told her there were many sets of rules, but 'good girls don't have sex' is a fine rule. She was rather surprised. But, if your dad were to ask me, I'd advise his making that a rule. Sometimes, you choose to break that rule, but it's way too early for sex if you're not ready to break a rule."
"So, I should forbid it, and they should ignore me?"
"So, you should definitely forbid it. They might arrive at a situation where they decide to break that prohibition. 'Ignore' is too strong a word. One thing they should definitely keep in mind is that you would disapprove if you knew."
"Are you making one rule for us and another for yourself?" Molly asked. Well, their sex life was nobody's business but their own. On the other hand, they'd been discussing, if quite abstractly, Molly's sex life -- April's, too. And that made him more bashful than the inquiry.
"Well, Mom disapproved, and I knew she would. I knew that Dad would have disapproved, too, if he'd known."
"He did." Hadn't she known that? He'd been surprised, but it had been damn late for recriminations when he'd found out that her dad had known.
"And did Dad disapprove?" Molly asked. That he could answer.
"He was never consulted."
"And if I wanted to live in a single room off campus next year, would Dad spring for it?" Well, Dad had been consulted about that.
"Look," Marilyn said, "since everybody says they respect my advice, I'll repeat some unsolicited advice that I gave a bunch of women in the church -- slightly changed to fit the circumstances.
"When a woman goes off to college, she's going to meet a lot of new guys, presumably some of them attractive. I think she should go on the Pill before arriving on campus. That's not saying she'll have sex. That's saying that if she meets a guy and gets carried away, it won't end in disaster. That's saying that if she goes on a date with a guy who is moderately attractive, and he turns out to be a rapist, she has one fewer problem than she would have otherwise. And, since she makes the decision before she meets any of the guys, the decision to take the Pill isn't a decision to have sex. You should go on the Pill a year from now, and your father should encourage that decision." Apparently, 'you' was The Moppet. Marilyn wasn't speaking for him at all!
"Well, Marilyn," Dad said. "That's one piece of advice from you that I won't follow." And, while he thought Dad should do anything Marilyn suggested, he didn't think he should follow that advice. On the other hand...
"Really, Dad, is it so different from the advice you gave me about condoms? 'If you have one, you don't have to use it; if you don't have one, you might wish that you had brought it.'"
"Did he really say that?" April asked.
"More or less," Dad said. "But boys are different from girls. And, really, I wasn't telling him to have sex. I was telling him to be careful if he did. That was a protection for the girls he would date."
"Yeah," Marilyn said. "Boys are different from girls. One way they're different is that boys don't get raped."
"Well, Marilyn," Dad asked, "did you really run that risk?" How could Dad think he would do such a thing? How could Marilyn?
"From Andy, no, objectively. Andy always took no for an answer. But my situation was Russian roulette, and so is Molly's and April's. And they won't be dating Andy. If you say that I went on dates with Andy, you say I wasn't in any danger, but if you say I went on dates with a guy, then I was in danger of the chamber including a bullet. I was groped by a guy on a house date. I wasn't raped, and I don't think anyone ever was on a house date. Frat guys can be selfish idiots, but that idiocy would be extreme.
"A house date means that your sorority agrees to date some fraternity. The house provides one person for the date of one person of the other house. So, it's sort of a first date, except that you don't get a choice and neither does the guy. For a first date, you get chosen personally, at least, and you accept that guy. Anyway, after that, I wore padded bras. If the guy wanted to grab a tit, he would end up grabbing foam." Now, that was a surprise. And he washed her bras, too. He would have noticed if one was padded.
"I didn't know you had padded bras."
"Andy, listen to what I said. When a guy that I didn't want to touch me there grabbed me, he got foam. By the time you touched my tits, I was quite ready for you to do so. For that matter, if I hadn't been ready, you gave me a chance to stop you." Telling about their making out was terribly embarrassing. "April has to find another solution, though." And that comment about The Moppet's breasts was worse.
"You make it sound like a war," Dad said.
"Well, in some ways it is. You have to have a date, and the boy wants to know what he can get for being a date. Apparently, boys don't need to have a date quite so badly. You were a boy once, did you stay up nights worrying whether anyone at all would ask you to a dance?"
"Well, I can remember wondering whether a particular girl cared for me. I can remember walking to the phone, being too nervous to make the call, and coming back later."
"Yeah. But that was a particular girl. We go through that, too. And in high school it seems we always fixate on the most popular boy instead of one who is likely to call." And boys don't? He certainly had.
"Like fixating on the president of MYF."
"Now, son," Dad said, "you won that one. Patience is a virtue." And it had been.
"Well," Marilyn said, "I was hardly the most popular one." Maybe not, but that was simply bad judgment on the part of a lot of boys. And not nearly enough boys had shown that misjudgment.
"You were far enough above me to turn me down," he pointed out.
