Back to the Desk

© 2012 (original), 2015(HTML) Levite,

WARNING: Adult Subject Matter and Situations.
[NOTE: This story was rejected by the publisher in 2012 because it wasn't hot enough. You be the final judge.
For this presentation, only formatting and other minor changes have been made. The story is essentially 'as rejected'. Complete with the author's original typos.]


(A note from the co-authors: On occasion Laird William is bestowing a grand honor upon the piece by including his words. Much of the time the Lady Helen is writing, and this is usually the case when the noble pronoun 'we' is used. And infrequently the humble servant Maid Babs, the Lady at play, is keeping the diary of more intimate times. Also madam, in both counts, attempted to include as much dialogue that was exchanged as possible for the reader's edification and appreciation of the events, but please be indulgent as she is not a professional at the craft. Throughout it all, we will only use first names and titles of those involved when possible.)
It Begins Thusly:

Lady Helen Writes:
      My choice of lifestyle at home led to a mildly embarrassing situation in my professional life, which led to my telling of that part of the story to my husband and a couple of friends, which led to the discussion of writing it all down, which led to this.
      All because of what somebody said when I bought a black leather vest with a dark gray fringe, that I absolutely fell in love with as soon as I saw it, while out to lunch with several co-workers from the clinic about three years ago.

      Several of us had decided to go up to the mall and try a new place in the food court. The food wasn't bad, and the prices were all right, so lunch was good and I always enjoy getting away from the clinic with the people I work with. After we ate we decided to walk through the mall and just window shop for a few minutes before heading back. As we strolled past a leather-goods shop the vest caught my eye, but I didn't stop to go in right then. But as we walked I kept thinking about the vest. Finally, on the way back, I went in and looked at it.
      Then, much to the amusement of my coworkers, I tried it on. But the second one off the rack fit me like it was custom made for me. It was a bit longer through the body than your average vest, ending just below my waist which I really liked. There was no ornament on it other than the studs of a few small silver rivets here and there where the various pieces of leather, and yes, it was real leather, were joined. It highlighted my curves without being constricting or pinching me anywhere.
      "You look good in it Helen," my administrative assistant said as I buttoned it and looked in the mirror. Carole knew about some of my 'other life' but she also knew not to say anything untoward about it. I decide who I disclose certain details to and who I don't. A rule I enforce across the board as it is none of anybody else's business. "I think Bill will love it," she added.
      "Yes I do, and yes he will," I was thinking about some other items I had that I thought would make it a perfect playtime costume while revealing just enough of me to make Laird William smile.
      "I didn't know you were into the Western thing," another said with a bit of disapproval.
      "She's not," Carole answered as we exchanged looks.
      "No, but sometimes I like a bit of a change." I said to my reflection. It was all the explanation the situation needed. And once again I was glad I had worked to keep my figure.
      "It's nice," the other replied in a tone that reminded me that there were younger women who were jealous that I had been able to keep my figure. "As long as you don't do anything weird in it."
      "I'll take it," I said to the clerk who was keeping his distance until needed.
      "There is a matching pair of leggings that go with it," he answered.
      "Just the vest this time, ring it up and I'll wear it."
      "Yes, ma'am."

Chapter One Involves Lady Helen's "Thursday From Hell" And An Invitation.

Lady Helen Writes:
      For the first twenty five years or so of our marriage we were what anybody outside would consider a normal married couple. We raised our son Kurt until he joined the military and shipped out to a base in Alaska. "Why Alaska?" we asked him, and his answer was that he'd never been there. That was our Kurt.
      But then our house was empty, and after a couple of vacations and some time together, we got bored. A condition we both knew would be fatal to our marriage. We were doing OK financially, any serious thought of retirement was still about ten years away, we were in reasonably good shape and health, and all in all we were content with where and who we were.
      "I don't want us to get... I don't know, bored maybe, with each other," Bill said, "I love you all I can, but I can see us getting into a rut. You know, taking each other for granted. And I don't want to do that."
      "We both like to play that I'm the maidservant to the Lord of the Manor," I said, "if we did that more that would keep us from getting complacent."
      Bill smiled broadly, "You did like doing that. I'd forgotten about being Lord William," he said standing up straight and putting on airs, which meant we were eye to eye with each other.
      "This weekend, Miss Babs will be here to take care of you." I grinned and tried to sound like a servant girl.
      It was fun, and it saved our marriage, and later, it thrust us into the most unusual situation a middle aged couple could find themselves in and stay married.

      Once or twice a week, or when I knew he had a rough day, when Bill got home, I would be in one of my outfits, and smile and greet him and give him a drink or a snack or even go down on him (sometimes after he'd had a shower) and spend the evening waiting on him hand and foot as Miss Babs and calling him Laird William and doing all sorts of other things to and with him. Or, alternately, he would be home early and fix me dinner and a glass of wine and even have a scented candle burning and soft music playing and sometimes sing for me when I came in the door.
      And then about every other weekend or so, I would stay in that role. And I liked it. I found being his servant very fulfilling. I knew I was a modern woman, I was liberated, I had a Masters Degree in Nursing, three professional certifications, and a state provider's license as a practitioner with my name on it. I was nobody's servant, but in this small way, part of the time, I was. I held my eyes down and let him make decisions and tell me what to do. And I did it with a smile that was honest and open.
      That is until the phone rang and we saw that it was the hospital and I had to drop out of character and go from Babs to being the Director of Nursing and change into something presentable and rush into work and make a decision or take an action that may end up impacting somebody else's life in some irrevocable way. But that was rare, and we both accepted it as part of our lives.
      I think that's one reason that when a chance came to get into our lifestyle in a big way, I was more in favor of it than Bill was, but now, he enjoys it just as much as I do.
      But I am getting ahead of myself. There is a lot of story before we moved and became who we are now, and Laird William told me he wants our tale to be complete, so I need to begin earlier.

Laird William and Lady Helen together write:

      We met years ago, when I was still in high school and only thinking about becoming a nurse. Bill had graduated a year ahead of me, and went out and got a job. He had a full time job and a car and was handsome and strong and I fell for him hard.
      Some people think that we play these roles because I stayed in school and furthered my education while Bill has always worked and has only taken the classes he has had to for his job. Others think that it is because I get paid more than twice what he does, even when he was promoted to the grounds and facilities supervisor.
      With Bill, there was no doubt where you stood or what had to be done. He saw things as black and white. Either something worked or it didn't. If a tractor or tool 'kind of worked' then it was actually broken, or as he'd put it, "just waiting on its chance to break", and it either needed fixed or replaced. To say that my husband was practical or even frugal was to not understand his position. Bill saw almost everything, except our playtime that is... Bill saw life as a chore to be done, and done as well as you could do it.
      Some have said that that was a hindrance to him, but in the end, it turned out to be a benefit when the county board decided they wanted a grounds supervisor who would make sure work actually got done instead of parking his truck behind a bar and spending all day shooting pool.

The Laird William asked the Lady Helen to help him Write this section:

      When I bid on the supervisor's position I knew it would be a lot of work, and that I could be called in on weekends and holidays if something happened on one of the county's properties. Some of the outlying sites had been almost totally neglected and others had been only partially maintained. But I was honest in the interview when they asked me what the first thing I'd do was. I said I'd take a map and a truck and go around to every county owned or maintained site and find out where it was and what it was and what needed done out there. The board chairperson asked me why I'd do that. I was ready for the question and had an answer.
      "Because, ma'am, I've worked here for years, and I've never been to the Colonel Richardson Homestead. I didn't even know it was a country property until recently. I don't even know where it's at other than it is on Road 132. Has it been taken care of like it should be, whatever is there? I don't know. But as supervisor, it'd be my job to know and then to get it done."
      "Yes it would," the lady answered. Then she looked at the other board members, "I've heard of it, but I don't know where it's at either," she said.
      And I got the job.

      As for the Colonel's homestead, there was no home to speak of. It was where the man had been born, but the original house was long gone, there was a stone foundation, and a small family graveyard, but the Colonel himself was buried in a military cemetery in New York State. From a maintenance perspective the site hadn't even had the grass cut in months. As I walked through I saw beer bottles and other debris all over the place. The same was true for other properties, even some parts of a couple of the county parks had been let to go to seed.

      Three months later I was back in front of the board.
      The first question from the chair person wasn't pleasant, "I have heard that Mister White quit. Why?"
      "Ma'am, he had been one of those who would spend time doing other things instead of working. He didn't want to work, so he found someplace else to go. But his replacement, Matt Brown, is happy to have a good job and said he was willing to work overtime to help put things back to rights."
      "Good. Have you made progress on the county properties?"
      "Yes ma'am. All of the major work is complete and we've started taking care of some of the smaller problems. And I've drawn up a schedule, I want somebody to at least go through each location once a week, if they didn't do any more than pick up the trash, they'd at least seen the site and know what was going on." I handed out a printout with location codes under various days and who was assigned to the sites so they were accountable for them. "This is a routine of care and maintenance that we should be able to keep up during good weather."
      The board looked at the schedule and thanked me for my work so far.

      It wasn't long before I worked out a rotational schedule so that no one man got all of the weekend calls all of the time. And that was when I really began to enjoy our playtime a lot more than I had been and was able to return certain favors to my wife such as making her delirious for almost an hour. And that is something that will keep a woman coming back to you. (and it does!)
      On the way home I stopped and bought Helen some flowers and a bottle of fancy coffee creamer. It was just something I liked to do for her once in awhile to make her happy. Because she makes me happy. It was Helen that showed me how to make the site schedule on the computer so I could update it and email it to everybody.

Lady Helen Writes:
      I really enjoyed being submissive at home. And the more authority I was given as my career progressed, the more I became the character we both called 'the good little wife' like I was from some old time TV show doing whatever I could to make my husband happy with me and our kingdom. Even though our kingdom at the time was a townhouse in the middle of a city.
      For example, one Thursday was a Day From Hell. A day from the very center circle of hell itself. Let me try to capture some of its essence for you.

      The first thing I saw when I signed into my computer and got my email was the notice that a nurse's aid had been fired last night for coming in three hours late, possibly drunk, and had then cussed out the floor nurse in front of a couple of patients.
      My desk phone rang not long after I'd begun to compose my reply to the notice of the termination, the screen said it was the nurse's station on the third floor of the clinic.
      "Miss Helen," one of the nurses said in a shaky voice, "we just had a patient code and the trauma team.... they couldn't."
      I had heard the code called over the PA, but there was no follow-up call, "Did they die?"
      "Yes ma'am. They tried for a long time to bring him back, but he was gone." The nurse was crying again.
      "I'll be right up."
      Each of our floors had a trauma team made up of people assigned to it. I was part of the group for the first floor and admin area. If the code was called once, the floor team responded, if it was called twice it meant they needed more people and everybody in the building would be on their way. On a regular workday, the third floor had more than enough emergency staff to handle the call, and they had responded almost immediately.
      The body was still lying on the floor where he had fallen off the treadmill during a cardiac stress test. He had been covered with a sheet while they waited on the crew to take him downstairs.
      The doctor that had presided over his test and then ultimately pronounced him dead was sitting on the stool in the corner, to me, he looked like he was in shock, or close to it. "The test had been going well. No pain or palpitations, he wasn't even short of breath. The tape was almost normal. And then he just..." the doctor looked down at his former patient. "I've heard of this happening, but it has never happened to me before."
      One of the trauma team members couldn't resist making a comment, "It'd never happened to him before either."
      I had to debrief the nurses and the team and file a report. But in the middle of that somebody knocked on my office door, "Miss Helen, there is an incident in the cafeteria and they said they needed to speak to someone in charge and everybody else is tied up. I think Carole is out to lunch so I just came to see..."
      "I'm," I said, then I sighed, whatever it was had to be better than what I was doing. "I'll go down there."

      There was a group of people holding signs and chanting something about poor farmers when I opened the door from the stairs.
      "We are here to speak for those without a voice," a woman said loudly.
      "What is going on?" I asked one of the clinic's security guards.
      "They're upset about the menu."
      "So am I," I answered honestly. I like healthy food just fine, as long as it tastes like something worth eating.
      "You do not have a fair trade statement posted," the loud woman said.
      "And there isn't any organic stickers on the salad bar," another one added.
      "Did you call the food service manager?" I asked the guard.
      "Yeah, the company says he's on his way over, but he's not answering his cell."
      "I don't blame him."
      "We want to know what the hospital is going to do to protect the rights of the oppressed farmers overseas," one of the protesters shouted to me.
      I couldn't answer the question at all, I didn't even know where to begin, so I just stood there and listened to the rest of them sing their song about plowing with an ox while thinking about the patient from upstairs.
      Later, after the food service manager arrived, I ordered my lunch to be delivered by a deli down the street and took a couple of pills for the headache I felt coming my way as I finally began to finish my reply about the firing, to put off the report about the death as long as possible.

      Then my phone rang again, "Miss Helen, I am Jerry Holder from MidSouth Mutual Insurance. We have questions about some of the charges being billed to our members as nursing care for your inpatients."
      An hour later I finished my now cold lunch and wondered how much wine we had at home.
      "Helen? Did you send me the report on the M-I patient from earlier?"
      "I'll finish it up now, I got tied up on a call from an insurance company."
      By three I was wondering what sorts of hard liquor were in the cabinet over the kitchen sink.
      "Miss Helen, Tracie Marine and Ken Stoler have both called off tonight and that only leaves Donna on two west for tonight. I was going to pull somebody from east, but Mae is already off on a vacation day." The floor supervisor from the hospital side of the complex paused to take a breath.
      "Is there anybody extra on three?" I knew the fourth floor, which was maternity and pediatrics was already a nurse short. We hadn't been fully staffed with RN's for almost three years, every time we hired a couple, somebody retired.
      "No ma'am, the wing is almost full and Tammy is on vacation. They're down to two nurses and a couple of aids."
      I know, this is why they gave me the fancy title and an office, but there were some days I'd like to give them back. In the end, we found a nurse willing to work a double shift to cover and the emergency passed. If nobody else was available, I would have worked it myself to make sure the patients were taken care of. But this time, I didn't have to.
      Now all of that was in addition to my normal duties, and a scheduled inspection of the three nurse's stations in the surgical recovery ward of the hospital, which I only got one done.
      On my way out to my car at four thirty I stopped dead in my tracks. It was only Thursday, I had to come back for more tomorrow.
      "I can finish the inspection," I muttered to myself as I tried to find something positive in it.

      As I drove home I focused on preparing for an exceptional weekend with my husband. It was my time to forget everything at work, including the man under the sheet. But sometimes forgetting was harder than others. Dinner that night was simple. I sliced up and grilled some chicken breasts, and made some cheesy mixed vegetables and baked some canned biscuits. And I felt that I was lucky to get that done without setting off the smoke alarm.
      Bill came home right as I was finishing up dinner and I collapsed into his arms. I didn't break down into a sobbing mass of nerves, I was better trained and had more experience than to do that. But I was so grateful that he was home and that Thursday was officially behind me that I couldn't do anything else.

      Friday was only half the day Thursday had been, and even though the protesters were supposed to come back, only a few of them showed up, and the food service company was ready for them and gave them the answers they were looking for. There were questions about the death yesterday, but as the team had done everything they should and there was a physician on the scene, the only thing I had to say was that I had completed the report and found no problems with their actions.
      At three thirty I logged out and told my admin assistant that I had some errands to run. The one thing I wanted for this weekend was a new pair of shoes, and I knew which ones I wanted. The first time I'd wore the vest, and very precious little else for Bill, I mean, for Laird William, I'd been barefoot with a leather miniskirt around my hips. For this one, I wanted some spike heels and some sort of animal print undies.
      I found what I wanted and stopped at the store to get some extra supplies, one of those being some canned whipped cream just in case the occasion called for it. And went home to get everything, and myself, ready. The first thing I did was to wash and then brush out my hair until it flowed down to my shoulders. Just doing that made me feel sexy, and I liked the way it felt. At work, I dressed conservatively in suits and skirts that came down to my knees, when I was Miss Babs, I may not even dress.
      I met Laird William at the door wearing my vest unbuttoned, zebra print panties, the heels that made me taller than him, and a smile, holding a platter of cold shrimp, roast beef slices and some cheese, with a beer in a tall heavy glass mug on the side. I had inspected myself in the mirror and I knew he would love what he saw as the panties and heels emphasized the length of my legs and my shape. And I could tell by his face as he ran his eyes over me from hair to toes and back, that he did.

      "I'm glad I came straight home," he said, "some of the guys were going to McDougal's." His eyes ran up and down me, then looked right at me, "You're so beautiful. I love you."
      "If'n me'laird wishes he may doest as he pleases and go to the pub now," I said as Miss Babs, then I put the tray down on the side table and curtsied to him. I know, my old style English isn't what it should be, but I don't think either of us really care.
      "Oh hell no. I'm staying right here with you."
      He pulled me up and kissed me and the Thursday From Hell finally vanished into history.

Miss Babs Writes:
      The Laird William enjoys it when I submit to his wishes even before he knows he wished it. Such as today when he kissed me and I could smell that he had not been outside working in the field and sweating all day. So after he released me from his embrace I slid down his body and undid his trousers and performed on him that way. If he had been odorous I would have suggested a hot shower as I already had his robe laid out for him. And then as he dried I would have performed likewise for him. And it is one of my greatest joys to do so as I can see in his eyes the pleasure it brings him.
      After I has satisfied his urgency I knew he could relax and enjoy the rest of the evening, which meant that he would also enjoy performing one or more acts of equal pleasure on me.
      Laird William took my hand and helped me stand before him after I finished and again I watched and felt his eyes run over me.
      "My God you're beautiful. I love you so much. I can't get over it that you're mine."
      "Me'laird is generous with his praise," I managed to say just as he pulled us together and kissed me again. But this time, his hands ran down my body until my panties were halfway down my thighs and his hands were in their rightful place.
      Finally our lips separated and we could catch our breath, but he still held onto me and his eyes and lips were smiling.
      "Me'laird's beer is getting warm."
      "That's OK, I like you better."
      "But me'laird's shrimp and beef are waiting."
      "They'll wait," he said and squeezed my lower cheeks, "I like this more than that too."
      "But one can eat the shrimp me'laird."
      I saw the light in his eyes and knew he'd taken my statement in both ways, something that Bill sometimes missed. He kissed me again, then he said, "Let's go into the living room and see about that." He took the beer off the tray and walked into the other room.
      "Yes me'laird," I curtsied as he released me, then I pulled up my panties, picked up the tray and followed him obediently, clicking on the tile in my heels.