"I wasn't above you at all." That wasn't true at all. "I was going steady." Well, that was.
"As to living off campus, Molly," Dad said, "you have to understand that Andy cost me less in room and board for the last two years of his education than he did for the first two." That didn't sound right.
"That doesn't include the hotel." It couldn't have.
"The honeymoon was a wedding gift. It wasn't your school expenses. Anyway, I had already said that I'd cover his tuition and living expenses. It seemed to me that I'd be imposing my morality on him -- not my morality as in what I practiced, my moral choices for what he should practice -- to refuse to pay less than I had guaranteed just because that room might be used for what I wouldn't permit in this house.
"I didn't know whether Marilyn would visit, but I knew damn well that he wanted that room because he hoped -- maybe expected -- that she would.
"Then, too, do I hold a double standard?" Dad was on a roll. He'd talk until he was interrupted, and Marilyn was too polite to interrupt such a graybeard. "Yes I do. But I'm influenced by society's double standard. Andy wasn't going to ruin his life. And that wasn't because Andy was sensible, not even because Marilyn was sensible. It was because nothing, from a publicly known affair to a child out of wedlock is one tenth as damaging to a man as it is to a woman. I'm sorry, Marilyn, but in this I have to worry about my own children."
"Well," Marilyn said, "I can't object to that. You've always been kind to me, and your generosity to the two of us really has helped me as much as it has helped Andy. After all, I was grateful at the time for your being more understanding than my parents. It would be hypocritical to accuse you now for the same actions.
"But something you have said raises a question I've asked others. Let's leave April out of it; she's still in high school now, though the question is about the future."
"Well," Dad interrupted. He wasn't being polite. "She'll be going to medical school. Her after-school future is a long way away."
Marilyn finished her thought. "While you wouldn't enjoy either one, which would you consider the greater disaster: Molly had an affair and then broke up; Molly got married and then broke up?"
"Well, speaking from experience, the broken marriage is a much greater disaster. It would have been, even though I don't really have the experience here, a greater disaster even without children."
"Then seeing this," Marilyn pressed on, "seeing that you're expecting to walk Molly down the aisle one day, would you really say 'not until marriage' to her?"
"You're a hard woman? Why did I think you were so sweet and gentle?"
"The size fools big men like you and Andy." It might have fooled him once, though he couldn't remember when. He was quite clear now that she had the upper hand.
"Well, given the choice that you've expressed, you're right. If Molly is ready to go to bed with a man and I'm not sure of him, I'd be a perfect ass to insist upon marriage. That doesn't take into consideration that a single mother's life -- which is hard enough -- is a damn sight harder when she was never married."
"So your wishes to your daughter is that she doesn't have sex with a man until she is certain that he's the right one, but that she doesn't rush into marriage even then, and that -- married or not -- she practices birth control until the couple is in a position to raise a kid."
"In terms of what's good for their welfare, yes. I still don't like to think of my daughter having sex. Is that just emotion?"
"Probably," Marilyn answered him. "The lesson, Molly and April, is to go on the Pill but don't let your dad know."
"Gee, thanks." Dad changed the subject again. "You know, I say that kids make divorce worse, and it does. From a totally selfish standpoint, though, much of my pleasure these days comes from my children -- and, until today, from my daughter-in-law. I'm not sure that my pleasure is justification for putting you through hell, though. On the other hand, what's the alternative? Would you really rather not have been born? You kids could not possibly have had different biological parents."
"Well," he said. "For all its pain, my life has had more pleasure." This last two years, in particular, and the future looked bright, too.
"Me, too," said April. Molly nodded.
"I'm surprised at Andy's response." Dad said. This year, sure. But I can remember your childhood. And you were so much more aware of the arguments and aware of them so much longer."
"Yeah. I wouldn't have said that a year ago. Maybe I'm valuing the recent past more than the first 12 years of school." How could he explain this? "But, then, I've good reason to see a bright future. And it's not only Marilyn. I go to work, and they give me concrete problems to solve, and I solve a damned fair percentage of those problems. That's not only my ego talking. They said something like that at my first annual review. The company has a range of raises every year, and I got the top of the range. And, then after work, I go home to Marilyn." His life was almost unalloyed joy, well almost. "The commute is no fun, but it's seldom a real pain, and the rest of the week is one pleasure after another. Technically, I probably don't know anything while I sleep, but I go to sleep with Marilyn in my arms; I wake up with Marilyn in my arms. I'll count the sleep time as pleasure, too."
"You, know, Molly," Dad said, "Andy told me quite brutally that I didn't have the right to an opinion about his relationship to Marilyn." It hadn't been brutal at all. "I tried to refrain from expressing one." If he'd tried, he hadn't been very successful. "But I had one, as who would not. That, too, influenced me. She was, obviously, the best thing that ever happened to your brother. I saw it. While you saw less of them than I did, didn't you see it?"
"Sure. He was different, even when she wasn't around."