      Laird William was standing in the living room drinking his beer when I entered. "Let me see," he said to me, then he inspected the tray, "it looks good. But first, I have another idea."
      "What does me'laird wish to eat for his appetizer?" I said trying not to smile because I knew good and well what he was going to do, and I was actually quivering in my stomach with anticipation, and I knew it wasn't the wine that I had had while I was getting ready doing it.
      He paused and I could see him thinking. "You," he said and took the tray from my hands and put it on the coffee table.
      Then he kissed me quickly while he pushed me backward toward the recliner. I wasn't acting as I fell backward off my heels and landed in the chair.
      Laird William dropped to his knees and pulled my panties and shoes off, then he began to pleasure me with his mouth and hands until I was shrieking uncontrollably. And just when I thought he was done, he'd move to stretch his neck, and then he'd begin again, and I would go again. And then, just as I was gasping for breath, he told me to turn over and get on my hands and knees in the chair, and he did it all that way one more time until I was biting my own knuckle in ecstasy to keep from screaming.
      I do not know when he had stopped enjoying me with his tongue and fingers because after I took several deep breaths and focused my eyes, he was nowhere around. Then I looked and saw that the beer mug was gone. I got up slowly, my legs still unsteady and my stomach quaking from the repeated orgasms, then I had to swallow forcefully a time or two because I didn't trust my voice for speaking. As I stood up I noticed that his shirt was on the floor in front of me, I didn't remember him taking it off while we were busy.
      "Me'laird," I said somewhat weakly. Then I found both my balance and my voice and repeated it.
      "I'm here. I just needed a refill. I thought you went to sleep," Laird William said coming back into the room with his mug refilled.
      "Very nearly, me'laird is very talented in such things," I answered. I would have curtsied to him in honor of it, but I didn't trust my knees enough yet.
      "Thank you," he said as he chewed on a couple of the shrimp.
      He put his mug down and unfastened his pants and I could see that he was interested in continuing with something other than the shrimp. "But we are going to have the entire weekend together laird," I said in mild protest even though the quaking in my stomach had resumed and intensified with the excitement I felt.
      "Good. Then we can do it again."
      "What does Laird William wish for me to do?"
      He sat in the chair and held his hands out to me, "take that off and come here."
      I smiled and slowly pulled the vest off and then laid it carefully on the couch. Then I walked slowly toward him and folded myself into his lap and we kissed.

      Our lovemaking lasted a very long time as we went very slowly, but, as usual it ended with a great exercise of powerful motions and loud noises as we became frenzied until we were both spent.

      I stayed in his lap and we just held each other and shared his beer and some meat and cheese off the tray. But then when the mug was empty Miss Babs was back on duty and I slipped off his lap to refill it and tend to the accumulated laundry. "Did the Laird wish to watch the evening news? It is almost time for it to be on," I said to him as I came back in with his mug.
      "That would be very nice."
      I turned on the TV and went to sort the laundry and take his billfold and keys out of his pants.
      It was the minor, almost mindless tasks like that that I really enjoyed. Housewifey things that I'd taken for granted, and sometimes resented doing, until I was too stressed from work to even do any them. Then I would look at a pile of clean laundry that Bill had done, by washing it all in warm just to keep it up, and wished I had the time and motivation to 'do it right', which was to say, I wished I had had time to 'do it my way'.
      Now as Miss Babs, I was content to do it, knowing that instead of watching the news, Bill, the titular Laird William, was watching me because I was still naked and the evidence of our earlier bout was trickling down the my thighs.

Lady Helen writes:
      Sometimes I forget and slip back into being me from being Miss Babs, but I don't see how it can be helped.
      When we were first married and set up housekeeping, I thought keeping things clean and in order was proof that I was a grown woman and I was actually proud to do it. When our son, Kurt, was young, I saw housework as something that had to be done to keep the family functioning and I did it, for over twenty years, it was what I did. Yes, Bill helped, and helped a lot, but laundry and dishes and mopping, cleaning the bathroom and making the beds was what I did. I knew that every weekend, at least half of Saturday or Sunday would be spent just catching up with my chores. I could never get ahead and I knew it, but I could at least catch up.
      Now, standing there naked, with our combined juices making my legs sticky while I sorted our clothes for washing, doing housework was an actual pleasure to me once again.

      "Helen. The clinic is on TV."
      I heard Bill say it and immediately grimaced. I knew it had to either be the protest or the death yesterday, and I dreaded the mention of either one. It was the protesters and their grievance about the farmers. Somebody with the group had taped Thursday's incident and sent it to the station. Fortunately, I wasn't on the part that was broadcast, and the report ended with a statement from the president of the clinic that foods in the cafeteria are labeled as accurately as they can be with the information available from the management company.
      "If it please me'laird, I would like a drink," I said as the program went to a commercial break.
      "Was it that bad?" He asked me.
      "Yes, they were loud, and you heard that song they were singing. They kept doing it the whole time they were there."
      "In that case, yes, me-lady, you may have all the drinks you need, and I'll make it for you," he got up and went to the bar.
      "Me'laird embarrasses me by naming me a noble. But thank you sire." I curtsied and tried to get back into character as the servant girl. "If the laird makes the drinks, I'll finish our dinner."

      I spent the rest of the weekend as Miss Babs, changing between my three different outfits, or going without, and waiting on Laird William. Bill got into it as well, and performed gallant acts of chivalry for me, such as taming an unruly vacuum cleaner and being my chauffeur when we went out. And we had a wonderful, and quiet, weekend together.

In Chapter Two They Meet Master Eric and Mistress Naomi and the Laird and Lady Learn a Great Deal About The Lifestyle.

Lady Helen writes:
      A month or so after the Thursday from Hell I was talking to Mark, one of the EMTs that worked for one of the ambulance companies. He knew Bill because the company used the county garage for their routine maintenance and he recognized my last name even though I'd been signing off on his dispatch reports for a long time.
      "I'm sorry, I've known Bill for years and just made the connection, he said you worked at the clinic but, you know, I just never thought about it," he said.
      "It's OK," I smiled and handed him his clipboard back.
      "But there was something I wanted to ask you, if you don't mind."
      "Bill said you'd bought a leather vest that he really liked, and he described it to me, and I think I'd like to get one for my wife, Lori, to wear on the weekends."
      I didn't know how much Bill had told him about our playtime, but I got the impression that he'd just mentioned that I had a new vest and nothing else. "It's nothing special, but I like it."
      "That's what he said, that it really looked good on you."
      "I think it does. I got it at the mall. Do you and your wife go out to the Western Star?" I knew that it was one of the most popular Country Western bars in town and that people there dressed like they were in a cowboy movie.
      He shook his head, "no, we ahh, we do some role playing and I like her to dress up sometimes."
      I said, "Oh, that sounds like fun," and have no idea why. But now I'm glad I did.
      Mark smiled, "we're having a little role play party in a couple of weeks, I'll ask the others if they'd like to have somebody new and if so, would you want to come? I'll tell you and Bill more about it if it's OK with everybody. It's nothing too kinky, like wife swapping or anything, but we do have fun." He chuckled.
      I grinned and laughed with him, "I'd have to check with Bill, but we'd probably at least check it out. We try to keep an open mind about things."
      "If you really don't like it you can just leave," he gestured with the papers, "I'll stop by that place at the mall and see if they have a vest like that."
      "They also had gray vests with black fringe."
      He pursed his lips for a second, "I don't know if she'd like that. But I'll look at it."
      "OK, I'll let you know what Bill says, or he will."
      "I'll see him next week, I've got to take unit three in."

      I'd even forgotten that I'd talked to Mark until Friday morning when Bill sent me an email that he'd gotten from Mark asking if we'd talked about coming to the cookout. I emailed him back and said that from what Mark had mentioned to me and it sounded like fun.
      Mark sent an email to both of us saying that the others were delighted that we were interested and explained a bit about their role playing. He mentioned that the some of the men wore fancy jackets and hats and some of the women wore various types of costumes as servants and submissives, but we could wear anything we wanted and join them for lunch on Saturday, and just observe and see what was going on if we wanted to. The last line of the email said that the participants appreciated a certain level of decorum and discretion which made me wonder what we were getting into.

      That night at home we talked about it and agreed that I would take one of my Miss Babs outfits and we'd see how it went. If nothing else, it might be good for a few laughs and we'd come home after lunch.
      "It'll be fun to meet some new people," I said.
      "Yeah, but I don't want you to be uncomfortable," Bill answered.
      "I know, but sometimes it's fun being a little uncomfortable. Like when I take the recycling out as Babs," I answered. He didn't seem to understand so I explained it, "When I'm outside and I'm dressed like that I feel so exposed, that anybody could see me, but I'm just in our back yard, so I feel safe." I thought about how different it was from what I did every day at the clinic, "that's the furthest I get from being what I am the rest of the time."
      He grinned at me, "And that, turns you on."
      I smiled and moved a little toward him, "Sometimes."
      "OK," then he paused, "what else have you done outside like that?"
      I blushed a little before I answered, "all kinds of things, one day I saw some weeds in the flower bed and I started pulling them, and before I knew it, I'd worked for two hours in the middle of the day like that. On my hands and knees and all. I don't know if anybody saw me or not."
      "What did you have on?"
      "Just the silk shirt and my moccasins."
      "I like that shirt."
      "So do I, I've looked for another one but they're hard to find like that. At least at a price that I'd pay for one."
      It was a fancy white men's shirt that I'd seen in the thrift shop that the volunteers and a couple of auxiliary groups run to benefit some of the clinic's programs. I bought it just because it was silk and I thought it'd fit Bill. It was a little tight on him, but it fit me wonderfully, and worked so well for Miss Babs that it was as responsible for my development of the character as anything else. The tail of the shirt barely covered my rear, and the front really didn't cover anything if I moved at all, but I loved the way it felt on me, and so did Bill.
      Bill was still smiling at me so I asked him what he was thinking about.
      "Next weekend. Marky said there would be a lot of other couples there, and that you're probably better looking than most of the other women, so he hoped I wasn't the jealous type."
      "Are you?"
      "I think I'll be OK there," now his smile was different, but I liked the difference, "Sometimes I like everybody to know how beautiful of a woman I married."
      Of course I kissed him for saying something like that.

      The next week flew by and really before I had time to overthink things we were getting ready to go to the cookout. I decided to take the more modest of my Miss Babs outfits and packed it in a small bag, Bill had a burgundy colored satin smoking jacket that was at least fifty years out of style and to me looked like it belonged in the wardrobe of a high school theater class. But to Bill, it was his Laird William jacket, although he seldom wore it. And to tell the truth, neither of us knew where it had come from, it may have been in the closet when we moved into the house.
      The address was in town, but in an older section of the city. The houses were large with many Victorian style homes in the neighborhood. Huge trees hung out over the street and winding driveways featured luxury cars.
      We had left a little early to make sure we found the place. "He said there would be a sign with that swirl thing on it," Bill said as he drove slowly along.
      I remembered the symbol that had been on the bottom of Mark's email. "I don't think that's it," I pointed to a sign shaped like a balloon that said it was a birthday party where several kids were running around the house.
      "The address was Three Eighty Seven, so it should be in the next block."
      "There it is," I said as Bill looked both ways at the stop sign.
      The house was a corner lot with a landscaped yard surrounding a large brick and white stucco house that I remembered being listed in a guide to the city's best gardens, and from the looks of the late spring flowers along the driveway, it would be again this year too.
      "Whatever happens, I love you now and I will when we go home," Bill said as he turned into the driveway next to the sign and we parked next to a large pickup truck that had some sort of machine in the back of it.
      "What's going to happen?" I asked him.
      "I don't know, but whatever does, if you want to, we'll leave. OK?"
      "OK. And I love you too."
      In a minute a tall thin man with a head of stark white hair and wearing a gold trimmed leather jacket came out and greeted us like old friends. "Well hello, you must be Bill since that has to be the beautiful Helen. Mark didn't lie a single word this time. I'm Eric, this is my place, and your car is just fine right there, if you have to leave in a hurry, just drive through the yard, it'll give the landscaper something to do next week to earn his money." He shook both of our hands enthusiastically, then nodded to the house, "The women are gathering in the day room, you can go see what they're doing, or come with me and take the tour and get some of the ground rules first. It's up to you."
      He was looking at me, so I had to answer, "I'd like to see the house first."
      "Sure, sure, come on," he waved up the front walk and showed off his house with pride.
      As for the ground rules, they were simple and few. First, no photographs or videotaping without prior permission. Second, nobody forces anybody to do anything. Third, have fun, if it stops being fun, they stop doing it.

      After the tour Eric pointed toward the day room, "you can go check in with them, my wife's name is Naomi, you won't have any trouble finding her, she's wearing the kimono."
      "Naomi in a kimono," I nodded, "OK," and went to find her.

The Laird William Writes:
      I hadn't told Mark too much about our playtime, but I had let on to him that Helen liked to 'play house' once in awhile like she was a old time housewife or a maid, and Mark said that was kinda what they did at these parties. Now as I walked with Mister Eric to the den where he said the men were gathering, he told me more about what was going on.
      "I don't like the term Gorean, as there are aspects to the books and their lifestyle that I find repugnant. But, to each their own," Mister Eric said with a shrug. "Some of us do live that way at least part of the time, others have their own variation of it. When I host an event, it is like this, I don't expect anybody to kneel to me."
      "Gore?" I said, "Like the old Vice President?"
      "No, it's from a series of books," he answered.
      "I'm sorry, sir. I don't read much."
      "In my opinion,at least in this case, you haven't missed anything. Although, John likes it, and he and Debby live it, when they're not here that is." He chuckled for a moment, "But while we're here, nobody gets whipped, I draw the line at spankings, and there are some other things that are off limits. But for the most part, we skirt the edges of that way of life."
      "Oh, OK. Yes, sir." I said even though I had no idea what he was talking about.

      I saw Mark on the other side of the den looking out at a large in ground pool. We shook hands and he said he was glad we could make it.
      "Is Helen going to dress?" He asked me.
      "I think so, sir. She said she wanted to try it out and see."
      "Good. Let me show you where the bar is."
      "This early?" I asked checking my watch out of habit.
      "It's five o'clock somewhere," Mister Eric answered for him, "besides, we're having Irish coffee."

      A large TV was on the sports network, and a couple of guys were shooting pool on a huge table that looked like an antique. The bar was solid wood and looked old as well. Just to me it appeared that Mister Eric enjoyed living very well.
      They gave me a large mug of the spiked coffee, then we went out to the car so they could appraise my jacket and saw another car with another couple pulling in. We waited and watched a lady walk toward the house and the gentleman came our way.
      "Well, I like it just fine," Mister Eric said after Mark said he wasn't sure about it.
      "I'd never wear it to church or someplace, but for when we're playing at home, I think it's OK."
      "You like it, and that's all that matters. My name's Murray," the older man that had just arrived said to me, then after we shook hands he turned to Eric, "Sorry we got running late. Katie's here too, she just went in to change."
      I put my jacket on and we all walked around the house and stood next to the pool while a Viking went over and lit a large grill and made sure it was heating.
      Mister Eric and Mister Murray and to a lesser extent Mark explained to me that at least for today, the men were the kings of the land and the women were their dedicated servants. "I use my baptismal name, Ivan, and an old Russian title," Mark said.
      "Your family was Russian," I said as things started to make sense.
      Mister Eric nodded, "I am the Baron Erik from Prussia, your friend is Kniaz Ivan, and Murray is the Count of Five Pines."
      "We're down to four, that one finally died. I'm going to get it cut down before winter."
      "So you're Count Fourpines," Mister Eric laughed. "The others have other titles, some are more serious than others about it. And the women work for our pleasure."
      "Is it always like that?" I asked and Mark laughed.
      "No, not always, at least twice a year we reverse roles," Mister Eric answered, "Mother's day weekend and then sometime in the fall."
      "Oh, yes, and that is even more fun," Mister Murray said, "just be very careful not to do exactly what the women tell you to do."
      I didn't understand.
      Mark explained it, "You do what they want you to do instead."

      In a few minutes somebody rang a bell to get our attention.
      "Now it begins," Mister Murray said to me, "just watch and do what we do, you'll get it."
      "Yes, sir," I answered.
      "When it's just us, I'm Murray, that's Eric."
      "Yes, sir, Mister Murray."
      He laughed at me and patted me on the back.

      The women paraded out of the house in a line.
      Mark had told me that Helen would be one of the prettiest women there, and he was right. There were only a couple of others that were in her league. A couple of them were older, and a couple were younger. One was kinda fat, another was plump but not really fat. And of the whole group, Helen was the tallest.
      But there they were, Mister Eric's wife in the Japanese dress, and Helen in a Greek robe that left her almost all of her legs for all to see, and the others in their costumes.
      I know I'm biased, but I think Helen was the most beautiful woman in the group of seven, and from the comments I heard from the other men, many of them agreed with me. And to me, the others were nice to look at in their costumes, but I was glad I was going home with my wife when it was over.

Lady Helen Writes:
      Naomi, an oriental woman who appeared to be in her fifties, was wearing one of the most beautiful garments I've ever seen. She greeted me much the same way Eric had, as an old friend she hadn't met yet, and encouraged me to join them in their getting into their characters for the day. Several of the other women were putting on everything from the classic French maid costume or a short kilt to a leather, rubber, and rope outfit that frankly looked uncomfortable and a little scary.
      "Yes ma'am, I did bring a costume, but it is nothing like these," I said.
      "What would you like to wear?" A woman that looked familiar asked me. "I'll show you what we have."
      "I'm not sure I want to wear one yet," I said, "But you look very familiar to me, I'm Helen, I work at the hospital."
      "I'm Lori, Mark's wife, I'm a teacher at Central Middle."
      We discussed how we knew each other and came to two conclusions. The first being that she had taught our son when he was in school, before she was married to Mark as it turned out. The second was that I thought a Roman slave toga looked like it'd be fun to wear.
      "We wait on the men, and say things like 'yes, master' to them, help each other out, and then later, while they're sitting around smoking cigars and drinking wine, we have our own time together," Lori said.
      "What do you do then?"
      "All sorts of things, Naomi usually has something new with her, and Katherine is always doing some sort of craft, and several of us knit, and, just all sorts of things."
      "Oh, OK." I said relieved that it wasn't more than that, "I think I need some of that."
      "And there's always the nicmo if you want to do it," a woman that I hadn't been introduced to yet said with a very naughty grin.
      "Nicmo?" I asked although I had a good idea of what she was talking about.
      Lori shook her head, "Don't scare her off, Debby. She means 'N' 'C' 'M' 'O', a non-committed make-out, but that's usually later, and no, you don't have to participate. But it can be a lot of fun."
      "Yes it can," Debby grinned at Lori who blushed and paid extra attention to the costume closet.
      "Oh, OK." I said trying not to judge anything or anybody yet.
      Debby smiled and tightened one of the leather straps holding her breasts up and out in an almost alarming way. Then she put a leather collar around her neck and had a redheaded woman that said her name for today was Aeval fasten it for her.
      "Let me show you how to put this on and tell you about the rest of the day," Lori said taking the toga off its hanger. She helped me into it and showed me how to tie the rope belt, "And then later there is a formal dinner in the dining room, sometimes we'll dress up in evening gowns and heels, but tonight will be more costumes like these."
      "And sometimes they'll want us all naked," a thick bodied woman named Donna added as she fastened the belt on her kilt.
      "I think I'd like the evening gown idea better," I answered as I fingered the slit up the side of the already rather short robe that would give anybody who cared to look an unbroken view of my legs from ankle almost to my waist because the Romans didn't wear panties.
      Lori looked me up and down, "I bet you'd be stunning in a cocktail dress."
      "Thank you, ma'am," I said and practiced my curtsy in the sandals.

      Aside from the flip flops, I thought I looked the part of a Roman slave girl, and I took my place in the line of women as we went out to begin the day's event on the brick patio around one end of the pool. Of the others, I was most impressed with Katherine's outfit, for a woman her age, and she appeared to be in her fifties if not a bit older, she was in pretty good shape and pulled off the classic waitress look, complete with ruffled hairpiece, quite well.
      But even in line with the others I could feel the men looking at me. I know I'm not bad looking, but usually I think about half of my appearance is my clothes, which is why I dress 'old and frumpy' as I've heard it put. Now, in the figure hugging toga, there was no doubt about it, they were looking at me, and it was all me. And for the first minute or so, I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Then I saw the smile on Bill's face.
      I mean, I saw Laird William, smiling at me, so I smiled back.

      Mistress Naomi, as she wanted us to call her when the men were around, made a short speech about how it would be our honor and pleasure to serve them, and Eric, or for today, Sir Eric, accepted our service.
      Then we split up to do our assigned chores. As a slave girl, I had been given to Lori to help her set up the cold things for lunch and to get out the plates and silverware.
      On the whole, waiting on the men wasn't all that different than what I had done at some church dinners and other things like that. The only difference was that we were supposed to act like servants.
      That and the other women got groped and pinched and joked with while I didn't experience any of that.
      When I asked Lori about it she laughed. "It's because you're the new girl. If you become a regular they'll do all of that and more."
      "I don't know if I want to become a regular yet, not without the fill experience."
      "We can tell them to treat you like you've been here for years and see if you like it or not. OK?"
      "Sure," I said, then I thought about it, "maybe we should check with my husband first."
      "Is he the jealous type?"
      I involuntarily grinned as I thought about it, "Not really, but looking is one thing, touching is something else."
      "We have some ground rules for during social times like this, no penetration of anything by anything in the general gathering, they can only use fingers, and only for a short time, no leaving marks. Stuff like that."
      "Let's go ask him."

      "By your leave Laird William," Lori said with a very practiced tone and manner, then she explained that, "Miss Babs would be pleased if you would allow her to experience the full adventure of the mild servitude offered by the daytime event today."
      I could see Bill thinking about it.
      "Do you wanna do what they're doing?" He asked me.
      "Yes me'laird, just to experience it and make an informed decision about everything."
      "OK, sure," Laird William said to Lori.
      Lori reported the idea to Mistress, who then talked to Sir Eric, and then he announced that I was to be considered a regular as long as the gentlemen of the gathering respected the Daylight Social rules.

      Less than five minutes later I had been felt up and patted like I'd seen the men do to the other women. But most of the contact was friendly and playful and only a few times did I get the impression that a couple of the guys were sizing me up for some of the action that I'd heard might happen later in the evening and that I knew I didn't want any part of. Not now, and possibly not even later.
      On the way back into the house with a tray full of dirty bowls did it occur to me that for the first time in my adult life, at least since I was married, that a man besides my husband or my own doctor had touched me in such places. And they had done so in full daylight, with my husband present. In a couple of cases, both of us were laughing and playing along with it.
      And I had no idea how I really felt about it as I continued my duty, and reloaded the try with the next course, while trying the cold pickled shrimp that Debby handed me and saying it was almost too good for the men.... And then I realized that that was exactly the point of the exercise.
      It wasn't me they were feeling up, it was Miss Babs, the new girl, the slave in the toga with the long hair. This was the next step in the playtime we'd been having at home, except I didn't know that until much later when we began writing our narration.
      I also had watched some of the other women turn just so and step slightly one way or the other to avoid some of the more forward touches of some of the men. And there were others that didn't move like that and one even encouraged their wandering hands. I decided to take a middle road and allowed some touching, but not all, and when somebody went what I thought was a little too far and tried to touch me in ways that I sometimes denied my husband, I'd move just enough to disengage their hand, and then asked them if they wanted more shrimp. And if they persisted or tried to pull me back toward them, I learned the properly indignant tone to say "sir forgets himself", or my own "my lord mustn't."

      While all of the men did behave themselves for the most part, there were a couple of them that seemed to like to push things, and Sir Eric rebuked them in a good natured way at first, then with more force and the order to cease. Aeval's husband, Nate immediately stopped everything and even pouted for a few minutes, the other turned his antics down about a notch and a half, and kept having fun.
      But even then some of the kidding around got a little forward and I had to rescue Donna from the wandering hands of a man called Sir John who was dressed as a warrior while her husband was away from the table.
      "Excuse me Miss, but I need assistance preparing the dessert trays," I said politely to her while he had his hand up her kilt.
      "Pardon me sir, but the Master gets very upset if his dessert is delayed after his meat," Donna said as the perfect servant girl.
      "Oh, that's just like him," the man said to us then he shouted to the front table, "put your own belly before everything else," where Master Eric reclined next to a table full of food.
      "I most certainly put it before you and yours," the Baron replied without knowing what was going on.
      In a moment Mistress Naomi rang a small bell, "If it please the Masters, I have the entrees ready to be served," she announced from the grill.

      Aeval danced and sang a song I was told was Celtic while the other women served the hot food, Lori and I spent our time plating up a range of every sort of dessert you could think of. And, of course, we had to taste most of them as well.
      "What did you think of the tiramisu?" Lori asked me.
      "It was wonderful," I answered honestly.
      "Do you think it was too sweet?"
      I stopped putting saucers on the tray and looked at her, "have you ever heard of tiramisu being too sweet?"
      She grinned, "if the men don't eat it, we will."
      "That's the spirit!"

      As the men finished everything from steak to hot sausages the two of us went around and offered each man his choice of desserts. Some tried one or two of the various things, others passed, and my husband said something totally different.
      "If you have any more of those shrimp I'll take a few of them instead."
      "Yes, Laird William," Lori said with a bowed head.
      While she went to get the shrimp I noticed that Debby was now totally naked except for her collar.
      "What happened?" I whispered to Laird William.
      "John, the warrior guy, said that his servant should go that way because she let his beer run out."
      "Oh," I said, "Your beer never ran out did it?"
      "I wouldn't make you do that if it had. He snapped his fingers a couple of times and she knelt and undressed without him telling her to. Then he told us why." When the Laird said that about the Warrior, he snapped his fingers and a couple of the other women looked our way to see if he needed something.
      I nodded and stepped backward as Lori brought him his plate of shrimp.

      After we'd served everybody we took what was left back to the kitchen and I asked her about Debby.
      "They're really into the Gorean thing. There's times when I thought he was being brutal to her, but when I asked her without him around she said they have cues to each other they use if it's going too far." Lori said softly like somebody might be listening from the next room.
      "What was he doing?"
      "One night he used a wand thing that shocked her."
      "Like a cattle prod, or a police taser?"
      "No, not that much of a shock, but it did spark and crackle like that, and it would make her jump when he touched her between her legs with it."
      "I bet."
      "But when he took a break to get a drink I asked her if she wanted him to stop and she said no."
      "I just thought she was wearing a costume like us, well, like me anyway."
      "Murray and Katherine are into it a little once in awhile, but not like them, how should I put it, they're into it but it isn't really into them? If you know what I mean. Me and Mark are into some of the B&D, a little, just for fun. And Linda, that's Aeval, she does Renaissance fairs and all that. But Debby and John are all about that way of life, and know all the words and signs and all that. A night at their place can be a real eye opener into alternative lifestyles. But I wouldn't recommend you go there until you've been to a lot of our other events."
      "How many people are there that do this? Just around here I mean."
      "Well, those that are here today are the core of the group, there's a couple of others, and there are some that will come in for a camp weekend at Murray's. But all together, maybe a dozen or so couples I could name right off, not more than twenty all together. Enough to be fun, but not so many that you don't know everybody."
      "How many are like John and Debby."
      "Two other couples are like them, and Ray and Connie are on the fence. They got heavy into it, and she even got a kajira brand, but then they backed off. They were supposed to be here today but one of their kids is sick."
      "Branded, you mean a real brand like they do to cattle?"
      "Yes. Look at Debby's left butt cheek, she got one too."
      "I will," I answered. Then during a break I got my phone out of my purse and did a bit of reading on the subject, I didn't want to say something foolish out of my own ignorance.

      When we went back out to the patio I maneuvered myself around so I was behind Debby picking up dirty plates and used silverware, and then I got a good look at her butt. And yes she did have a stylized 'k' on her. It was a healed over scar that I knew was a brand. I'd seen them before on fraternity members and others that did things like that to themselves. As a nurse I shivered to myself that a pretty woman would allow such a dangerous and permanent mark to be done to her. But I knew that it had probably been her own decision and she allowed it to be done.
      I swallowed even though my mouth was dry, smiled, and picked up another load of plates.
      "We had wanted to meet some interesting people for the fun of it," I whispered to myself as I walked back to the kitchen. "We have."

      Mistress Naomi and Miss Katherine passed out cigars and large wine glasses to the men as they adjourned to the den to watch sports on TV. We finished cleaning up the tables, then Mistress Naomi said it was our turn to eat.
      "And we get the good stuff," Miss Katherine said. She opened up a large plastic container that smelled like it had been sent down from heaven, "boneless skinless chicken breast fillets that have been marinating in spicy Italian dressing all morning and more shrimp soaked in butter. We've had the pool heater on so you girls go swimming while I cook them, low and slow."
      Debby didn't need any more prompting than that, and as she was already naked, skinny dipping was her only option, so she jumped in making a huge splash that got most of the rest of us wet. All too late she remembered that she had a leather collar on and swam over and asked if somebody would take it off her and hang it up to dry.
      "I got it," I said and undid it, then I draped it over a chair.
      "You coming in?" Debby asked me.
      "Why not?" I said. It took me a minute to get out of the toga, then I raced Donna into the pool.
      Five of us splashed and played and dunked each other, and fetched things that Mistress Naomi threw in off the bottom of the pool.
      "OK, get out and dry off if you want to eat," Miss Katherine said as she turned the grill off. "There were some sausages left, and a couple of ribs if you want them."
      "I want to try your chicken first," Debby said as she climbed out of the pool.
      The rest of us agreed with her.

The Laird William Writes:
      A couple of the men resumed playing pool as they smoked their cigars.
      Mark didn't smoke at all, so he gave me his cigar and made up for it by mixing a fancy cocktail at the bar.
      "The women are having a good time," I said as I watched them in the pool.
      "They do, but don't let them see you watching." Mister Eric said, then he grinned, "which is why I did this." He went to the bar and picked up a remote control, then after looking at the buttons he said, "oh, yes, need to do this first," then he pushed another button and the TV switched from the sports station to a blank screen. Mister Eric pushed another button and it changed to a menu screen.
      "You can work that thing can't you?" John asked from the pool table.
      "Yeah, I got it, just have to remember the steps in order," Mister Eric answered then he made his selection and the screen changed to six monitor screens showing the images from security cameras on the property. "Remember the rule about the photography?" He asked me, I nodded, "This is OK because I turned the recorder off. It's not being saved."
      "Oh, ok," I said.
      "Which one is the best?" Mister Eric asked us.
      "Three," several men replied meaning the view of the swimming pool and the deck around the grill.
      Eric selected that view and it expanded to very nearly fill the whole screen, "and then you do this," he pushed another button and we could hear the women laughing and chatting through the speakers concealed throughout the room.
      "That's a really nice setup," I said to Mister Eric.
      "Thank you, John and his company did it. It cost a pretty penny, but it was worth it."
      The Viking soldier nodded at me, "If you need something like that, let me know, I can get you a break on the price."
      "If I ever do, you'll be the first to know," I answered.

      After the women finished eating and cleaned up their dishes Eric said they'd go rest for awhile then change into their evening costumes so he switched the TV back to the sports channel.
      "Do we have to change clothes?" I asked him.
      "Only if you want to. John probably will, I don't know about Mark. Sometimes John will put his armor on, but it's up to you."
      I thought about it, "I'm good like this."
      "As am I," Eric said, "let's go check on things. Just to see how we stand."
      "I'll come with you, I could use some fresh air," Murray said puffing on a fresh cigar.
      We took our cigars and drinks and walked through the kitchen where the dishwasher was cleaning one load while another waited stacked neatly in the sink, then we went out to the patio and he commented that the women forgot to take the garbage out to the alley.
      "I'll take it, sir, just tell me where it goes."
      "You would wouldn't you," Murray said to me.
      "Yessir, I try to do what I can to help when I can."
      "Remind me to talk to you later, I'm looking for somebody to help out on the farm."
      Eric nodded to him, "I think our friend would be excellent if you're really going to do it."
      "Me too. And it was that tree that made up my mind. I can't do work like that anymore, not by myself anyway, and paying somebody to cut it down just galls me to hell."
      I looked from one to the other, "I'll do what I can, I mean, it's just right." I took the trash bag out of the can and asked them where it went.
      "There's a gate back there, behind the garage, you'll see the big can," Eric nodded that direction.

Our Friends Wade Into The More Serious Side Together And With EyesOpen.

Lady Helen Writes:
      We spent some time lounging around the day room, and true to the prediction, a couple of the women took out some knitting and Katherine showed us the new offerings in catalogs ranging from food containers to marital aids. Debby and Linda (or was she still Aeval the Celt?) relaxed together on a day bed and seemed to really enjoy each other's company, a lot. But I tried not to stare and let them do their own thing while I took my first knitting lesson since I was a little girl from Naomi and Donna.
      We sipped flavored brandy and herbal tea, and chatted, and spent a very pleasant hour or so relaxing, or in the case of the two on the couch, not relaxing.
      And of course, I asked everybody why they did the slave-girl thing.
      "I do it because my husband really enjoys it. I don't mind playing the part, you know, maybe it has grown on me, but still, it was his idea and he always says he wants to keep it up, and I don't really mind." Naomi smiled, "like today, it has been a lot of fun."
      Katherine smiled at the two women who were busy doing something besides fiber work, "and some of us are having more fun than others," she said softly.
      "Why do you do this?" I asked her.
      "It's simple. I enjoy living like the olden days, but not as old as going without electricity and all. I think life was simpler then and I enjoy it. But I still like my indoor plumbing too."
      After she and Linda finished Debby made no bones about it when I asked her my question, "I love it. If I couldn't do it, I think I'd be miserable. Last year we took our vacation and went to a total immersion event. We both had a blast!"
      "What all did you do?"
      "Everything, I even ended up captured in a raid and being auctioned off to another master. Then John and some of his friends had to sneak into their camp in the middle of the night and take me back."
      "Sounds exciting," I said. "But I don't think I'd like some of the accessories." I patted my left hip.
      "You're not going to ask me about my brand and collar?" Debby asked me.
      "It looks like a Gorean slave collar and mark," I answered.
      She seemed surprised, "It is."
      "And if you like it that's all that matters," I said, then I changed the subject, "So, what's going to happen tonight?"
      She smiled and shook her head, "You're the first novice I've run into at one of these that didn't have a bunch of questions or make a speech about how it was immoral for me to consider myself a slave."
      I laughed, "Well, if it isn't making you happy, then it's immoral for you to be a slave," I did the old shame on you finger rubbing gesture at her, "better now?"
      She smiled, "Yes. Tonight is a more formal occasion. It'll begin with some entertainment for the masters, then there will be a presentation and maybe some business conducted, then we'll serve the dinner that the caterer will deliver." That reminded her of something, "Mistress, did the caterer call and confirm?"
      Naomi nodded as she took a large garment bag out of the closet and unzipped it, "Yes, they'll be here about five as agreed. So somebody will have to be dressed to receive outsiders."
      I put my hand up, "I don't know what do to, but I volunteer to help."
      Katherine said she'd be happy to show me what to do before they got there.
      "For this evening's soiree I'm going to wear my homongi, so carrying pans is out," Naomi said as she began to wrap part of it around herself, then Katherine started to help her, and finally Lori assisted. "We've got a couple of other ones if you'd like to wear one. I'm sure the komon would fit you."
      "I'm sorry," I said as they helped the Mistress into a remarkably beautiful and totally authentic formal kimono, "I draw the line at any costume that takes more than twenty minutes to get in or out of." Then after I second, "or one I have to have two other people help me with. I'll stick with this if it's OK." I held up the robe I had been looking at from the costume closet.
      "I understand, I only wear this once or twice a year. And that is precisely why."
      "Besides, it costs a fortune to have it cleaned," Katherine said.

      While we dressed, and did each other's hair I asked the ones that hadn't answered about why they were there.
      Linda, now back into being her Celtic alter ego complete with a large metal torc around her neck, said that she did it mainly to keep in practice for the fairs. "I'll play a tavern wench, or a Druidess with a wreath of mistletoe that I wave around like a tambourine to bless everybody, and all sorts of roles." She moved her arm in a circle like she was doing the blessing over us.
      "But at the fairs she gets paid for it," Debby added.
      "Oh, hell yes, after about the first day or so of a month long fair, it really gets to be work," she said as she put an armlet on that matched the necklace. "And some of what I have to wear turns my skin green," she said as she flexed her arm to make sure the arm band stayed put.
      Donna shook her head, "I really don't know why we do it, but it seems like we always have and I'd miss it if we didn't."
      "So what are you going to wear tonight?" Katherine asked her.
      She thought about it, "we have a tavern wench don't we?"
      "I'm the minstrel girl tonight," Linda said.
      "Then that's it, I'm the wench," she answered.

      My servant's robe covered me from neckline to ankle, and if I put my arms to my sides, only my hands were visible. But as I was naked under it, I felt very vulnerable and downright sexy.
      The others were wearing a hodgepodge of costumes ranging from the Mistress's formal kimono to Linda's wardrobe from the dark ages to Debby's... I don't know the word for it. She had on leggings and sleeves of black leather that ended just above her knees and elbows, a bodysuit that didn't cover various vital areas, a black cowl and mask over her eyes. The outfit was accented with silver and gold chains that made noise when she moved. The only thing I didn't understand was why she was barefoot.
      "The master requested that specifically," she said totally in character.
      "If we're all ready, we'll go," Mistress Naomi said.
      "One moment please," Katherine said, "Can you check my zipper?" she asked Linda, "It's not all the way up."
      She tugged on it for a second, "It's stuck."
      "I got the dress," I said and held the fabric around the uncooperative zipper as Linda pulled it up.
      "Thank you," they both said.
      Katherine adjusted her outfit and checked the mirror one last time, "OK, now we can go."