"Well, if he was obviously happier with her, and, moreover, better off, then I would have felt damned guilty impeding that relationship. So, if you want me to subsidize your shacking up with some man, you have a better chance if the man makes you obviously better off. It's not that you'd think that you're better off, it's that all the family thinks you're better off."
"So you don't want to restrict us in any way." Molly was using her most sarcastic tone of voice. "You just want to make the condition that the relationship does April or me as much good as Marilyn did for Andy. Not that that's a restriction or anything." That would be impossible. Neither of the girls was as low as he'd been before Marilyn lifted him.
"What makes you think that I don't want to restrict you in any way?" Dad asked. He had to laugh, and the girls joined in.
The next week, Marilyn still had time with the girls, but he had only dinners. He was back at work. The crew was mostly new. Gary, of course, was permanent. Dan and Bob had been on his crew for two years, which was the usual max. Tom had also been rotated to another crew. The replacements were Stew, an experienced guy who was starting his sixth year with the company, Joe, who was starting his third, and Carl, who was a new hire just out of Renssalaer.
"Okay," Gary said. "We don't have a shakedown period. We start tomorrow with a new task. Sorry about that, Carl, but any questions about the company, bring them to me, although Stew should know about as much as I do. We start on the serious design questions independently, then we work together at the end." Tuesday, as Gary had promised, there was a new problem. It wasn't an intriguing one, but they were paying him to solve them all.
Stew's answer was much like his, and the group worked on refining that and then on breadboarding it. Then he and Stew had separate, and cookbook, problems while the other two worked with Gary on redesigning a circuit to be more compact.
He'd finished all the poetry in the three books that he was reading to Marilyn. He'd finished the prose, too, but that he read by himself. He was tempted to suggest the senior book; he'd read that one, but not to her. Instead, she brought home a book of love poems from the library. That was better than reading about Jesse James to her.
"You don't mind?" She asked. Why would he mind? He had her in his arms -- well, in his lap -- in the daytime, too. He might say 'arms,' but what really mattered was touching and knowing that she was there.
"I love it. I'd love reading you the phone book with your head in my lap, and this is much better."
So they read love poems, which were fitting, and a few poems which were somewhat more erotic, which even was more fitting. She occasionally acknowledged his erections by rubbing her scalp against his zipper, but nothing she said or did suggested that she minded them.
Marilyn told him that he needed more clothes. He had thought that they were in a money pinch, but she was in charge of that.
"Are the pants you wear comfortable?" she asked. Well, sometimes, at home, he opened the waist after dinner and let the belt hold it closed.
"They're beginning to feel tight in the waist." So, when she took him to a department store and picked out what he should wear, she had him check them for fit and get them a little loose for later weight gain.
"You know," she said, "you eat like a horse and never put on weight. Well, now, you're beginning to put on weight." Well, she was cooking all the time, and he was enjoying meals instead of reading during them. It wouldn't be fair, though, to blame her.
"You think? I hardly ever walk any more." And the last was true. He certainly couldn't walk to work, and, once there, the team shared office space so that to and from the cafeteria at noon was almost all his walking.
"I think." So she bought a scale. She had him weigh himself, and she would put him on a diet if his weight went significantly higher. She always took care of him.
Marilyn managed their social life, and had some of her own during the summer. She kept up their connection to Dad. Probably, if she hadn't, the old man would have kept in touch with him. He couldn't claim that he would have remembered to keep in touch with Dad. She had him over for lunch towards the end of summer. After lunch, they went for a walk.
"Really, Dad," he said, "I could take the walk and leave you two the privacy." Marilyn had chosen the third-floor apartment, but he still didn't like for her to have to climb up and down
"I'm an old man, but not old enough to fear a few flights of stairs." And, too, this way she and Dad could determine how long they would talk.
They both looked pleased with the outcome of their conversation. The girls, sure; they were younger, and Marilyn was a woman who had recent experience of their probable future. But Dad? What did Marilyn have to tell Dad, and what would he accept even if she had greater wisdom? Maybe it was about the girls. She had experience at the other end of the parenting question. He wasn't sure he wanted her advising Dad on them; she was awfully permissive.
They went, once again, to Gary's Labor-Day barbecue. On the way, she told him that he should circulate and speak to others. "You have me at home every night." Well, he had the ones he knew at work every day, and she was better company. When he brought Marilyn her plate, she was deep in conversation with other women, and he knew he should get lost. They guys were talking sports. The food was fine, but Marilyn had put him on a diet again. One plate, and that was it. The kids, unlike the adults, looked like they were having a great time.
Gary Junior knew him, and he ran to him when he was being chased in tag. He lifted him up out of reach of 'It.' The girl looked at her prey and decided to chase somebody else. He swung the boy around in two circles and lowered him to the ground. Some other kids wanted to be swung around, too, and soon he had a line waiting to play with him. The barbecue was much more fun than he'd expected.
He held his breath when Marilyn went back to school. She refused to let him watch her writhe the last school year. She didn't reinstitute that rule, though, and he tried to keep his actions within the bounds she would accept. Saturdays were beginning to be problematic. Even with the tiny variations the books made, there were only so many positions. Most of the variations that they hadn't already tried meant that he had to direct her. She didn't seem to object.
"Look," he finally told her. "There are only so many positions, you know."
"Probably." Well, there were certainly only so many in the books he'd read, and the last new book from the library hadn't produced any new variations.
"Would you really mind repeating some on Saturdays?"
"Andy, I wouldn't mind at all. Do what appeals to you on Saturdays." Her words were more permissive than she really intended, but he could repeat on Saturdays. He'd ask her for her opinions, too.
If Gary had recommended a book he hadn't read, he would have asked Marilyn whether he could purchase it. Gary hadn't, and he still kept to the budget. He did take engineering books out of the public library. Often, he had to renew them. He studied them across from Marilyn as she graded papers or prepared lesson plans.
When he didn't have a book out, or just when his brain was tired, he read one of the SF magazines he still got. He felt a little guilty because Marilyn didn't have the option he had of putting her work away when she felt like it.
He kept doing the cleaning chores she had given him. None of them were onerous. Usually, except for Saturdays, Marilyn got the mail, since she got home first. One Monday, she showed him the pledge card which had come from Aldersgate. This time it was for both of them jointly.
"What do you think, Andy? We're making it, now?" That was news.
"Andy! You balance the checkbook." Sure. That was one of his chores, and he found arithmetic easier than she did. But why did she want to know now? Was she afraid that the balance was wrong?
"Every month, when the statement comes in." Which seemed to satisfy her, because she went back to the previous issue.
"Do you think we should pay $20 a week. I've felt a little guilty." Well spending was hers to decide; giving should be, too. On the other hand, if the subject was guilt, Aldersgate was better off than First Urbana.
"The church I feel guilty about is First Urbana. We were poor back then, but they were so nice to us. Our parents, at least, were supporting Aldersgate, and we'll be supporting it now."
"How long did we go there?" He could look at a calendar, but he'd give her an approximate answer first. That might answer her real question.
"Well, we attended more than 2 1/2 years. Those were school years, say 3/4ths of a calendar year. Five halves times 3/4ths is 15/8ths. I could look it up on the calendar, but a little more than 15/8ths is about 2 years."
"A hundred weeks then?" That was close, and she seemed to only want close.
"Would you want to send them $400?" Sure. That would be good, but she handled the budget.
"Could we afford it?"
"Sure. September was one of those three-paycheck months, again, wasn't it?" Well, 3 paychecks cleared in September, but 3 paychecks came in August.
"August, really. August 31st was the third paycheck."
"Why don't we? We'll start the new pledge to Aldersgate in January." That sounded great, but if they were making it, maybe he didn't have to scrimp on books and things.
"If we're making it, can I start buying books and tools again?"
"Sure. My family had adult allowances as well as kids' allowances. Why don't we say $20 apiece each week? Would that be enough?" Per week, it would be plenty. But individual purchases might be more than that.
"Cumulative? That would be more than enough."
"What do you mean cumulative?" He hadn't expressed himself clearly again.
"Some tools -- even some books -- cost more than $20 each. If I don't spend the money this week and next week, I have up to $60 to spend the week after next." That didn't count gas expenditures, but $60 was a lot to spend at one time.
She even raised the amount for his Christmas gift to her. He'd cheated a bit last time. The perfume came under the cost, but not enough under to cover the sales tax. This year, he bought her a larger bottle of the same perfume. She was spending so much time preparing for teaching that a book would just be a temptation to resist.
She celebrated the 24th with a fancy breakfast. When he went into the bedroom after washing the dishes, she was in bed. Was she sick? Was she just tired? -- she put so much effort into Christmas.
"Are you feeling all right?" he asked her.
"I'm feeling fine. I was just a little cold." She pointed at the robe and nightgown she had been wearing. That meant that she wasn't wearing anything, and -- if she was feeling well -- that meant that she was naked for him.
"Darling!" He ditched his own clothes and joined her under the sheets. He hugged her soft, sexy body to him as they kissed, and she hugged back. He watched her face as she writhed to his fingers. Then, she was hot and juicy when he entered her. He tried to be work slowly, but her hands were all over him. When she writhed under him, he erupted deep within her. They cuddled afterwards, and she wasn't in a hurry to get up.
Her Christmas gift to him was a suit. He was already proud to wear the pen-and-pencil set and the tie clip she had given him in earlier years, but these weren't seen that often. Now, everyone would see the suit.