The Laird William Writes:
      I was confronted by a decision that I was not comfortable making alone.
      Mister Murray has simply asked me if I owned my house, and when I said no, he asked another question.
      "I've got a house trailer in the back corner across the creek. It's very private, we've had some of our events out there, but now I'm redoing it and it's going to be where a hand can live and help me with the farm and the camp and stuff. You know, free rent for labor on the place. The only thing you've got to pay is your own electric. It's got its own meter."
      The only thing I could say was, "I don't know what to say, sir."
      "You can still work your regular job, just, you know, evenings and weekends, help around the place. An hour or so a day during the week, then, you know, Saturday mornings. I don't expect somebody to kill themselves to live in a trailer."
      "At least once you get that tree cut down," Mister Eric added for him.
      Mister Murray nodded, "Yeah, there is that."
      "But you just met me and Helen."
      "I've known Mark for years, he said you're all right, and from what I've seen today, you're exactly the kind of man I want there."
      Eric had to add another comment, "and he comes with Helen, right?"
      "That too."
      "Yes, sir. But I'd like to see the trailer before I say either way, and I have to talk it over with my wife first."
      Mister Murray nodded, "Of course. What are you doing tomorrow? I'll give you the directions and we can meet out there. You can bring donuts."
      Eric had to add to that too, "Murray will stand on his head for a donut."
      "I'll check with Helen, but I think we can come out." Then I remembered something. "Our lease is coming up for renewal in a couple of months. I'll have to let them know before long if we're going to stay or not."
      "Then it's perfect," Mister Murray said.
      Mister Eric nodded, "But you should still talk to your wife first."
      I said I would and took my turn at the pool table, proving once again that while I enjoyed the game, I wasn't very good at it.

      About an hour later we went and washed up, and some of the men changed into another costume. All I did was put on a tie that I borrowed from Mister Eric, and we went into the dining room where they said the evening's entertainment and meal would be held.
      "I had this put in just for this kind of thing, but it's come in handy for the garden club and stuff too," Mister Eric said as he stepped up on a corner stage on the far end of the room from the big double doors that opened onto the entrance way.
      "Bill, if you ever get invited to one of their garden club fundraisers, make a small donation and decline it," Mark said to me.
      "Because, Mrs. Xavier Watson Crowe is the dullest person to ever walk the Earth," Mister Eric said standing at attention with his hands out like he was standing at a pulpit. "And she really enjoys making speeches."
      "That never end," Mister Murray added. "My God that woman can talk."
      "She can spend an hour just welcoming you to the dinner," Mark said acting like he was falling asleep.
      I nodded, "I think we'll have something else going on that night. Sorry, sir."
      "She made a speech one time, I'm not making this up, she talked for thirty minutes solid, at a banquet where Don Blackson was the guest of honor."
      "I know the name but...."
      "He used to be the governor, he was supposed to make the keynote address. She was introducing him. Finally somebody had the idea to have the band start playing to cut her off."
      We laughed as Mister Eric stepped down, "We need to move that table back over here," he said and gestured toward the windows.
      "No problem," I said and walked around to pull it that way. "How far?" I asked as I pulled the chairs on that side back out of the way.
      "See? That's why I like him," Mister Murray said, "My man, you've got to come out tomorrow, hell, I'll even work it out to pay you to work on the place."
      I just smiled as Mark and a couple of the others helped me move the table and chairs to where Mr. Eric wanted them.

Lady Helen writes:
      Once again we lined up and walked out of the day room in character. Mistress Naomi knocked on the dining room door.
      "Enter!" Master Eric called out, and we did just that.
      As before, the Mistress greeted them and told them how happy we were that they were honoring us with this chance to serve, then she introduced Linda as Aeval, "who will be your opening entertainment with her dance honoring the evening star."
      Lori went to the media center and put in a CD, but the system wouldn't play the music, instead of fighting with it, she looked up, "I'm sorry master, I can't make the machine work."
      "I've got it," John the Warrior said and went over to the panel. He looked at it for a second, then shook his head, "it's a burned CD, hang on." He powered down the system, then brought it back up. "Now it recognizes it, all yours," he patted Lori on her butt and went back to the bar.
      "Thank you, your Excellency, and thank you my gentle audience," she bowed. In a moment the thousand year old song began playing and Aeval danced her way around the room passing easily among the men with turns and flourishes worthy a professional dancer.
      The rest of us bowed and went to the kitchen to begin setting up the meal.

      But Laird William followed us into the kitchen. "Helen, I need to talk to you," he said.
      "Yes, me'laird?" I said.
      "As Helen, I'm sorry. Can we go somewhere alone?" He said to Mistress Naomi.
      "Certainly, right this way," she bowed and led us to a sitting room.
      "Thank you, Mistress," I said to her not wanting to come out of character.
      Then Laird William explained the offer to me. I asked several questions and thought about it. "What could it hurt to go out tomorrow and look at it? We don't have to say yes or no tonight to moving do we?"
      "I don't think so," he answered, "he just wanted us to come out tomorrow and look, and then make the decision either way."
      "OK, sure, what time?"
      "Let's go see."
      I smiled at my husband, "OK, but I'll ask him as Miss Babs the servant girl," I curtsied to him.

      "Excuse me, Sire." I said to Eric in my sweetest voice accompanied by a low bow.
      "Yes, my dear?"
      "If it be your pleasure, when would you wish us to arrive tomorrow?"
      He smiled and glanced at Laird William, "She's good at this," he said.
      "Yes, sir."
      Then Master Eric turned his attention back to me, "and very tall. But that's fine. Ahh, anytime after say nine in the morning would be wonderful."
      I glanced at my husband, and he at me, I nodded, and he accepted for both of us.
      "We'll be there, sir."
      "Very good."

      The rest of the evening went as described as we got dressed. The only thing that didn't go quite as planned was when they wanted to hear me sing.
      When I was much younger I sang in choirs, but I was never really a soloist. But at their insistence, I agreed to try. It only took a couple of minutes for John the Warrior and Laird William to turn the stage into a karaoke set with a small monitor on a stand. While they did that I went through the available songs with Lori at the media consol. At Lori's suggestion I picked a couple of good old classic songs that I thought I could do fairly well at, then I took a sip of water and went to give the first one a try.
      I sang, Aeval and Debby danced on opposite sides of me, and when it was over, the men gave us a standing ovation. Then they begged for me to do another song.
      "If it please the masters, Miss Babs is to meet the caterer to receive the evening meal. They called and said they are on their way so perhaps she could do another number later while you dine," Mistress Naomi rescued me.
      "A wonderful suggestion," Master Eric said to his wife who was behind the bar.
      I curtseyed as low as I could without knocking the monitor off the stage, and fled to the kitchen.

      I only had to wait a few minutes, then I saw a van pull into the driveway and two men get out.
      The caterer had been there before, and assured me that he'd rather deliver here to us than to anything to do with a wedding.
      "Ma'am, I've seen them all, and let me tell you, this ain't nothing like having to face some bride's mother who hates everything on the truck even though she ordered it."
      I laughed with him and helped carry the stuff into the kitchen. The caterer showed me what everything was, and suggested how to plate it up so it would look the best. "And don't worry about saving any pans or anything, they asked for it all to be disposable. And the delivery charge and the tip was built into the bill."
      "Very good, sir," I said, "thank you."
      For the next twenty minutes I organized the food and counted different types of plates and filled pitchers with ice water and even made a pot of coffee so when the other women came in to begin serving the meal, it was ready to go.
      "I'm impressed," Miss Katherine said, "are you sure you're a nurse and not a waitress?"
      "Old habits die hard, I used to help at all our church dinners."
      "Good," she grinned at the others, "some can't tell a salad fork from a dinner fork."
      "So sue me," Debby said.
      Lori shook her head, "but she does have other talents."
      "Good ones too."
      I didn't ask what they were, "It's ready to go, salad first?"
      "Yes, do you want to plate or serve?"
      "I'll plate," I said and unwrapped the pan with the tossed salad in it.

      There was enough of the salad and fixings left from lunch that after the other women served that course I made a giant chef's salad for us to dig into once the men had been fed and had gone on to do whatever they were going to do later.
      I was very glad I had spent the time to arrange things beforehand as the only delay during the service was when Lori said that one of them didn't want any greens on his plate but I had already dipped some onto each one.
      "No problem," I said. I took a clean plate and moved everything else onto it. I didn't even ask who it was for.
      During the meal I heard Aeval singing, then at one point I looked up and the three women that were serving were all topless.
      "It was Sir John's idea," Lori said.
      "Who else?" Debby added.

      "Miss Babs," Mistress Naomi said to me while I was finishing up serving the main course.
      "Yes ma'am," I answered with a smile.
      "The masters would like you to sing again now."
      "But..." I started to object, "OK."
      "And they want you topless," she said, "I would be, but in this outfit, I simply can't do that."
      I grinned, "another reason to wear it?"
      She smiled at me and nodded, "I'll tell them you'll be right out. And, I should warn you so you don't get upset, but Debby is being, punished, just ignore them and sing."
      "Yes'm. But why is she being punished?"
      "She forgot to tie his shoelaces when they were getting ready to come here tonight."
      "Didn't he wear cowboy boots?" One of the others asked.
      The Mistress frowned and didn't answer.

      As I undid my robe I felt oddly calm. It was part of the role, and besides, I'd already gone skinny dipping with half the audience, and there were at least four other women with bared breasts in the room. I tied the sleeves of the robe around my waist, took a deep breath, and walked into the dining room like it was the most natural thing in the world.
      When I walked in I had noticed right away that Aeval was totally naked, dancing to the background music on the stage, her almost classic hourglass curves accenting her graceful moves in breathtaking ways. Lori was still topless, but her costume was so loose around her that I wondered why she bothered to leave any of it on. Donna was serving drinks from the bar wearing what amounted to a G-string around her ample waist and a smile.
      At first I didn't see Debby, but then once I was up on stage, I could see her, and what she was doing to John. She was performing as well, but on her knees with her hands behind her back, only using her mouth she was going down full length on him, and doing so almost agonizingly slowly. I blinked a couple of times, and took a deep breath, then I looked over at Lori at the media center and nodded.
      I was self conscious for a couple of minutes, but once I started singing the old country western song, it passed. As I was singing I had a slight wardrobe malfunction as the sleeves of my robe began to come loose and the robe began to slip off on its own.
      A couple of the men cheered for me to let it go, but I hesitated. I wasn't sure I wanted to go there yet. I looked over at my husband and he gestured that it was up to me. I teased them with it a little as I tried to decide if I wanted to sing the last verse of the song naked or not. Finally, with a bit of encouragement from Aeval as she danced, I let go of the robe and finished the song in my birthday suit.
      And it was fun.
      The men, including John, who Debby had evidently finished up with, gave me another standing ovation, and talked me into singing the first song I'd done again as a duet with Aeval wearing naught but my sandals and my earrings to another round of good applause.
      Then I bowed, scooped up my robe, said something about preparing their dessert, and walked quickly back to the kitchen.
      Lori met me at the counter where I paused for a long drink of wine that was meant for the men, "You were wonderful, and beautiful."
      I smiled weakly, "I'm more nervous now than I was then."
      "You were in character, in here, you're you again."
      "I know, it's amazing. But that's exactly the way it was."
      "And something else," I said taking another sip of the wine, "I'm so turned on I can't stand it."
      She laughed with me, "I know all about it, just wait until you get home. Or maybe on the way home."
      I raised the glass and toasted her, then finished the wine.

There Is A Major Decision To Be Made In Chapter Four.

The Laird William Writes:
      Helen talked about the day all the way home. And once there, she showed her appreciation for my allowing her to explore another part of herself in ways that only a man's wife can.
      In fact, it was so good I'm not sure as to when we fell asleep, but we did so still making love.

      In the morning we were very slow getting moving, but we were able to get up and get showered and dressed and then stopped on the way to the farm and got us some breakfast and picked up Mister Murray's donuts.
      "So what do you think we'll be doing?" Helen asked me.
      "I don't know. He said they have retreats and camp outs and things out there, but Mister Eric said they don't do the really big events like they talked about Debby and John being part of."
      "I don't think I want to get that into it, not getting a brand and having to wear a collar and all."
      "I don't want you being branded. That's out," I said.
      She laughed at me, but she was smiling like she didn't mean it, "It should be my decision whether I want to get something permanent done to my body."
      "Not according to Mister John. When she's wearing the collar, she's his slave."
      Helen nodded, "That's the impression I got from her too." She shook her head, "but that isn't me, that isn't any part of me. No sir."

      The farm was a good way out of town, but we found it with less trouble than we had finding Eric's house as it was the only house on their road for about two miles except fields and woods.
      I pulled up behind their vehicles and we sat there for a moment, "You ready for this?"
      My wife thought about it, "Yes, let's do it."
      "I meant, let's go look at the trailer and then talk about it."
      "I know," I said, "then, let's do it."

      Mister Murray and Miss Katherine, although I should call her Mrs. Katherine, but that doesn't sound right, were just as happy to see us as they could be, and invited us into their ranch style home without hesitation and made us feel welcome. Miss Katherine had made a full spread of breakfast to go with the donuts and insisted that we join them.
      Even though we'd just had bacon biscuits from the gas station, she wouldn't hear of us not eating with them. During the meal they took turns telling us all about the farm, and how they came to be with the group that really didn't have a name, but seemed to do just fine without it.
      "All sorts of names have been suggested, including stuff like 'Gor-lite', but nothing seemed to fit," Mister Murray said as he shook hot sauce onto his scrambled eggs.
      "I liked 'sexy servers are us', but nobody else did," Miss Katherine said, "so we're still looking for a name."
      "How long have you been doing that?" Helen asked them.
      "A dozen years or so," Mister Murray said, "but in any really serious way, where we plan the next event more than a couple of weeks ahead, three, maybe four years now."
      "No," Miss Katherine shook her head, "I met with Naomi and we worked up a schedule for the full year having an event every other month six years ago. And we've been doing it ever since."
      We laughed as Murray shrugged over his breakfast, "Four, six, whatever."
      But I was curious about something Mister Murray had mentioned about the farm, "What did you mean that you have a railroad?"
      "You had to see the tracks out front."
      "Yes, sir, but we just thought they were part of the landscaping."
      Miss Katherine laughed, "They are."
      Mister Murray ignored her, "they're real, that's why there's a sign out there not to park on them."
      I pursed my lips as I thought about it, "Oh, OK. I didn't."
      "Finish your breakfast and we'll go show them," Miss Katherine said.
      "Sure, we'll take a ride, it's the best way to see the place."
      "Ride?" Helen asked, "I thought it was a garden railway like you see at the home show." She held her hand about a foot off the table. "You know, a big little train."
      Katherine nodded, "you'll see."
      "It'll be good, it goes by the trailer, so I'll get the keys and we'll stop there. You can leave your car here." Mister Murray said, "I've had enough of this, let me go fire it up. You guys wait here, I'll pick you up out front." He wrapped the remainder of his egg and sausage in his toast and took his coffee and a donut with him.
      Helen waited until he was gone before she said, "He's very proud of his toy."
      "I have to admit that it's a lot more than a toy. But you'll see," Miss Katherine said. "It takes a few minutes to get it running, and he'll probably have to change the cars, so, finish up and we'll go wait on him."

Lady Helen Writes:
      I did notice that the tracks were a good bit bigger than the ones at the city park, but they weren't a full sized railroad either, so I had no idea what to expect as we stood on the front steps and finished our coffee.
      Then we heard a train whistle and looked off to the right through the bushes and trees along the edge of the yard.
      "That's a train," Bill said.
      "Yes. Murray can tell you more about it, but I do know it's a lot bigger than any other model train I've ever seen."
      I agreed, "Yes it is. It's huge," I said as I counted at least seven bench seats in the passenger car. It looked like it'd hold twenty people with no problem.
      Murray was sitting in the cab of a diesel locomotive that looked for all the world like a regular switch engine, just smaller, and a lot quieter.
      He stopped the train where the track crossed the driveway and waved for us to get into the passenger car immediately behind the engine. The third card of the train was a flatbed that was loaded with tools and lumber for some project on the farm, the last car was low hopper half full of dirt. The three of us cheerfully climbed on and he blew the whistle again.
      "This one is propane electric, it's a lot quieter than the steam engine, you'll see it when we get back to the shop," Murray said, then he did several things and the engine began moving. "We've got just over two miles of track, the main loop is about a mile and a quarter, give or take, and two spurs, not counting the jog around the house."
      "That's a lot of track," Bill said.
      Katherine nodded, "We started with just the loop around the house and out to the barn, then he had the bridge built and we've just gone from there. But he's about out of track, so I think we're almost done."
      "That road runs down to the road to the campground, then it crosses the creek and goes by the trailer, and on back further is Sammons's bean field and a stand of timber that's good for hunting." Murray said, then he slowed the train down just before we crossed the road to the campground.
      "How big is the campground?" Bill asked.
      "Good sized, but not too big," Murray answered. "You'll see."
      Katherine filled in the details, "there's about a dozen spots. There's room for a few RVs and some of our friends will bring them in, but most use tents. We've had some good groups out here."
      Then the train crossed the wooden bridge over the creek, "It looks like wood, but the load bearing structure is welded steel."
      "Good," Bill said as we looked out over the water and the train picked up speed again.
      The tour continued as we rounded a long corner and we could see an older model mobile home on a slight rise. It looked like a nice enough place, but Murray didn't slow down. Instead he said we'd come back to it, and kept moving. The tracks split, but the switch was thrown to the left, so we continued on. "That spur goes back to the timber," he pointed that way.
      There was another bridge over the creek next to the campground.
      "There it is," Murray said. "Three of the spots have water and electric for campers, but the rest are primitive. And that's our fifth wheel next to the bath house, we'll see it all later."
      We only got to look briefly as the train crossed the road into the campground and kept going.
      "That's the lane back to my bean field. There's supposed to be a fence between mine and Sammons's, but his hired pickers ran it down last year," he waved off to the right again.
      "We're friends with them, but I don't think Murray is on speaking terms with the people that work for them," Katherine explained.
      "And this is the workshop and train shed," Murray said as we coasted to a stop. "I'll show you the rest of it."
      "Where did you get it all?" I asked him as we got out of the passenger car and looked around.
      "I bought most of it from an amusement park that went out of business. Dinah is from Maine where she used to haul freight. But the flatcars and some of the heavy equipment came from a factory. This is the same gauge track they use in places like casting plants," he gestured to a small pile of rails, "but that's all that's left."
      "You've got a lot of cars," Bill said. "And I've seen those in factories," he nodded toward several wheeled platforms that weren't pretty but looked very functional.
      "A lot of places use seven inch gauge track. I thought about it, but I didn't want something you had to ride on and waited until I saw this to buy anything. We can ride in these, on twenty four inch gauge steel track," Murray said. "And I can load more firewood on the flatcar than I want to stack when I get it home."
      We looked through the barn at several rail cars that certainly were not toys as they were about half the size of regular railroad rolling stock and looked like they earned their keep by working.
      "And Dinah still works, off steam," Murray said proudly. "She'll hold over a hundred PSI without even trying," he patted the engine with the name stenciled on it in several places. "Not bad for being almost a hundred years old."
      "It's a real train," I said.
      "Yes, ma'am. So when somebody accuses me of being a steam punk I take it as a compliment because while I like the look of the things with the brass and leather and wood and all, it has to work."
      Bill was nodding in agreement, "I like that idea."
      "So that's what all the brass in your house was for," I said, "I thought it was a maritime theme or something."
      "No," Katherine said, "But a lot of it does look like it should be on a ship. We both like that sort of thing, and with the train, it just became a theme."
      "What theme?" Bill asked.
      "Steampunk," I said, "you know, something from today being made to look like it was from the olden days. Like that ceiling fan in the kitchen."
      "The one with two blades like an old airplane? I thought that was so cool." Bill answered.
      "And it all has to work," Murray said patting the side of the steam engine. "Even that old inspection car works. Or it did, it needs a new drive belt," he pointed at an odd looking box on wheels with a lawn mower engine on the back of it.
      "So you're steam punk, and John and Debby are..." Bill began but didn't know the word.
      "They call it Gor," I said.
      "Gor," Bill repeated, "And Mister Eric is all into technology." Bill made a motion like he was pushing buttons on a remote control and Murray nodded. "No wonder you can't come up with a name for the group."
      "And don't forget Linda and Nate and the Renaissance fairs," I offered.
      Bill looked at me and shook his head.
      Murray was still grinning at us, "Ready to go see the trailer?"

      The main track looped around the barn and a horse yard that didn't have a horse in it, another spur branched off to the right with a large sundial between the tracks that had Masonic icons on the pedestal, while the main line headed back toward the house.
      "We kept horses out here for years, and when people come to camp some of them will bring horses to ride, so we kept it." Katherine said as Murray ran the train's speed up until there was a serious breeze blowing through open the passenger car giving us a bit of a chill. He slowed down as we approached the house, then he blew the whistle a couple of times as we crossed the driveway.
      Once again the train crossed the creek and then slowed to a stop at a small platform across the lane from the trailer and we all got out.
      "How often do you use the train?" Bill asked Murray.
      "Quite a bit really. It'll haul all kinds of tools and supplies, and," he smiled broadly, "and it's a hell of a lot more fun than the pickup."
      "I see that."
      "That's the spur that goes back to the timber." Murray said walking along the track and pointing.
      "Let's go look at the trailer," Katherine said to me, "they'll probably be a while."

      The trailer was a single wide, but it was nice, and well laid out. It was in good shape, although it hadn't been used for awhile.
      "Our daughter in law was the last one to live here. And that's been, oh, just over two years."
      I looked at the smaller bedroom's walls, "She had a little girl, about five years old."
      "Yes," Katherine laughed at the pink princess wallpaper. "You can change that any way you want. And back at the house, I've got a craft workshop so we can make all sorts of decorations for you." She took down a smiling knit teddy bear, "We made about six of these in one afternoon," she handed it to me.
      "That sounds wonderful," I looked at the bear closely, "You do good work."
      "Thank you."
      I took another look at the wall paper. "Yeah, that's got to go. If Kurt comes to visit, he won't want to sleep in here."

      "The place is wired up for TV and internet," Katherine pointed to a wireless router sitting on a shelf in the entry closet as we continued the tour. "It can get a little funny sometimes, but it works." She laughed and shook her head, "remind me to tell you about how they did it sometime."
      "Yes, the hole for the cable was made with a sword."
      "I want to hear that story," I answered.

      The kitchen was a little dated, but serviceable, and when I turned on a faucet the water sputtered for a second, but then came up to good pressure and looked clear.
      "It's on the same well as the campground, but there shouldn't be any problem with pressure unless it's full and everybody takes a shower at once," Katherine said.
      We walked out of the trailer, and saw that the train was gone.
      Katherine looked at the switch on the track and saw that it had been changed to route the train up the spur. "It's not far," she said and we walked along the track and talked about the dinner last night.

      "So you didn't mind what John had Debby doing while you sang?" Katherine asked me.
      "As long as he didn't make me do it, no."
      "You don't do things like that? If you don't mind my asking."
      "I don't think we're going to have a lot of secrets," I said. "Yes, I do it, with my husband, in our own home. Not during a dinner party."
      She nodded, "I feel exactly the same way. I'm a little old for it, but I'll still get naked once in awhile, and even a little frisky now and then. But I don't put on that kind of show, I don't care if they put it up for a group vote or not. We can always say no, and I do." She grinned, "Most of us do a little bit of swinging now and then, not much, we're not that kind of group, but some of our outings get," she glanced at me and I knew exactly what she was talking about, "you know, interesting."
      "Oh?" I said. "Like with Debby and Linda yesterday?"
      She shrugged, "Me? Sometimes. But not usually. Like I said, I'm getting a little old, but I still enjoy being a woman. And sometimes a little variety is good for the soul."
      I was saved from having to answer, "There's the train," I said pointing through the trees.
      "They stopped at the dam."
      "You have a dam?"
      "It's not much, more to control erosion than anything else, but it does make someplace for him to fish and the kids to swim now and then."
      I shook my head, "I think we'll be moving in. I need to check with Bill, but I'm sure he loves the place."
      "I thought so, I'll show you my workshop when we get back to the house."

      We got to the train just as the guys were climbing back up the hill with their arms full of brush and sticks.
      "You've got him working already?" Katherine said to her husband.
      "It was his idea," Murray said.
      "There was a logjam on the spillway," Bill said as they put the branches in the hopper car at the end of the train. "I didn't get too wet."
      "Go ahead and drive," Murray said pointing to the engine, "I'll tell you how."
      "I was watching you, I think I can do it."
      "Then let's see. Run it ahead out to the end of the line, I'll show you the deer stand," Murray said climbing into the passenger car. "What did you think of the trailer?"
      "I like it. It's old, but nice."
      "And she wants to redo April's room."
      "Good," Murray said immediately. "I'll help."

      I was very proud of Bill, he started the engine and brought the train smoothly up to a good speed as we crossed what Murray called the new bridge.
      "You'll see the end, just stop before you get to it," Murray said as we watched the bean field go by. "Remember, just the engine weighs more than your car, even though she has good brakes, it don't stop on a dime."
      "Yes sir."
      Murray looked at me, "Can you make him stop calling me 'sir'?"
      "No, sir," I answered.
      "Now don't you start," he looked out at the scenery, "I usually don't get to see stuff, I'm always driving."
      "And you love it," Katherine said.
      "You don't seem to be suffering," Murray replied as the train slowed. He turned toward the cab, "Perfect, stop anywhere along here."
      "Do you want to go see a deer hunting stand?" Katherine asked me.
      "Not unless you do, I'd rather hear more about your craft room," I said as the men got off the train and walked across a narrow clearing between the fields toward a stand of trees. "I've always wanted to try crafts, but I've just never had time."
      "You picked right up on the knitting."
      I nodded, and we talked about all the other things she did.
      "Do you do them all in one day?"
      "Not usually," Katherine said. "But I'll do something else while what I'm working on cools or dries. Like the wood crafts. While the paint or glue dried before I could do the next step I might knit or even do a scrapbook page about making them."
      "What all kind of things do you make?"
      "All kinds of things. Like when we have camping weekends, I'll make site markers for them in the theme of the weekend. I made the covers for these lights," she pointed up to the decorative plastic covers over what used to be a bare light bulb. "Each cover used to be a clear plastic bottle."
      "Neat," I said showing my age.
      "I've got four different colors for different times of the years. For Halloween we put in black-lights, and do a haunted train tour."
      "I've seen that advertised, I didn't know who did it."
      "Naomi talked us into it to help support the garden club, but it's a lot of work, and we need more help if we're going to keep doing it."
      "It's for charity?" I asked, she nodded, "do you think the garden club would split the proceeds?"
      "They have before."
      "I could see if the auxiliary at the hospital wanted to be part of it."
      "Oh, that'd be great, I'm sure they'd go halfsies on whatever we make."
      "The coordinator is right down the hall from me, I'll run it past her and see what they say."
      Katherine smiled, "They'll say sure, and then promise all sorts of help, and five people will show up," she shrugged, "all we can do is try."
      "Do any of the others of the group from last night help?"
      "Most of them do, especially John, he loves being any kind of a warrior and he'll attack the train and bellow a battle cry and even make people that know what's going on scream."
      "I'd bet."
      "You know, I like that for a name for us."
      "Battle cry?"
      "No, 'the group from last night'. I just like that."
      I had to laugh and repeat it. "It does fit, and covers all the variations."
      "Yes it does."
      "Do you think the others will like it?"
      "For the next couple of months they'll have to live with it because when the guys get back, I'm going to tell Murray to take us back to the house and you can help me make up the invitations for the next couple of events."
      "I'd love to."

      "Bill, the quickest way back to the house is to just go in reverse, take it slow at the switches and on the bridge approach and you'll be OK," Murray said, "I'll ride on the back and if something's in the way I'll holler."
      "Yes, sir."
      "I like this guy, I really do," Murray said to us and walked to the back of the train. "Start'er up!"
      Bill blew the whistle a couple of times and we watched a cloud of birds erupt from the brush along the tracks. Then the train began to back up the way we'd come. He slowed it to a crawl at the switches and the bridge, then stopped right in front of the house where we gotten on earlier.
      "You guys have a good time," Katherine said, "I'll call you on the radio when lunch is ready."
      "OK," Murray said as he walked back to the front of the train.
      "What are you going to do?" I asked them.
      "I'd like to see the campground," Bill answered, "if that's all right Mister Murray."
      "Sure. I'll go get a radio and meet you around back. I need to move some stuff over there anyway, we'll do that and you'll get to see it all."
      "Yes, sir."

      As we walked into the house together Murray stopped me as we watched the train go by. Bill waved at us and blew the whistle.
      "Helen, I'd like to ask you something, if you don't mind. You can tell me it's none of my damned business and to go to hell if you want to."
      "He's going to ask you about Bill, and I already have so don't bother. She said he doesn't have a lot of formal education, but he is one of the nicest, hardest working, most honest men she's ever known," Katherine said.
      Murray looked at her and shook his head, "Well, I could have told you that, and that wasn't what I was going to ask her."
      "Oh, sorry, then what?" Katherine said.
      He shook his head, "I'll just go get the radio and ask later."
      "OK," I said, "anytime."

      Katherine's craft workshop was a large bedroom that had a nearly empty table in the middle of the room. But almost every other available space in the room was packed, stuffed, and crammed with every sort of craft item you could name. There was a large dresser under the window piled with fabric several feet thick. Next to it was a shelving unit overflowing with paper and cardboard. Another cabinet was overloaded with baskets brimming with other items.
      "I asked Murray to get me a tool storage space for glue guns and paints and all, so he put this in," she turned and stood in front of a floor to ceiling cabinet unit that occupied the wall next to the door. She opened a cabinet and it was full of scissors hanging by their handles on pegboard. "That way I can find my tools." Then she looked at the room, "but finding anything else is kind of hit or miss."
      "I'm impressed. I guess you're the one to teach me how to do things."
      "You name it, I've probably either done it or would like to try it."
      "What are you going to do for the invitations for the 'People From Last Night'?"
      "Let's look around and see what looks good, the markers for the campsites need to be either wood or plastic, that stuff is in the closet. We'll need," she paused to think and count, "at least eight."
      "How big?" I asked after I spotted a large sheet of some of hard white plastic like you'd see in a school's bathroom window.
      "About...." she gestured with her hands to indicate a rectangle about ten by twelve. "Let's see."
      We worked for about an hour, and had ten site markers cut out, holes punched for the hangers, Katherine had sketched out the basic design and we were picking colors when she asked me about how I felt being a servant to the men at their gatherings.
      "I don't mind it. But I'm not going to call myself his slave. Not like Debby does."
      "I agree. We serve, but we are not subservient. I respect them, just as I respect my husband. But I am not a second class citizen and while I will curtsey and that kind of thing in character, I'm not bowing my head to anybody when I'm me."
      I looked at her with wide eyes, "I need to write that down."
      "I already have, it's on my blog. I'll show that to you when we're done here."

      A few minutes later we had everything as ready to go as it could be.
      "OK, before we start painting, let's go see what we can fix the guys for lunch. More than likely, they'll be tired and dirty. If Murray has anything to say about it that is." Katherine said as she put down her pencil and stretched her back. "What's Bill like to eat?"
      "Almost anything. What do you have."
      "Almost everything," Katherine laughed as we headed for the kitchen.

The Laird William Writes:
      When Mister Murray said he needed to move stuff, he wasn't kidding. While I drove the train back to the shop he told me about what he needed to do to get the campground ready for their event next month. I even remembered to push the remote control in the cab that changed the switch behind the house to turn us toward the shop on the shortcut.
      "We've got to clear the brush around the tent sites, so we'll need the tractor and the roller, and I wanted to run water to the other two of them, and then we can pour another concrete pad on the other RV site," then he stopped.
      "Was that it?"
      Mister Murray shook his head, "Hardly. I just keep saying we, like you and me are going to do it."
      "Yes, sir. That's the way we're going to do it isn't it? Together."
      "So you're going to move in?"
      "I've got to check with Helen, but I'd like to, I can ask her what she thinks at lunch."
      "Good, then we'll get started, the ramp for the tractor is on the back side of the barn, we should load it first."
      "Yes, sir."

      I got to prove to Mister Murray that I could drive both the small tracked end loader and the regular tractor. We put the end loader on the train and he said he'd drive the other around to the camp ground once we'd put everything else on the train.
      We loaded chainsaws and a concrete mixer and lots of other tools onto the flatbed car. Then I drove the train around the long way past the house to meet him at the campground.
      I had to slow down several times because Mister Murray said that with the end loader on the train it was really top heavy and probably right at its loading limit and it might get squirrelly at the switches and the bridges if it were being pushed instead of pulled.
      "You don't want to derail it, that's more work than either of us wants to do today."
      "Yes, sir," I said, "I'll take it easy."
      "I'm sure you will."

      I really enjoyed driving the train around to the campground, and I found out just how far from the switches the remote control in the engine would work to change it to the other track. As I passed the house I saw Helen and Miss Katherine in the kitchen so I blew the train's whistle and waved at them and they waved back.
      Unloading the tractor at the ramp near the campground was much easier than putting it on the train and Mister Murray told me just to stay on it and clear the brush that I could with it then we'd clean up what I missed later. It didn't take me long to work out how to scoop up large tangles of vines and bushes and then dump them into the hopper car on the train. He even chained a small tree that was in the way to the back of the loader and I pulled it out, then after he unchained it I pushed it and some of the other stuff into a pile, then dumped it all in the hopper car.
      "Where do you take all of that stuff?" I asked him.
      Mister Murray looked at the car, "Let's finish loading it, and I'll show you."

      Once we had a good pile of stuff in the train car we took a break and he had me drive back toward the barn.
      "Remember that spur next to the horse pen? By the sun dial."
      "Yes, sir, we haven't been down that one yet."
      "We'll go that way now."
      "Oh, OK. But wouldn't you have to back up on it?"
      "Sure do. Unless you want to go through turning the train around using the set of switches by the house, then you've got to back out."
      "I think we'll be OK without doing that."
      "I know we will. Pull up past it until the last car clears, then throw it with the remote, and back up until you see the brush pile on the other side of the culvert."
      "Yes, sir."

      After we threw the stuff out of the hopper we went back to the campground to work there some more.
      We spent another hour or so measuring and marking where the new water line would be buried, then Mister Murray's walkie-talkie whistled and then started telling us that lunch was ready.
      "Ten Four," he said when he answered it, "we'll be there in a few."
      I looked at my watch, it was almost one.
      "Yeah, they took their time fixing it."
      "But we got a lot done, and now we're good and ready to eat."
      "You're not kidding, let's go," he patted me on the back as we walked across the campground to the train, "you ready to wind this thing out?"
      "Is it safe?"
      Mister Murray shrugged, "Usually. I'll show you how to uncouple the rest of the cars."
      With him watching I pulled the pin and opened the coupling that linked the passenger car to the flatcar next to the platform at the campground.
      "Now she'll really move, once it gets going, push the throttle about three quarters of the way up, just ease off a little in the corners and you'll be fine."
      "Yes, sir," I said. I was a little uneasy about winding it out, but he assured me that without the bulk of the other cars, we'd be OK.

      The engine and its remaining car went really fast down the back line toward the barn, I let off the throttle in the corners, and then let it go again down the long straight track toward the house, as we crossed through the trees and into the front yard Mister Murray signaled me to slow down, which I was already doing, and blow the whistle.
      And it was fun.

Lady Helen Writes:
      Katherine wasn't going to be content unless we made what she called a working man's meal for Bill and Murray. That meant that I cooked two kinds of vegetables, one of them with a cheese sauce so Murray would eat them, while she grilled small steaks and hot sausages on a large cast iron griddle, then we both helped make some mashed potatoes and I put together a quick dessert with some pudding and fruit.
      "Do you think this will be enough?" Katherine asked me as I made some whipped cream to top off the pudding.
      "If it isn't they both need to go on a diet."
      "OK, I'll call them," she walked over to the base unit radio on the counter next to the back door and pushed the alert button that she said they couldn't miss.
      I looked at the spread of food on the table, "I almost feel like we should get in our slave girl costumes."
      "That's a great idea, I have just the thing," Katherine said with a big grin. "It'll just take a minute, you game?"

      We heard the train whistle its way around the house and then stop at the back door.
      "Ready," I said just in time.
      "You look great, and hot," Katherine smiled and winked at me.
      "You look pretty good yourself," I replied, and she did, although what she'd gotten out for us to wear to serve lunch showed a lot more skin than her costumes at the dinner did, it still flattered her figure and she wore it well.

      Bill stopped as he walked in the door, "are you going swimming?" he asked me.
      "No, why does mi'laird ask?" I replied and gestured with the pitcher I was holding. "Would you care for a glass of tea?"
      "Thank you, miss," Murray said.
      "You're wearing a swimsuit."
      "If the Laird disapproves I can go get dressed again."
      Bill looked from me to Katherine, then his eyes came back to me, "No, that's fine."
      "Tea mi'laird?" I repeated now fully into my Miss Babs mode.
      "Yes, please."