They went to her parents' New-Year's Eve party. They lived so far away that he drove. Consequently, he drank only pop. Marilyn was lively during the party, but she almost fell asleep on the drive home. The parking lot was too slippery for it to be safe for him to carry her. She woke up enough to get to the apartment and undress, but she left her makeup on -- something she almost never did. She was sexy as hell, but he was too conscious of her tiredness to make advances. She slept heavily, and he could stroke her until he fell asleep.
There were a string of straight-forward problems at YKL. He couldn't object; they were, after all, paying him for his time. He was damned lucky he enjoyed his work. Still, he enjoyed this cook-book stuff less. Marilyn was busy, and she told him to vacuum at times it would be least distracting to her. As long as she came to bed at night, his actions were hers to command from dinner time to bed time.
Some of those times, though, he got his pleasure early, too. She would break from prep and go watch TV. She would always sit within touching distance, sometimes on his lap.
His allowance was cumulative. That meant that he could now afford to buy books. He kept notes on what his allowance was and what he'd bought with it. Every week there was gas. When Marilyn didn't have him on the diet, he bought an occasional candy bar. Nothing in the apartment needed to be repaired, which meant that he didn't need to buy any tools. The library had some college catalogs, and he started with the one from Circle. There were some undergraduate EE courses -- even one dealing with transistors -- that he hadn't taken. He visited their bookstore on a Saturday, and bought the textbook for it. It was a hard slog without lectures or discussion, and sitting across from Marilyn at the kitchen table was distracting. On the other hand, he didn't have a class schedule to keep; he could read the chapter until he understood the concepts.
In a strange contrast, Marilyn got another book of love poems from the library. Not only did she lie with her head in his lap while he read them to her, she was relaxed, too. If he enjoyed watching her while she struggled with lesson plans and the mistakes her students made, the joy of experiencing her pleasure was much greater.
They went together to the wedding of Eric and Candace Stewart. Marilyn told him that Eric was a long-time member and a choir baritone. He hadn't noticed. 'They' gave the newlyweds a gift. That meant that his name was on the card. He did, on the other hand, listen closely to the vows. Those were the same vows he and Marilyn had exchanged, and he held Marilyn's hand while they heard them together.
When they were home after the reception, he quoted them to her. "I, Andrew, take you, Marilyn, to be my wedded wife, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live."
"Oh, darling," she said. "Aren't weddings romantic?"
"Well, we can't have another wedding, but..."
"You want another honeymoon? So do I."
"Yeah. I could tell." She nodded towards his erection. "Well, be careful of that suit."
"I will. My wife gave it to me." So they took their own clothes off. She cooperated when he kissed her mouth, held his head to her breast when he kissed her nipples, lay still when he kissed down her abdomen. She stopped him, though, when he kissed her vulva.
"No. In me." She was right, as she'd been after their own wedding. Some occasions call for the standard position. He kissed her sweet mouth once more. Then she guided him into her warmth. When that was surrounding his full length, she hugged him with her vagina. He kissed her hair line.
He stroked in and out while watching her face. She rubbed her hands down his back from his shoulders to his butt. Then she held that. She was warm and slick around him as he moved inside her. Her legs came up and clasped his hips. Her expression went from loving to worried. The sensations of her around his cock drove him to move faster and faster. He tried to hold back, but she was so arousing. Then her expression tightened.
At the first spasm around him, she grimaced and clutched his butt. He drove in and erupted.
She was so warm and soft under him. It felt wonderful for him, but it must have crushed her. He slowly moved off. She hugged him.
"Don't." If he didn't, she'd be crushed.
"Well, the elephant doesn't have to be on top. Get the sheet." He moved her so that she was lying on him, and she arranged the covers so that they were under them. Now, he could hold her butt. She moved a bit so that their mouths could touch. They had a long kiss. Then they lay peacefully.
"I haven't made dinner." This was later, but it didn't feel like later enough. Anyway, she'd raised a practical question, and he dealt with practical questions.
"Didn't you eat at the reception? And there are left-overs." Since she limited how much he could eat when he was overweight and insisted on cooking for each meal, there were more left-overs than he was used to.
"I must be crushing you." The pressure was not only slight, it was delightful.
"Nah! You're a midget."
"How long do you expect to lie like this." Well, how long could they?
"Well, we've had a worship service this week, and I have sick days accumulated. I'm really supposed to call in before I use them, though."
"Andy, you're impossible. I'm getting up now. This has been lovely, but I need to cook." And she did get up. Dinner was delicious, and he got to watch her cook, but the prolonged hug would have been much better.
"This is Saturday," he said when they were getting ready for bed. He'd planned for her on top with her back to him. It had been hours, and he could probably get it up again, but did she want a second love-making session tonight?
"Andy, the neighbors aren't going to report us to the sex police for doing man-on-top on a Saturday. Sometimes, that position is particularly appropriate." Which meant that she didn't want another session tonight. Well they wouldn't have been able to match the afternoon, anyway.
"Yeah. They call it the matrimonial."