      I filled their plates with vegetables and potatoes as Katherine brought them their meats.
      "Did you eat?" Murray asked me.
      "No, master," I replied softly.
      "OK, while we're eating, I want you to drop the character and join us and talk about moving into the trailer."
      "Does the master wish me to also drop my garment?" I asked with a grin.
      "Maybe later, but not right now," he answered with a look at Bill who didn't seem to understand anything except that Murray wanted to know if we were going to move or not.
      I looked at Bill, and he looked at me.
      He spoke first, "Do you want to move out of where we're at and come over here?"
      "I think so," I answered.
      Bill reached his hand out to Murray, "Then yes sir," he said and they shook on it.
      And the decision was made.

      Over lunch Murray and Katherine talked about some of the others that had been involved with the group, including one couple named Carol and Ed, who had been part of it for a year or so, and then quit all of the sudden and for what seemed like a very strange reason.
      "The women had all been nude all day for the Spring Festival and all of the sudden, I mean, it was between the appetizer and the meal if I'm remembering right," Murray said and looked over at his wife.
      "Yes, that was exactly it, Carol was serving and, oh, what was her name, I'll think of it in a minute, she was singing like you did that night, then all of the sudden Carol up and quit. She walked into the kitchen at Debby's house and started crying."
      "Did one of the men feel her up or something?" I asked.
      Katherine shook her head as Murray answered, "No, she wasn't even near anybody. She just stood there, then put the pan she was holding down and left crying."
      "What did she say?"
      "She said they were looking at her," Katherine said. "I told her that was the idea, and she said she knew that, but this was different, she didn't want the men looking at her like she was in a magazine or something. Then she went to the bedroom where we'd changed and got dressed and waited for her husband in the car, she didn't want me to go get him but left him in there to eat by himself."
      Bill looked at me with that look that I knew meant that he wanted me to explain it, and I wasn't sure that I could, at least not yet. So I asked Katherine if Carol had participated before.
      "Oh yes, they'd been to several events and she'd even been in some light bondage and stuff like that, they were out here for the fall camp out we call the Naked Weekend, and we all rode the train in the nude and everything," Katherine nodded and smiled at the memory.
      "And they hosted the party for New Years at their place," Murray added. "Most of the time everybody wears a face mask for that one," he grinned broadly, "and usually nothing else."
      Katherine nodded, "she'd had a blast at the blindfold challenge, when we take one person and blindfold them and they hug different ones and try to guess who their spouse is."
      "That'd be easy for me, I'd just pick the tallest woman."
      Katherine shook her head, "we've got a couple of tricks for you then."
      Bill sighed, "then I shouldn't have said nothin'."
      I ignored him and asked a follow up question, "So she didn't have any problem participating, just being looked at?"
      Katherine thought about it for a second, "I guess so, but it was still really odd. She'd been to several dinners, in costume and nude and everything else, and she did one at Eric and Naomi's too."
      Bill nodded, but didn't say anything.
      "You don't have any problem with it do you?" Murray asked him. "For you or Helen?"
      "No, I don't think so. You said the guys only do it a couple of times a year."
      "Yeah, but like with New Years, sometimes everybody goes for it."
      "That'd be OK, I guess. What she does is up to her," he answered, then they both looked at me and I realized that that was what Murray had wanted to ask me earlier.
      "I'll try about anything once or twice, and I won't run out crying," I said, "at least not until it's over."
      "Good," Murray answered and went back to eating. "You know, this is an excellent lunch. I can't wait to see what they do for dinner."

      Just as Bill finished up he thought of another question. "When do you have the Spring Festival?" He paused and laughed, "I know it's in the spring. But..."
      "That was last month, no, two months ago, now."
      I smiled, "I'm sorry I missed it."
      Murray nodded and smiled, "We do it every year, and the women always do a group dance to celebrate the end of winter."
      "And it is always as cold as hell, we dance around the bonfire to stay warm."
      We all laughed at the image.

      The men went back out to work some more, leaving a lot less food on the table than I thought they would.
      "I guess we didn't make too much after all," I said to Katherine as I collected plates for the dishwasher.
      "It's the train that does it. It makes them eat more."
      I laughed and had to agreed with her.

      We spent most of the afternoon working in her craft room, then fixed another hearty supper. Just as the sun was going down, we said goodbye and told them that as soon as we confirmed our move out date with our landlord we'd be in touch.

      During the drive home Bill told me about all the work they did, including making plans to connect one of the spur tracks back to the main line and his plans to go hunting once we were moved in.
      "And he said if we see a wild pig on the place, we can shoot it without a hunting license." Bill said. "There's not a bounty on them anymore, but the natural resources people still want you to kill all of them you can."
      "That's good to know, but I think I'll leave that up to you.
      "He also said they're delicious."

Miss Babs writes:
      Although it had not been our intention, we spent a long time being very romantic once we got back to the house. And that is how I felt about it, it was a house, not our home any more.
      And although I did not mention it to Laird William, I knew that one of the things that Master Murray had been insinuating was the same thing that Katherine had mentioned a couple of times as we talked. At some of their events, a certain amount of, shall we say, interaction, amongst the participants, especially those who weren't married to each other, was encouraged, and some part of me found the idea tantalizing when I hadn't expected it.

Chapter Five Begins A Time Of Adjustment.

Laird William, with the Lady's assistance, Writes:
      On Monday during my lunch hour I went to the real estate office.
      The landlord's reaction amazed me. I went into the office to tell them that we would not be renewing the lease, and they panicked.
      The secretary told me to wait a minute and she called a manager named Mrs. Wilhelm. I looked at the fish in the tank until Mrs. Wilhelm came out to meet me and escort me back to her office.
      "We'd really like to keep you on in our property," the lady said, "perhaps if we modified the rent payments or amenities in some way."
      "We're moving out of the city. I don't think there's anything you can do to match the offer we're getting."
      "Well, what is it and I'll see what we can do."
      "We're moving into an old house trailer with well water," I said.
      "I don't see how that's...."
      "We're going to live there for free."
      "Oh," she answered, "I can't match that."
      "I was just coming by to see how much notice you needed and what you were going to do about my damage and utility deposit."
      "Let me bring up your file and we'll talk about it."

      The good news was that since we'd lived there as long as we had, there wouldn't be any charge for painting or cleaning so we would get most of the damage deposit back. And she was unhappy about it, but since I'd never been late on a rent payment in twelve years, I'd get some interest back on it as well, which I didn't even know about before she said it.
      I arranged for us to be out of the townhouse by the end of the month and I'd turn the keys over to them then.
      When I got home that day, Helen had already started packing. She wanted to be out of the house by the end of the week, not the month.
      It took us a little longer than a week, but not by much. She sent a message to our son that the next time he had leave we'd be somewhere more interesting than the townhouse, I took a couple of days off work and rented a truck for the weekend, and we moved into the trailer on the side road and began the new chapter of our lives.

Lady Helen Writes:
      I knew when we moved into the trailer that we'd have to make a lot of changes. One of the first being that we had more furniture than the trailer would hold, especially since it was already partially furnished.
      Katherine said it was no problem and immediately began making plans for a giant yard sale.
      "We've got stuff that needs to go, and you've got all this, and I know some of the others do too, so we'll just have a big sale. We've done it before, we set up tables all around the campground, so there's plenty of room and parking and the bathrooms and all."
      I just stood there holding a box of stuff that I wasn't sure that I'd ever seen before, even though I'd packed the box, and taped it shut, and wrote 'dining room' on it. "I think that's a great idea, and we can start with most of this."
      "Let's tell one of them to bring a flat car up here and whatever you don't want in the trailer we'll put in the barn until the sale, or you can even store some stuff in the loft down there, it's dry and clean."
      "OK," I said and put the box down, "that sounds like a plan."
      "And we'll have a craft table set up and sell some of that overflow too," she smiled still making plans.
      We stopped the men as they came out of the trailer from carrying in our bed and explained it to them.
      Bill looked at the truck and nodded, "But I think we'll need more than one car."
      "No problem, let's go get them," Murray said.

      Everything that came off the truck went one way or the other, either into the trailer, or on to one of the two rail cars. The first one was stuff that was definitely destined for the yard sale, the other was to be sorted later. But the pile on the second car was growing a lot faster than the first.
      Katherine had put lunch in a crock pot in the trailer's kitchen so every time we went in with an armload we were greeted with the smells of shredded meat cooking in a spicy broth. About noon she declared that it was ready and we took a break to have sandwiches and salad.

      Murray sat wearily on the steps and ate his BBQ, "you guys loaded all of this stuff yesterday? Just the two of you."
      "Yes, sir," Bill answered, "but it took all day. I didn't put the bed on until this morning."
      "And it was only a two bedroom townhouse?"
      "Yes. I can't believe we had all of this stuff, but," I looked up in the truck that was still half full, "but there it is."
      Katherine tried to encourage us, "It's taking longer to unload because we're sorting it as we go, and I think we're doing good."
      Murray looked at his wife and shook his head. But instead of saying anything he took another bite of his sandwich.

      The rest of the truck didn't take as long to unload as it was mostly bigger stuff. Before long I was discussing dinner with Katherine as Bill and Murray took the train and the truck over to the barn.
      They were going to unload the two large pieces of furniture that were still on the truck that we didn't want, and then take the rental back to town and drop it off. The two train cars of stuff they'd park in the barn and we could deal with them later.
      My goal for the next hour or so was to make the bedroom livable and the bathroom usable while Katherine went to fix something for dinner.

      I didn't think it had been that long when Bill came in and told me that they had dinner ready.
      "Oh," I said, "but this place is still a wreck."
      "It's fine, we've got all day tomorrow to settle in."
      "But we've got all of that stuff in the barn to go through."
      Bill took me into his arms and held me, "it's OK, we pulled it onto a siding and it can sit there until the sale if it has too."
      All I could do was look at him and agree, "OK, I'll wash up and change."
      "Miss Katherine said just to bring you like you are because she's still wearing her jeans that got that hole in them from the ramp."
      I laughed at the memory, she had been directing traffic and backed into the ramp on the back of the truck to get out of the way when the guys handed down a book case. She found the one rough edge on the whole thing and snagged her jeans, and then ripped a big hole in them right below the left pocket. It didn't cut her, but the jeans were ruined.
      "In that case, OK."

Miss Babs Writes:
      The one thing I did not expect was that after dinner was a walk along the train tracks alone with Laird William.
      We stopped several times and listened to the water of the creek splashing over the rocks, or to watch some deer walking carefully along the edge of the field. And we spent a long time kissing after he showed me the work they'd done in the campground.
      And then when we got back to the trailer he scooped me up and carried me across the threshold like he had done when we were first married, and even though we were both tired and had been sweating, he did not allow me to relax or concentrate on his pleasure until I had bitten my own knuckle in ecstasy. Which was amazing.

The Laird William Writes:
      Sunday morning I woke up not knowing where we were, or for that matter, even where the bathroom was. Then I remembered that we had spent all day moving, and that all of our stuff was all over the trailer. I could not find my own underwear, nor did I know what had happened to my toothbrush. So our first morning in our new home wasn't anything like what I know Helen thought it should be.
      But we did OK.
      I drove into town and got some breakfast for us, and a newspaper, and by the time I got back Helen was in the bathroom digging in a box.
      "Oh, thank you. You must love me a lot." She said as I handed her a big cup of coffee.
      "Yes, I do," I nodded to her, "and breakfast is in the kitchen."
      "OK, I'll be right there."

      I had to move a box of pans off the table, but I did it and then I set out our breakfast. I tried to remember how to get the computer online on the network that Mister Murray said we could use and waited for her to come out.
      "I have no idea where my clothes are," Helen said when she came down the hallway still wrapped in a bathrobe.
      "Oh, now I remember," I said, "they're in the little bedroom. We put them in there so we could find them and put them away. I forgot about that, I didn't have any underwear to put on this morning."
      "Oh, OK." She laughed, "So we can both get dressed after we eat."

Lady Helen Writes:
      It was anything but a relaxing Sunday as we sorted more stuff, then we walked over to the barn to look through a couple of other boxes for other things that seemed to be missing.
      Murray came in while we were digging and asked if he could help, "I'm done tending to the horses now, so, what can I do?"
      "Horses?" Me and Bill both asked.
      "Yeah, come see," he waved for us to come with him, and sure enough, there were two horses in the pen. One of them came over and wanted me to rub its nose. "Some other friends of ours had a problem in their stable, so they asked if we could put them up until they get it fixed. So, we've got company." He nodded to the animals. "The white one is Dallas, this is Suzy Q."
      "Hello Suzy Q," I said to the very friendly horse.
      "So, can I help you find something in there?"
      "Please," I answered, "did you happen to see a box labeled 'master bath'."
      "I think so," he answered, "give me a minute to think about it."
      "No problem," I answered and realized that as long as I rubbed Suzy Q's nose she would stand there and let me do it.
      "I didn't see the clothes basket with the good towels either," Bill said as Dallas trotted around the pen showing off.
      "Oh, yeah, I put that basket of towels with that box in the master bathroom."
      I looked at him like he'd just beamed down from the mother ship, "What master bathroom?"
      "In the master bedroom," he answered.
      "The trailer's got two bathrooms?" I asked him.
      "Sure, you didn't see it? In the big bedroom next to the closet."
      I had to stand there like an idiot with my hand on the horse's nose, I'd never even opened the other door in the bedroom because I thought it was just another closet.

      Sure enough, once we moved a suitcase full of dress clothes and opened the door the master bathroom was right where he said it was, with the box of personal things and the basket of towels sitting on the floor in front of the sink.
      It was smaller than the hall bathroom, with a one person shower stall and a sink and a toilet, but it was a bathroom and it was off the master bedroom.
      "Well, how about that?" I said. "I really didn't know that was there."
      Murray laughed and carried on like it was the funniest thing he'd ever been part of.

      For the next couple of days when I wasn't at work, I was organizing the trailer. I added several things to the yard sale, and took some of what had been on the rail car for the sale back to the trailer. And, bless his heart, Bill helped me all he could, even if it was just staying out of the way.
      But Thursday evening, Bill said we had another engagement.
      "Miss Katherine said she hasn't even seen you since Sunday."
      I nodded, "I don't think she has."
      "So tonight you and her are going to do something about books in her craft room and me and Mister Murray are going to finish surveying the new rail line and I want to fix that inspector's car. I got the belts for it.
      "Oh, you've made plans have you."
      He stood tall and looked me in the eye, "Yes, I did." Then he looked down and shuffled his feet a little, "If it's OK with you."
      "Of course it's OK with me, we both need a break from this."

      Bill's 'something about books' was a couple of scrapbooks that Katherine had started for me.
      "I found these when we unloaded the truck and thought it would be a good idea to get you started," she said.
      What she had found was my scrapbooking stuff. I had started when our son was a baby, but the last complete page of his photos was of his kindergarten graduation. He was now a non-commissioned officer in the Army, so I had missed a few years.
      "This one is for Kurt," Katherine said and showed me a page she'd made of photos of him in uniform. "You'll have to identify the things and fill in the details, but he is very handsome."
      "Yes, he is."
      "I love doing this, you pick the background and photos, and I'll set up the pages while you do the captions. Then we'll build it and it will only take half the time."
      I looked from the finished page she'd done of my son's NCO induction ceremony to the box of photos from the last twenty years and felt a tear run down my cheek, "This is wonderful, thank you."

      And as we worked, we talked, about everything, including some of the other aspects of their group of friends.
      "Why Babs?" Katherine asked me out of the blue when we had been talking about the upcoming campout.
      "Because of a woman I used to work with. She was one of the biggest bitches I've ever known. I felt sorry for the patients when they caught her in all her glory."
      "What happened to her?"
      "She got fired when she picked the wrong patient to be nasty to, the wife of one of the board members," I had to stop and laugh. "I used to say that for a hundred and fifty pound woman she was over three hundred pounds of bitch."

      Dinner was delivered by a pizza joint that they used once in awhile out on the highway towards town.
      "If you don't like it, it was what Bill told me to order for you," Murray said as I looked at the chef's salad in its plastic container.
      "And if I do like it?"
      "Then it was all Murray's idea," Katherine answered for him.
      "Yup!" he said.

      As we ate dinner Katherine and I continued the conversation we'd begun earlier, and just added the men to it.
      "We don't worry about such things, like if it is from somebody's book or is it Edwardian or Victorian," Katherine told us when I asked about themes and costumes and all that.
      "If we like it, we like it, if not, it might serve its purpose until we can find another one, or maybe do without," Murray added. "But we don't make a bunch of Draconian rules about it. Even when we have the theme events, if you're within shouting distance of the general idea, most of us are OK with it."
      "Like my vest, it's Western, and I like it, and I'll wear it no matter what anybody else says," I said.
      "And I like it when she wears it," Bill was smiling, "but it's black, and I was told that black was a bad color for a woman to wear around the Gory people."
      Murray nodded, "some may think it means she's a prostitute."
      "If anybody says something like that, I'll straighten them out," Bill said seriously.
      Murray chuckled for a second, "I'll help you. If you need it."
      "Thank you, sir, but I usually don't need it."
      "Oh, I just remembered," I said in a couple of minutes, "I was supposed to ask about running a cable with a sword."
      As soon as I said it, Murray started laughing and pointing at a router on a small shelf over where the base station radio was, "Oh, yeah."
      Bill didn't understand at all, and I wasn't sure what was so funny either. So Katherine began telling the story.
      "I guess it was about ten years ago when we had a workday out here and they wanted to run cable out to the trailer so she could get the satellite TV."
      "Well, I wanted to plug them into the computer network too," Murray said, "it would just be better than the dialup she had."
      "Oh, yeah," Bill agreed.
      Katherine continued, "Anyway, we had a work day out here where we supplied the food and stuff...."
      "And lots of beer," Murray said interrupting her again.
      "Do you want to tell the story?"
      He shook his head, "No, you're doing fine."
      She sighed, but then she continued, "Anyway, John spent the whole weekend dressed up as a knight."
      "A Knight Templar," Murray made an exaggerated sign of the cross on his chest.
      She ignored the comment and kept on, "complete with a metal helmet and all. So when they needed to run the cable through the floor of the trailer and couldn't find a drill bit long enough he stabbed the floor with his sword and pushed it down until they could see it coming through the insulation."
      "Was somebody under the trailer when he did it?" I asked.
      "Me," Murray laughed, "but I made sure I was nowhere around where it would come through."
      "I'll stick with drill bits," Bill said shaking his head.
      "You work with what you've got, and he had a three foot long solid steel sword. It did the job."
      "Yes, sir, it would."

      About two weeks later we spent Friday afternoon setting up tables in the campground and finished up pricing stuff and getting ready for what promised to be the largest yard sale I'd ever been a part of with at least four other families.
      Most of The Group From Last Night had decided to throw some of their junk into the mix, and there was the craft stuff, and Murray had planned on offering train rides, and now there was even rumors of a bake sale for the Garden Club. What I had imagined as just a couple of tables with our stuff on them had turned into a huge production. Ray and Connie even pulled in Friday afternoon in a van pulling a popup camper with their two kids and a pile of stuff for the sale.
      The first time I met Connie was when she handed me a box of goods to put out, "Oh, you're Helen. Great to meet you!" She smiled and said we'd talk again later.
      Nate and Linda set up a tent away from the tables, and Eric and Naomi said they'd be back first thing in the morning, and before it got too late we all turned in because Saturday was going to be a really long day.

      It had been in the paper that nobody would be admitted until seven O'clock Saturday morning, so Murray put the a chain across the lane by the house and then closed the gate on the road into the campground, but there were still people stopping on the road and looking like they wanted us to let them in. But we didn't admit anybody to the sale until just after six.
      I helped Debby make an early morning campground breakfast and a big pot of strong coffee for all of us, and before long, the place was jumping to music being played over speakers that were partially concealed in the trees that I hadn't seen before.
      Bill gave one of his spare yellow highway vests to Eric who volunteered to direct traffic and they went to open the gate and let people in.
      Ray and Connie's kids got volunteered to play messenger and helped people carry things out to their cars, for tips of course.

      Business went in spurts. From the time they opened the gate until about eight thirty we didn't have time to finish a hot cup of coffee. Then it trailed off to just a few people wandering around for an hour or so. Then it got hectic again and the next time I looked up it was lunch time.
      Murray was selling tickets for train rides to support the garden club's work to preserve the garden behind an historic house. Later I heard that every time the train went by Dallas would whinny and trot around the pen, much to the delight of the passengers.
      The bake sale ran out of goodies about noon, then I noticed that our table was getting a little thin, but I had no idea how much we'd actually sold and how many things with our blue stickers on them had ended up on another table. Lunch was more a matter of grabbing something from the grill at John and Debby's campsite and eating while walking back to the tables than a meal.
      Bill spent his day alternating selling train tickets and driving the train on its tour with Murray. Since they were using the real steam engine, it took one of them to keep it happy, as Murray put it, and the other to sell tickets, then to help the passengers get on, and fasten the safety chain, then to ride the tour answering questions about the farm and the train.
      "I'd like to have a free lunch for every time I've said 'yes, it is a real steam engine, just a lot smaller' today," Bill said, "I'd be able to eat for the rest of the year."
      "But you've sold a lot of tickets, that's good for the garden club."
      "Yeah, some people have sent their kids around three or four times." He finished his sausage sandwich, then he kissed my cheek, "it looks like we've been selling a lot, I've seen a lot of people carrying a lot of stuff out to their cars."
      "I don't know, I think so, but I haven't checked with Katherine at the cash table."
      "I guess we'll find out later."

      It was getting late before we called it a night. I'd heard rumors that a couple of the guys were going to cook dinner, then I found out it was Murray and Bill. They shut the train down at four, and went and got frozen pre-made hamburgers and chicken breast strips. Then they fired the campsite grill back up and started cooking.
      John and Eric shut the gate and put up a big 'closed' sign at five just as the last of the people left with their purchases.
      We could finally relax.

      "Booze," Eric said walking through with a pitcher and some paper cups. He looked at me with a raised eyebrow. "That was a question."
      "What is it?"
      "Booze. With ice."
      "Then yes, I need one."
      "My greatest pleasure, mi'lady," he said with a very practiced manner and poured me a cup.
      I tasted it and saw spots before my eyes, "That's all it is isn't it? Rum and ice."
      "There's a little bit of mixer, I only had one can left. We sold the rest of them."
      "I think it's exactly what I need right now. Thank you." I finished the cup and held it out for a refill.

      We all basically collapsed around a campfire and drank strong liquor and ate grilled meat well into the night with one of Connie's kids sound asleep by the fire.
      Finally somebody said we needed to get up and at least cover the remaining stuff up so it didn't get wet with dew.
      "I moved it all to the big table and covered it with a tarp," Bill said.
      "All of it?"
      "Everything that was left. I thought we could sort it out tomorrow."
      Everybody else was flabbergasted. I smiled with pride as Murray said, "See, I told you I liked this guy."
      As we relaxed the talk around the campfire turned to the upcoming event weekend.
      "I like the idea of a 'be what ye will', weekend," Eric said.
      "You're just dying to wear that space cowboy outfit," somebody from the far side of the fire said.
      "Yeah. And. So?" He answered.
      "Excellent point."
      Katherine was falling asleep in her chair, "You guys decide and let me know, I'm going to bed."
      "I think Eric's idea sounds like fun," I said.
      "Then it's decided, good night everybody," she got up and walked stiffly toward the house.
      We all went our separate ways with promises to get up early and deal with the mess.

The Laird William Writes:
      In the two days before the sale I learned more about steam locomotives than I ever thought I would know in my life. Mister Murray showed me how to oil everything on the engine, then we cleaned the propane burner to make sure it would heat the boiler evenly. Then we flushed and refilled the boiler and added some chemicals to it, then put a hundred gallons of fresh water and a full tank of gas in the tender. And only after everything was done did he light the burner and we watched the gauges as it built up pressure.
      "And now we check for leaks. I'll let some steam into the drive and we'll see if it's coming out someplace where it isn't supposed to," Mister Murray said.
      "Yes, sir, just show me what to do."
      "No problem, but the main thing is if you hear a steam leak don't use your hand to find it," he said.
      "No, sir, live steam under pressure can peel the meat off your bones before you'll even feel that you've been burned."
      "Yes, sir," he answered me with a nod.
      As we walked around and Mister Murray used his ears and a flashlight to hear and see if there were any high or low pressure leaks while he told me more about the engine, "The boiler was rated at two hundred when she was new in 1938. Right now at a boiler pressure of one hundred pounds per square inch she can develop thirty five horsepower, at the working safety limit of a hundred and seventy five pounds of steam she'll throw down over fifty horses, but I try not to push it that hard because she'll slip the drive wheels and burn the rails. Besides, I've pulled up tree stumps with her at just the normal pressure. In a tug of war between this one and the gas electric, it's no contest, this thing will drag that one backwards all the way around the track. She's got four times the weight and a whole bunch more power."
      "I'll remember that," I said even though I didn't understand it all.
      "Shhh, just listen," he said. And we did.
      After a minute he asked me if I heard anything. "No, sir, just the boiler going."
      "Neither did I, so what do you say that we hook up the passenger cars and take her out for a run?"
      "Sounds good."

      "Let the brake off and we'll push it up there," Mister Murray said after we wiped down the passenger cars. "I like to use these two for events because they look better than the other one."
      "It is really nice," I said of the car with the wooden trim and fancy paint on the end of each double seat.
      "They came from a park up in Wisconsin. They went to a fiberglass body that is a lot lighter and doesn't need the maintenance that these do. So I bought two of them and had them shipped."
      "How do you ship a train car?"
      "By truck," he laughed.

      The controls of the steam engine were basically the same as the other engine, but there was a lot more to watch and once it got going you had to adjust the burner to keep the pressure up or it would run out of steam.
      "I never understood that saying until now," I said.
      "This is where it came from, back in the olden days when they burned coal, if the fire died down the boiler would cool off and the train would stop."
      "I'll try not to let that happen, sir," I said as I let Dinah slow a little before we went around a corner.
      "I'm sure you won't."

      Later we set up the cut out village that Mister Murray said were part of his Christmas display, but instead of lights and wreaths we put flags and banners on the plywood houses so it looked patriotic.
      "I want to give the people something to look at, make them think they got their money's worth." Mister Murray said.
      "Then I've got another idea."
      We parked the other engine and its work cars on the siding in front of the shed, then we put some other cars on the spur that went to the brush pile with the end loader so it looked like men were working on something.
      "I like it," he said, "you had a good idea."
      "Thank you, sir."

      On the day of the sale the steam engine was a big hit, especially when we let people know that Dinah was a real working steam engine and not a put on.
      "The only difference is that instead of burning coal, we're burning propane to make steam," I told a group of kids.
      "Why not use coal?" One kid asked me.
      "Do you want to shovel coal into the burner all day?" I asked him.
      "Neither do I."
      Just about them Mister Murray blew the steam whistle to let me know that it was time for the next run.
      "All aboard," I said as the conductor for the trip, "everybody get your ticket ready." After I took their tickets I put the safety chain up and went to the next set of seats. Once everything was secure I'd take my seat in the last car and pull the string that rang the bell on the engine. Then after Mister Murray gave couple of toots from the whistle we'd be off to go all the way around twice. The first time around we'd take the cutoff by the house and miss going by the campground, then the second time we'd hit the button and throw that switch and go across the creek, past our trailer, and then stop at the campground station and let everybody off. For a dollar, we thought it was a good ride. And several of the passengers seemed to agree because they came back after they did their shopping to ride again, but sometimes I'd be the engineer, which was more fun for me.

Lady Helen Writes:
      All in all, the sale was a success. We made a lot more money than I expected, which included both the fundraiser for the Garden Club and what Bill and I made on our stuff. And what was more important to me, the majority of what we had put out to get rid of left with its new owners.
      Bill had taken several boxes and combined a lot of small items, books, and just odds and ends and put them in boxes and tagged his Mystery Boxes for a couple of dollars each, and now, they were all gone. Other, better, things we'd priced to sell, and they sold!

      Sunday morning Bill got up early and went out and started cooking breakfast for everybody. After I forced myself out of bed and went out to help him he took my hand and we walked to the shed and we pulled the gas powered train up to the campground with an empty flatbed car to haul away whatever was going to the barn. Then he came back and helped me with the breakfast.
      "I smell bacon," John said as he walked stiffly across the lane.
      And so the day after the sale began.

      The women put the men to work carrying items this way and that. Some went into the back of a truck to be donated to a charity. Others went onto the train to be taken to the shed for storage. Some went into the trash or into a large box destined for a bonfire.

      By noon those that had camped here for the weekend were packing to go home while Katherine and I made lunch. Not long after that it was just us once again.
      "Like it never happened," Bill said as he carried the last bag of trash out to the dumpster.
      "That's the way I like it," Murray nodded. "Memories and footprints, just the way I like it."

      But now it was just us, and our new landlords, and the routine of Bill coming home from work and helping out on the farm while I learned all sorts of new things, and taught Katherine a couple of things that I knew, like cake decorating, as well.
      One change it made in me was that now when I passed a desk with some sort of handicraft item on it I could appreciate the work and care that had gone into it and why such things held such a special place in their owner's heart. And soon, things of my own were appearing on my desk and as gifts for others as well.

Miss Babs Writes:
      It was the second weekend after the sale. The Count and Miss Katherine had left on Friday to go visit with a family member who had been ill and said they would not be back until perhaps Monday at the earliest, leaving the Laird and I in charge of the entire farm.
      Friday after he got home I went with Laird William as he did his chores around the farm. Not only had he fixed the inspection car, he'd adjusted the drive pulley so it ran better and faster than Count Murray said it ever had since he'd gotten the thing, then they installed a small siding near the trailer and built a shed over it for him to park it in. Now Bill used the small car to run a circuit of chores from the pond to the horse pen and all to take care of things. This evening, in my best maid's outfit, I went with him.
      The old engine was noisy, and the car's light weight and short wheelbase amplified every bump and rail joint on the track, but it was a lot of fun to ride in, and a lot more practical than the regular locomotive and full sized cars when it was just him and a bale of horse feed. He'd built a similarly sized flatbed wagon-thing that the inspection car could pull to haul other things if he needed more room. He had a rack on it for a ladder and a bracket to set a tool box in and parked it on the last siding in the train shed and said that now they had a full house of train cars.

      "Mister Murray said that Miss Katherine likes to ride the train with no clothes on when there's nobody else around." Bill said as we crossed the bridge by the campground on our way to the horse pen.
      "Did he now?" I said with a grin.
      "Yes, he said she laughs the whole time about it and teases him while he's driving. But they've always used the gas engine because this one had problems and she didn't like it anyway, and the Dinah is too much work to use like that."
      "I think this one is fun," I said as the car jostled us from one side to the other over a stretch that the larger train passed over almost without notice. "Mi'Laird," I added as I caught my breath after the jolt.
      "I'll try to fix that spot sometime," the Laird said after we and the car settled back down.

      When the Laird stopped the car by the supply shed to pick up a couple of things and put fuel in the car's tank, I took the opportunity to step out of the car and fully disrobe, then I got back in being very careful to sit on my skirt in case of splinters. Then I waited for him to notice.
      It didn't take him long. "Why did you do that?" He asked me as he got back in.
      "If my Laird wishes I'll dress myself again."
      "No. No. I just.... You surprised me, that's all."
      "As it was intended, mi'Laird."
      He drove us up to the horse pen and checked their water while I petted Suzy Q's nose. Dallas once again trotted around and whinnied until Laird William filled their feeder with hay. Then he stood still and stared at us waiting for us to leave so he could eat.
      "What now? Mi'Laird," I asked as we got back into the car.
      "I need to go check the spillway and I told Mister Murray I'd give the house a once over every day."
      "Very good, as my Laird wishes."
      He started the small car going forward, then changed his mind, "I want you to try it."
      "Mi'Laird?" I asked.
      "Just hang on," he said and shifted the thing into reverse and backed all the way around to the train shed.
      It only took me a moment to realize what he had in mind, he wanted me to experience riding in the larger engine like Miss Katherine did.
      It didn't take him long to switch the small car to the siding with its service car and then to back the much larger gas-electric engine with its tender.
      "All aboard," Laird William called out to me and tooted the whistle.
      I was almost giggling as I climbed into the engine compartment with him. Then with another toot we were off.
      "Laird, if I may, if this isn't a steam engine, how does the whistle work?"
      "It's got an air compressor on it for the brakes, I can show you when we stop if you want to see."
      "No, thank you Laird, I don't need to see it."

      I had to admit, the wind blowing through the engine compartment, as well as being able to stand in the door and watch the world go by made riding in it a lot more fun than the tiny inspection car. And as the big engine was a great deal quieter, we could speak without shouting and I could hear the water in the creek as we crossed the bridges.
      We stopped behind the house and Laird William used his key and we went in and checked the house. I felt very strange walking through somebody else's house in the nude, but once I got used to the idea, it was thrilling in a very naughty sort of way.
      The Count and his Lady had left a couple of lights on, so we turned those off and made sure another was on the timer.
      "Did you know that Murray was a Mason?" I asked Laird William as we walked down the hallway and I saw the photo of him and some others at a lodge function several years ago.
      "Yeah. I think Mister Eric is too," he shrugged, "it's OK with me. I guess."
      I didn't know that about Eric, but now I saw another of the connections that brought them all together into this group of friends. It made sense.
      The Laird got us a brace of drinks and we went back to the train.
      "Now to the dam," he said as he backed through the house switch, then he threw it and we rode on passed the trailer and then off the main line on the spur toward the pond.
      "Mi Laird," I said looking at the pond for the first time since the day we'd first come out to the farm. "It is much deeper now."
      "Yeah, I fixed the spillway gate."
      "I didn't know you knew how to do that," I said still marveling at the actual lake behind the dam.
      "I didn't either. But I did it."
      "What do you have to do to it today? Mi'Laird," I added remembering my place.
      "Check for cracks and leaks. I think it's going to be OK, but I still want to look." He smiled at me, "Would you like to come with me?"
      "Yes, mi'laird. But let me put my shoes back on first."

      As he showed me what he'd done to the metal gate on its big screw to make it close and hold back the water I even forgot that I was naked except for my earrings and shoes. But there I was, in my birthday suit, watching the water tumble over the concrete spillway like it was supposed to instead of rushing under a foot wide gap under the gate.
      "I measured it, in the middle right through here it's about eight feet deep," he pointed out over the pond.
      I couldn't resist, I kicked off my shoes and jumped in. "Right here mi'laird?" I asked after I got over the sudden full body chill from the cold water.
      "Yeah, right about there," he smiled at me and started to undress as well.
      I ducked under the water and found my foot would barely touch the bottom.

      We swam and played in the water. Then made love on top of the dam, then swam some more.
      Finally, with my teeth chattering while wearing Laird William's pants and shirt, he drove the train back to the shed in his underwear to pick up the smaller car, and my maid costume.
      Then, as he drove the small jerky car back toward the trailer I used his being in his shorts to my advantage and did my best to distract him as we bounced along.
      I knew it was working when he stopped just short of the switch by the house.
      "What's the matter, mi'laird?" I said to him.
      "I couldn't remember if I'd changed the switch or not with you doing that."
      "Very well, mi'laird, I shall stop if you wish."
      "No, no, we can sit here and wait." He said and ran his fingers down the side of my face and through my hair. "In fact, I'd like to," his eyes told me how much. "If you want to."
      "Mi'laird, I don't wish to do anything else," I said and did my best to make sure he did like it.

      I spent all of Saturday and Sunday in character as Miss Babs in my shortest skirts and most revealing tops, when I was not naked that is, and I had the most fun ever doing it.
      The only time anybody else even came near the place was Saturday afternoon when Laird William said he saw the mail truck go by and we walked along the road past the house to check the mail. I was so confident in our solitude that on the way back I removed my vest and let the sun shimmer on my bosom.
      Something Laird William appreciated in ways that were most apparent later as he took a break from doing some work on the campground.

The Laird and Lady experience their first immersive event in Chapter Six.

Laird William, with some minor aid from the Lady, Writes:
      Mister Murray was serious about extending the railroad to make a loop from the spur that went past the dam and the deer stand and the one that went out to the wood pile. He said he had enough rails to do it, and one more switch if we needed it, but he just didn't have the energy to do it by himself any more. "One day a few years ago I laid the entire section that runs from the horse pen out to the pile. I just did it. Right now it is all I can do to keep up the maintenance of it."
      "That's why I'm here, sir. You tell me what to do and I'll do it."
      "But even together, to do that, we'll need help if we pre-build the rail sections like I used to do. And rent a crane to put the new culvert in."
      "I can build what we need on one of the old factory cars. And I might be able to do it tonight."
      "You're going to build a crane that will lift the new culvert?" Mister Murray said it like he didn't believe me.
      "Yes sir. I like doing things like that, and you've got everything I need."
      "Well, OK. If you think you can."
      "I've never been good at doing the math with the angles and all that. But I can see how it needs to be cut, and where to drill the holes, and how long it should be, and I can usually do pretty good and just need to make a couple of adjustments to put it together. But I've worked with guys who use the laser tape measures that draw the lines with the angle who had to go re-cut stuff too."
      Mister Murray just looked at me, "OK, you said you'd help me lay track, I'll help you build the crane. Where do we start?"
      "If it's all the same to you sir, I need to change clothes first," I said and tugged at my county shirt.
      "OK, I'll meet you out there in say, twenty minutes?"