Marilyn always worked hard during the school year, but some times she was busier than others. One of those times, she sent him out for Chinese. The refrigerator was full of left-overs, and he bought food for her. He would eat left-overs, himself. She let him that night, but made him promise not to do that again. The left-overs he ate were food he'd seen her cook, except for the greens. That tasted better than Chinese. He did note, though, that she probably preferred restaurant food for herself. Since they were no longer in a money crunch, he would take her out to eat when they weren't in a time crunch.
Some of the problems that Gary handed out had been truly interesting; more of them had been cook-book stuff. One Monday, though, he told them that the problem was top-rank.
"Another team has already had this one, and their solution was unacceptable. One of the components we sell to Boeing is an air-speed indicator. Well, the problem is that ninety-nine times out of a hundred, the least important information that the pilot is getting is air speed. The hundredth time, it's critical. The dial we supply is a fairly standard dial. Back-lit with numbers around the rim and a light-weight needle pointing at the right number. We also supply a buzzer that sounds when the air speed changes rapidly. Well, they want more.
"The last team suggested an LED on the needle instead of back-lit. Problem is that this multiplies the weight -- mass, I should say -- of the needle. When air speed changes rapidly, it already overshoots. More massive needle overshoots much more. Now, I want you each to think about this. Think outside the box. Let me tell you, the dial is a tiny fraction of the price of the air-speed indicator, and the whole assembly is a tiny fraction of the price of the plane. We make a dial that the pilots feel secure with, and nobody is going to blink at the price.
"Okay. Think about this. I don't want you talking to each other before Friday. We'll spend Friday looking at ideas, and the next week trying out anything which looks reasonable."
Since he didn't have anything to read about this problem, he walked the corridor while he thought about it. He thought about it again sitting across from Marilyn that night. Professor Abrams had a good rule of thumb, but it didn't quite apply to this problem. It wasn't how the signal coming in could produce the same signal going out in a different way. It was how to produce another signal going out. And that was a visual -- probably -- signal to a pilot whose entire life was interpreting hundreds of visual signals. He took the problem to bed with him. Marilyn didn't complain, but he was thinking about it again as she drifted off to sleep in his arms.
When he was driving to work, he thought he had been too limited in his previous thinking. Gary had told them to "think outside the box" and given them a week. Well, the box was a needle on a dial. What else could convey the information. The whole visible dial could rotate, showing red when it was in the danger zone. That, though, meant more mass, more angular momentum, more overshoot. Back in his cubicle that afternoon, he finally got an idea, but he wasn't sure that it would work. He would feel much safer if he could breadboard it before presenting it. He went to Gary's office and knocked on the door frame.
"I'm having some thoughts on the air-speed problem, it probably wouldn't work, but I'd like to breadboard it. You know how it is. When you get one idea, you don't really have room for another until you know the first one won't work. Can I indent for some parts to breadboard it?"
"Yeah. It's project number 762. Tell them I okayed it." So he went to the supply shop in the plant and got some LEDs, a whole raft of transistors, and a set-up to deliver direct current at voltages he could specify. The last was only used by the engineers, but the supply shop kept them on hand. There were workshops available, but he wasn't ready for soldering, yet. He wanted to figure this out.
He didn't really do the soldering until Thursday afternoon. Friday he lugged a still-too-complex version of the circuit into Gary's office. Gary looked at it, looked at the plans the others had brought with them, and then looked at Andy again.
"Want to go last?"
"Really, I do." So Gary called on Carl.
Carl had a design which had the same dial but a second, brighter, light which would come on when the air speed was too high.
"Or," Gary asked, "too low?"
"Sure. I didn't know that was a problem. For that matter, you could have two lights on different sides of the dial."
Joe had an elaborate circuit to suppress the overshoot. Stew had a much simpler circuit to slow the voltage increase briefly -- a fraction of a second -- so the overshoot didn't occur.
"Well, you told us to think outside the box. The question is how to convey the information to the pilot so he can see it when he wants to, ignore it if it's not important, and so he can't ignore it when it is important. Well..." He turned the breadboarded circuit so Gary and Carl could see the display. Stew got up and went behind Carl. Andy slowly rotated the voltage dial. "I didn't know the input voltages, and these LEDs are much too large. But here," He put the voltage where he'd decided to put his center. "You get one line in the center. That's the standard airspeed. When it's higher than that..." He turned the dial slowly, and they could see the red LED's above the center light up one by one and stay lit. "Back to the standard." The center line alone was lit. "And, if it's lower..." As he turned the dial down, more and more green LEDs below the center line were lit.
"You'd need many more lines," Gary said. "Could you design that?"
"Oh, yes. And we'd need to know the input and what it represents. This is just a demo that it could be done."
"Fine, let's run with this for now. There are a lot of steps, as Andy pointed out. I'm not even sure that we want the display oriented that way or the colors that way. Maybe low air speed is the danger and should be red. Anyway, Andy, pass out your drawings. Stew, check and see how thin we can get LEDs on the market. Shit, we may have to bid on a ton of thin ones to get the supplier making them. Joe and Carl, work separately for now. See how you can scale up Andy's circuit, not in size necessarily, but in number of LEDs. After we get a design, we'll have to check it for reliability. This isn't the sort of thing you want shaking loose. Anyway..." He gestured and they started to leave. "Not you, Andy."
Gary picked up the phone and dialed. "Mary? The boss busy? I may have something on the air-speed problem.... Make it ten; I want Ken in on this, too.... Well, that's fine. We'll be as fast as we can." He set down the phone and looked hard at Andy.
"You, know, kid, 99 times out of a hundred, you're a quite competent engineer. The other time, you're fucking brilliant. Well, I said to think outside the box. Let's get some more copies of your drawings. We'll take them to Mr. Kraus." And they did.
When they showed up at Mr. Kraus's office, he was carrying the circuit, and Gary was carrying a sheaf of drawings. The secretary got up from her desk to open the inner office door.
"Ken only," Mr. Kraus said. The secretary shut the door behind them. "What's this?"
"The air speed is the biggest headache this month," Gary said, "But this may be more important. Andy, plug it in and give us safe air speed." He did as he was told. "Now, go higher.... Now go lower."
"Yeah," said Mr. Kraus. Someone came in the door behind Andy. "Ken, come around here." The man was bearded and wore jeans and a flannel shirt. He didn't wear glasses, a peculiarity in the engineering section. "Now, do it again." Andy went through the process. Then he went through it twice more.
"It's awfully coarse-grained," Ken finally said.
"It's the first breadboard," Gary said. "We don't have narrow LEDs in stock. That doesn't mean that they can't be found. Anyway, there's nothing in the design which needs to stop at seven levels." He handed one of the drawings to Ken. Mr. Kraus reached out a hand, and Gary gave him a drawing, too.
"You know," said Mr. Kraus, "This is really two inventions."
"Three," Gary said. "It may handle the air-speed problem. It is a new way of presenting data. He has a line for optimal and different display for above and below optimal."
"I doubt if we could patent the third. Well, let legal worry about that. Go over there now. Ken, I want you to go with them."
The legal department had men in suits and women dressed like they dressed in the Loop. One of the lawyers got Gary and Ken to write what they had seen with the times they had seen it on separate copies of the drawings. They signed those statements, and two separate people notarized the signatures with a date and time that the notarization was made. Andy wasn't asked to do anything, but just stood around. He must have looked puzzled.
"You the inventor?" Another lawyer asked.
"I guess so."
"You'll have to answer more positively at the interference hearing. Anyway, the inventor's word isn't worth shit. Neither is Karen's." He gestured to the woman who had done one of the notarizations. "You have to have somebody else who understands the invention. Now, having an interest in the royalty doesn't compromise your testimony. The first rule of patent law is that you don't think. You have to remember the rulings, but don't try to make them logical."
When they were done in legal, he asked if he could have more information. "Generally, seven LEDs is too few. How many would you want? What is the minimum which is acceptable? What is the number which is most desirable? And, then, I only have a vague picture of what form the information takes when it comes out of the sensors."
"Well," Ken said, "we can massage that. We already do."
"Yeah. But it doesn't make any sense to deal with two circuits in series as black boxes. You want this information to produce that display; designing the entire process is more elegant."
"You're right," Gary said. "Your basic idea is intriguing, but you need more data to get it to design. Why don't you go with Ken?"
Ken led the way to his office. They stopped at a cubicle.
"I'm Ken Garrett."
"Rich?" The guy in the cubicle looked up. "This is Rich. Andy Trainor, Rich, you're going to hear that name again." Ken introduced him to Pete, Will, and Max with much the same words. He took him to his office and got the specs for the airspeed sensor's output. He copied it for Andy instead of having him write it down.
"Let's see," he said when they were back in his office. "Actually, I think they could live with the 7-LED display. Ideal? Maybe eleven. You're going a little too slow. You have to speed up now. Emergency. Too late; kiss your ass good bye. That's 4 for the low speed. You'd need an equivalent for the high speed. That's only 8 -- 9, really. Let me see a breadboard with 9 LEDs. Let me know what two more would do. We need a display that looks production-level smooth for Boeing."
"Well, we won't get that the next step."
"No. I don't expect that. Well, I've seen you before, but not to meet. How long have you been with the company?"
"Started June '78."
"Been on Gary's team both years?"
"Yeah." He had his data, and was itchy to get back to the drawing board, but he knew better than to walk out on a senior engineer.
"Well, two year's the limit for one team. Think about mine next year."
"I'll think about it. Can I go back to my cubicle, now?"
So he sent back and started on the design from scratch. It took the input from the sensor itself, amplified that, and used it to light 9 levels of LEDs.
They all worked on the problem for the next two weeks. That included working up a model that looked production-smooth. Andy had to take a break from that to talk to the lawyers about the patent application. As it turned out, they were applying for 3 separate patents.
"This middle one probably won't be granted," the lawyer named Tony said. "Maybe nobody will file interference with the other ones locked up. Anyway, it's worth trying."
He rejoined the team as soon as the lawyers let him go. Ken took the model to Seattle, and came back with requests for modifications. The team designed the circuits to satisfy those requests, but let the guys in production do the actual fabrication. After that, they went back to another problem, a much less interesting one.
It was getting harder and harder to turn off the shower at home. He should fix it, but that required learning a new task. When it began to bother him, he'd been deep in the air-speed problem. When that let up, he'd just become used to letting it slide. Then it started to bother Marilyn.
"Damn!" she said Wednesday morning. "The shower's leaking. I can't turn it off." He tried, but he already knew the answer.
"Neither can I. Can it wait 'til Saturday?" This needed advice from Gus at the hardware store.
Saturday, he drove to the coin laundry. When he had put the clothes in the washing machine, he went to the hardware store. Gus had a customer already, but he turned to Andy afterwards.
"Hey, Andy, long time."
"Hey, Gus. I have a problem." He showed him a faucet like the one on his shower and described the problem. Gus sold him a washer and a wrench. The clothes were still running when he got back. He stuffed the washer in his pocket. When the clothes were dry, he carried the wrench up with the bag of done laundry. The repair took a while, since he had to find the shut-off valve, but he got the drip fixed and had the faucet handle so it turned without straining a muscle.
At dinner Marilyn thanked him for fixing the drip.
Marilyn's birthday was coming up, and he decided to buy her a book. Another collection of romantic poetry seemed a good choice. He went downtown to Kroch's, and found a big one. When her birthday came, they celebrated with her parents. She seemed pleased, although he felt a little selfish giving her something he would enjoy as much as she did, maybe more.
They didn't read much for a little while, as her school year was winding down. Marilyn took a weekend to see where her students were before finals and the last papers -- which were still called themes in high school.
"I think," she said when she'd finished, "that I'm learning how to do my job."
"That's nice to hear. I always knew you'd be a great teacher. Remember back when I was your first pupil?" Actually, she had been a great teacher even back then, but he didn't want her rewarding her present students the way she had rewarded him.
"And how are you doing?" Well, how was he doing. He'd tried to tell her about some of the problems that Gary handed him, but he never succeeded. It wasn't totally his fault, she didn't have the background.
"At work? It's great. They're showing me serious problems these days. I filed my first patent ap." That was too boastful; he would have been lost in the filing process. He had been lost. He'd merely answered their questions and signed his name. "Well, not me; there's a department to do that stuff, but my name's on the application."
"And have you received a raise that you haven't told me about?" Is that what she meant by "How are you doing?" Because he hadn't, and wouldn't until July.
"No. The employee reviews are going on, but I haven't had mine yet. The raises all come at the payday before vacation. Why? Do we need more money?"
"No. Just tell me when you get a raise." Maybe she wanted something but was willing to wait for his next raise to get it.
"'Cause, if you want, I'll stop spending my allowance, except for gas, until the raise comes in." He hadn't really needed the wrench or his engineering book, and he'd been thinking about getting another engineering book.
"Andy, you balance the checkbook. Is there enough money in there?" That wasn't the problem. The problem was what she wanted and how to get it for her.
"We had $2,563.26 as of the statement period. That includes deposits which hadn't cleared yet, but I subtracted the checks we'd written which the bank hadn't seen."
"Well, that's quite enough. If it weren't, I would plan to put my last pay into checking instead of savings. I just like to know about your successes, okay?"
"Sure. I didn't think you wanted to hear about engineering." Was that it? And was a raise a success? It seemed to him that a raise was like a grade; it told what Mr. Kraus thought of what he had done. It validated his evaluation of his successes, but it wasn't a success in and of itself.
"Andy, I'm afraid I can't follow the problems you solve very well, but, when your solution impresses your bosses, I'd like to hear that they were impressed."
"Okay." He'd try to remember that. But they didn't seem to be what he'd call 'impressed.' They'd seemed to feel that he was doing his work.
"I love you. I might not understand you, but I love you." That was nice to hear. That was always nice to hear.
"I love you, too." That he didn't understand her went without saying.
She was special in many ways, but that wasn't one of them. He didn't
The End Making It- M Uther Pendragon email@example.com 2012/05/29 These same events from Marilyn's perspective, can be read in: Marilyn's Experience The first adventures of Andy with Marilyn: "The Meeting - M" Another story about another couple dealing with their finances: "Enough - M" The index to the entire Gjt series is: God Joined Together The index to almost all my stories is: Index to Uther Pendragon's website