      There wasn't nothing to it but doing it. He had everything in pieces that just needed to be put together, and for some reason, Mister Murray had just never seen the things he had in the shop like that.
      It took us two days instead of one, but by the end of the second day we had built a crane that would swivel side to side, and using the heavy chain hoist he had, it would lift anything we thought we needed to pick up about five feet in the air, which was plenty for what we had to do. We even put outriggers and counterweights on the flatbed car that made it stable enough that when we tried swinging a full load out to the side, the car didn't move at all.
      "My good man, I am impressed as hell," Mister Murray said shaking my hand.
      "Thank you, sir."
      "But now we've got to build rail sections, and those ain't all that much fun."
      "If we do it together sir, it'll be a lot more fun than one man by himself."
      He grinned at me with a sudden idea, "and if we have the women bring us some vittles and beers it'll be even more fun."

Lady Helen Writes:
      "My brother and his wife will be coming out for the weekend," Katherine said Thursday night as we finished up getting things together, "and he always comes as the Count of St. Germain."
      I could tell the name was lost on Bill, so I asked, "The old, what did they call them, alchemist?"
      "Yes, but some say he's still alive, so Glen claims he's portraying him as he'd look today."
      "But wasn't he part of the French Revolution?"
      Murray laughed gleefully, "Yes, and Glen may have been there with him!"
      Katherine wasn't amused, "my brother is younger than I am, so he's not that old." The glare she threw at her husband made him change the topic.
      Murray looked over at Bill, "He likes bonfires too. You think we've got enough firewood for a good one?"

      I took the Friday afternoon of our group campout off work, and by about ten O'clock that morning I was so excited about the event that it was very difficult to concentrate on my duties at the clinic. To me right then, the mundane tasks of personnel reviews and a survey about exam room equipment was almost too much to bear. But I did what I had to do, and then I almost ran from the building to go home and get into character.

      For the weekend, we only used the trailer for supplies and as a backup bath house. Instead, me and Bill camped in an old canvas tent that smelled like the storage shed until you got used to it. We rolled out a couple of exercise mats that nobody had bought in the sale and made our own sleeping bag. It wasn't much, but we thought it would serve.
      "If we get too cold, we'll sneak out and go home," I said and Bill agreed.
      But then once the event started, I forgot all about being cold.

      For the weekend, I played a Sexy Nurse. I told them that if somebody got sick or injured that I would tend to them until the paramedic helicopter landed. Bill even added to it by making a stretcher and outfitting one of the train's flatbed trailers to haul it out to the field where the chopper could land.
      "I hope we don't have to use it," Bill said after it was done and ready to go, complete with big red crosses on the sides of the car.
      "I hope we don't too," I said, "but if we do, it's ready."
      "OK," he said and went to do whatever else he was doing to get ready.
      Back when I was a working RN, I hated the outfit one of the doctor's wanted his office nurses to wear. The old fashioned skirts were seriously ugly, and the jackets we wore over the blouses looked stupid. But I still had mine, I'd found it when we moved and decided to keep it. Now with some minor alterations, it became the sexiest nurse outfit ever.
      And Bill loved it.
      Which was the only excuse I needed to wear it.
      I even had my old name tag and other accessories, including a good reliable sphygmomanometer that really was easier to use than the new digital blood pressure meters. When I was changing in the trailer before I went over to join Bill at our camp I had to stop and laugh at myself. To spend the weekend getting away from being the head nurse of the entire clinic and hospital I was going to play the resident nurse of our campground. And I intended to have as much fun as I could, and do things I'd heard others do but that I'd never dared even think about. And besides, if it didn't work out, there was always Miss Babs.
      I looked at my smiling face in the full length mirror and laughed again. "Most nurses wear underwear and even the hottest ones wear skirts longer than this one," I said to my reflection's nipples that were clearly visible through my blouse. Then I turned around and admired the skirt as it rode up my hips until it left next to nothing to the imagination. "But this is pretty damned hot," I added. Then as I turned to go outside I realized something else, "and it's liable to be pretty damned cold." Which was why I had the jacket.

      I walked across the footbridge and caught the end of a conversation between Bill and Murray at the big grill that left me smiling.
      "I haven't been camping in almost twenty years. I hope you don't expect me to make a fire with two sticks or something," Bill said.
      "Only if the grill quits working because all the phlogiston is used up," Murray answered.
      "All the what?"
      "Phlogiston, the stuff that makes it burn."
      "You mean the gas?" Bill asked obviously confused.
      "No, no, no... there is an element called phlogiston, everything has it, it's what causes it to burn." Murray said with an absolutely straight face as he went to do something else.
      "Yes, sir. If you say so," Bill answered.
      I tried not to laugh and told Bill I'd tell him all about it later.
      "OK, but I still think Mister Murray had a couple too many drinks too early in the day," he said.
      "Yes, MiLaird," I said with a curtsy to him.

      Glen was in character as soon as he got out of their car wearing an outfit worthy the original. He hugged and kissed his sister, then he introduced his wife to us in a voice that was straight off the Continent. "Lords and Ladies of the Five Pines, now sadly Four, this is Amanda, the Countess Germain."
      We bowed and curtsied and played the part even though Amanda was in slacks and a sweater. In a moment the Count of St. Germain's doppelganger went to inspect their quarters for the weekend, and Amanda asked where she could change and get dressed.
      "Come on over and use the trailer," I said to her.
      I got to know her while she changed and I helped her put an incredibly intricate wig on as the finishing touch to her outfit. "Glen loves these weekends, I can take it or leave it. But, it is fun. And I get to meet people like you. You're really a nurse?" She pointed to my work ID hanging on the hook in the hallway where I had to walk by it in the morning so I wouldn't forget it. And there was another one in the glove box in my car in case I did!
      "Yes, Countess," I said with my best curtsy.
      She smiled, "It never ceases to amaze me who does things like this. How do I look?"
      "Regal, my Lady."

      Others were in character as almost everything from some sort of alien warrior with a three bladed sword to outfits last seen on the French royals before the revolution. Bill said he was dressed as a farmhand and rolled the sleeves of his shirt up and put on an ancient straw hat he'd found in the train shed.
      Connie and Ray's kids were out to their grandparent's house for the weekend so they were here, Eric and Naomi arrived in their RV, and some of the other regulars straggled in from then until Saturday morning.
      But as the men sat and ate under a canvas tent that looked for all the world like it had been declared surplus by a third string circus the other women played the servant, and I played the nurse.
      "You know sweetheart, if my doctor's nurses looked like you, I'd go," Eric said.
      "And they'd tell you the same thing," I said to him with real concern. "You need to take your blood pressure medicine regularly, that's the only way it will work."
      "I know, I know."
      Murray laughed, then scolded him as well, "you know and you do what?"
      "It's in the car," he said. Then he looked up at my face instead of my breasts. "I'll go get it. AND take it," he said.
      "Good for you," Naomi said to me quietly as she poured more punch for the other men.
      "Excuse me sir, how long have you had that unusual swelling in your tunic?" I asked Ray as I checked his pulse, and I don't remember ever having spoken directly to him before. It didn't matter, his pulse was strong and regular, and I didn't even pretend to count the heartbeats, and I believe I know the cause of his swelling, and it made me smile to think about it.
      For their part, the other men roared with laughter at each and every physical and offered comments of their own ranging from the insightful to the obscene.
      Even though I had just met Glen, I evaluated him and asked in a serious voice if he'd been treating the ear infection I saw signs of in his left ear.
      "It's been bothering me, I'd thought about going to the doctor, but...."
      "And Your Excellency will call the doctor as soon as you get home won't you?"
      He looked over at his brother in law and let his manner slip for a moment, "She's really a nurse right?"
      "Licensed Nurse Practitioner," Murray answered and I could see him digest that answer.
      "Yes, ma'am," he said looking up at me, "Is it that bad?"
      "Right now? No, but it won't get better on its own."
      He sighed and nodded.
      "And for this weekend, I would recommend drinking a glass of water in between every two or three glasses of wine." Then I tapped the antique snuff box in front of him on the table with my longest fingernail, "and lay off that stuff."
      "Yes ma'am." He answered then he blinked, "but you said I can drink wine."
      "Yes, lord."
      "Very good," he turned back to Murray and picked up his glass, "sir, your resident medic is both an excellent nurse and a beautiful woman."
      "I hadn't noticed," Murray said, "much." Then he raised his glass toward me as well.
      "Hear! Hear!" Ray added and the others joined in until I blushed.
      As I turned away I heard Glen stage whisper to Murray, "Does she, ahhh, you know?"
      "Not yet," was the answer. "They're new."
      I ignored them and went on to my next patient.

      I alternated lecturing them about their diet and exercise and pouring medicinal shots of whiskey and bending over one patient with my cleavage in his face so the others could see something else. Later there would be other entertainment, but for right now, I was it, and I was having a blast. And as for my patients, they seemed to be enjoying it as well, although right then, I didn't care.
      "If monsieur insists on eating the spicy sausages, then monsieur can be up all night whining about it to himself and I do not want to hear it," I said to Count Murray when his turn came.
      "Boy, does she know you," Eric said as payback.
      "I know, I love them, but they hate me," then he looked up at me, "And no, I don't have an ulcer."
      I picked one of the sausages full of bright red peppers up off his plate and held it in front of him, "they say you are going to."
      He looked at it, then up at me, "You're probably right," then he took the one from my fingers and tossed it to John the Alien Soldier. "He's young enough to eat it."
      John saluted the Count and bit the sausage in half.
      I had suggestions for all of them. I tried to make one serious suggestion as an RN, and then I closed with advice like telling Mark that if he had to smoke cigars, to at least smoke the better ones that didn't smell like a dumpster fire. My own husband was last and I made a show out of giving him his physical while he was trying to ignore me and eat like I had whispered in his ear for him to do.
      "What else are you going to tell Bill?" Eric asked after I scolded him for drinking too much on an empty stomach.
      I stood up straight and thought about it, then I looked down on him and nodded sternly, "He needs to have more sex."
      That brought the house, or rather, the tent down, and ended my rounds.
      It hadn't been planned all that well, but as I walked out to cheers, whistles, and applause, Linda, dressed for the weekend as 'the peasant farmer's daughter' instead of Aeval, came in dancing and singing.

      I relaxed between the cooking grill and the small campfire and had a drink.
      "Thank you for telling Glen to get to the doctor," Amanda said to me as she helped Naomi plate desserts, "he won't listen to me."
      I bowed my head to her and said it had been my pleasure.
      "So when are you going to give us physicals?" Debby asked me between runs to the tent with food and drink.
      "While they're having their wine and cigars," Naomi said as she put the finishing touches on a dessert platter.
      "Oh, one of them said he wanted a beer instead of wine," I said half remembering about half of something one of them said during the physicals.
      "OK, we'll offer it," Debby said taking the platter. "I'm going, I'm doing," she said as we listened to the applause for Linda's song.
      After she left Naomi looked at me, "you know she really wants you to give her a physical."
      I nodded, "I remember her on the lounge at your place."
      "She's like that. Sometimes I'm not sure which she likes more, men or women."
      "It's OK, I've done it before, I can make her go like gangbusters and never use more than two fingers on her," I grinned and held up my thumb and finger.
      Naomi looked at me with wide eyes, "I might want one of those physicals."
      "Me too," Amanda added.
      I didn't have to think of an answer because the men began their chant for their after dinner drinks and cigars, which was the cue for all of us to line up to go present them to the lords of the manor.
      "So what do we get after our dinner when they're waiting on us?" I asked Katherine as she handed me one of the cigar boxes.
      "Anything you want," Naomi said.
      Katherine nodded, "I like really dark chocolate and some red wine. Maybe a glass of one of the zins if the chocolate isn't one of the really strong ones."
      I nodded and made sure my uniform was straight, "That sounds nice."
      "Yes it does. In fact, once they're happy, I'm thinking of breaking some out."
      "Please do," her sister in law answered.

      The men took their drinks and cigars and walked down the tracks to see the improved pond while we all adjourned into one of the RVs for our own meal and repast.
      Nobody had mentioned what we were going to have for dinner other than Debby had it well in hand, and the aromas drifting out of the camper assured us that that was actually the case.
      "Slow roasted pork chops, potatoes, and all the fixings," Debby said as Linda closed the door behind us. "The chops should be about ready to fall off the bone."
      They were.

      After a very good dinner, Katherine went to her own RV and brought back a giant chocolate bar and two magnum bottles of wine.
      "You were right, this was the best idea all day," I said after some of each.
      "Thank you," she toasted me with her coffee cup full of wine.

      As we drank the wine, and some vodka cocktails that Debby and Lori were trying to perfect, Connie asked me what I thought of all of this.
      "I think it's a lot of fun, all together. It gets a little silly, but sometimes a little silly is good."
      "You don't mind being a servant?" She asked me. "I mean, you're really a nurse."
      "When I'm working as a nurse I'm a servant in a lot of ways that I can't change. But I have a choice about this."
      Naomi nodded in agreement, "I do this because I want to, some women I know can't get over themselves long enough to even think about that it might be fun. To my mother, and especially my grandmothers, this was how it was. How they felt about something, what they thought about it didn't matter. They were there for the men and that was it, the entire culture was centered on the men."
      Connie put her hands up, "I'm with you on that. My own grandmother never said no to either of her husbands, especially in public. And if we were at a dinner at their house and somebody at the table wanted something she was up to get it before they finished asking for it, and would never have thought of telling them where it was at and if they wanted it to go get it themselves."
      "Or sending one of the kids to get it," I added.
      "Exactly," Connie agreed.
      "I'd never thought about it that way," Amanda said. "But you've got a point." She looked at her cup, "a good one."
      Katherine sipped her wine, then spoke. "My own grandmothers were adults during the Depression, with kids, and trying to keep their homes together and all that. But they still deferred almost everything to their husbands. It was her role."
      Debby asked a question, "Wasn't that part of the thing from the church, that the women were supposed to be, oh, how did they put it?" She paused to think.
      "The husband is the head of the wife..." I offered.
      "Yeah, that's it."
      "Some of it," Katherine said. "And some of it was just the way it was. Myself, today, I've got more voice in my own household, and even whether I choose to do this or not than she would have thought possible. I've said 'No' to Murray about more things in the last couple of months than she did in her whole marriage."
      "Besides just sex," Lori smirked.
      "Besides just sex," she grinned and held out her cup for a refill.

      We talked for awhile and then somebody brought up the subject of my giving the ladies their physicals.
      I don't know if it was the wine, or the vodka drink I'd had, or maybe the idea of the challenge that Amanda issued when she said she didn't have a G-spot and I assured her she did. But I ended up proving to her that the secret spot was standard issue with the double X chromosome, and if used correctly, could send her into orbit.
      I left her sprawled out, red faced and breathless in the recliner next to the door, and, like I had promised, never really touched her in any meaningful way with more than two fingers. One inside, and one outside.
      As she sighed and blinked I stood up and went to the sink to wash my hand, "Well?"
      "I don't know if I should apologize or tell her I'm in love." Amanda said as she tried to sit up.
      "Apology accepted."
      "Next time, my turn," Naomi said.
      "I'll do one per event. During our time," I said with a grin. "Deal?"
      "Deal," Katherine said as Amanda tried to take a sip of wine with a shaking hand. "Something to look forward to."
      "And how," Amanda answered, "We're going to be regulars from now on."

      Finally somebody noticed that it was really late and we hadn't heard from the men. So we got ourselves together and ventured out. Some of us that had had more of the wine, and the vodka and pureed fruit drinks, were a little more wobbly than the others, but we were all moving.
      The men were sitting around the campfire, drinking and smoking and talking about stocking the pond with game fish.
      "Oh, so they are still here," one of the men said from the far side of the fire.
      Bill nodded to them, "I told you I heard laughing from that camper."
      "I thought somebody had left a radio on."
      "Do the masters require anything?" Katherine said ignoring the comments.
      "More booze," Eric said waving a plastic cup.
      "Le vin rouge," Glen said in heavily accented French.
      Mark nodded at us, "one of ya'll could do a strip tease for us."
      "I could use another beer," Bill said, "the ice chest is empty."
      Katherine turned to us and blinked her eyes a couple of times, she had had her fair share of the vodka and the wine and was having trouble focusing on which task to do first. "Ladies, we are back on."
      "Who wants to dance?" Naomi asked us.
      "Do a double?" Lori asked me.
      I had no idea what she meant, but I'd had a couple of the vodka concoctions too, "sure."

      I had no idea what I was doing, but it didn't matter to them as long as we both ended up naked. It was fun, and somewhere around midnight I was wrapped in a blanket I'd never seen before with Bill as we tried to find our tent.
      In our tent, we wanted to make love, we really did, but in the end, we fell asleep in each other's arms before anything serious happened.
      And it was OK.

The Laird William Writes:
      I got up early and went out and took care of the horses, and, as always, Dallas let me know he was a stallion and spent the whole time showing off. But once his feed was out, he calmed down and came over and ate a good breakfast.
      But the rest of Saturday we had a work project where we spent most of the morning finishing the roadbed that me and Mister Murray had spent several days working on and moving rail sections and all of that. We broke into two work crews and used both big engines and flatbed cars to do the work. I had the gas engine and the new crane to haul the culvert out passed the woodpile. Mister Murray took a smaller crew on Dinah with the other tractor and went down the spur by the dam to begin pushing their line our way since all they had to do was lay rail sections. It wasn't that far between the two ends, and we'd done some basic rough in work with the end loader and all of that, and it didn't have to be perfect, and Mister Murray said the easy part was going back later and just dumping crush and run gravel along the track once it was laid, so we did what we could today 'down and dirty' as he put it.
      "Bring it down a little more," Mister Glen shouted to me as I handled the winch. "Got it, let'er off."
      "Yes, sir." I said and played out the chain until it went limp.
      "It's there," Mister Eric said and pushed at the culvert with his foot, "I'll get some fill dirt."
      "Yessir, we'll unchain it." I said and nodded to Mark.
      Mister Eric had said that he could drive the tracked loader, and he could. He ran it over to the pile of fill on the other side of the tracks from the wood pile and then brought a bucket of it over to put around the culvert. After about six or ten bucketfuls, we were jumping up and down and stomping on it and running the tractor over it to pack it in. Then we were ready to lay some track on it.
      "I think it'll hold," Mister Glen said as Mister Eric turned the end loader around in circles on top of it.
      "We'll find out," I answered.
      I was glad I had shown Helen how to run the inspection car with its funny shifter and clutch because she was using it to run drinks and other supplies out to us from the house and the shop and the campsites, and was having all kinds of fun doing it.
      My crew ate lunch sitting on the culvert watching a little bit of water run through it and talked about the ladies show last night, then we got back to work.
      "Hey, ya'll!" We heard somebody call, and then there was a long whistle from the other train just as we finished putting two track sections across the culvert and making sure they were stable.
      We looked and saw Mister Murray and the others waving to us from around the steam engine. They'd laid all of their rail sections and were waiting for us at the meeting point.
      "We're coming!" We all shouted, but we weren't moving all that fast. Putting in the culvert over the drainage ditch took a lot longer than we had planned on, but we'd held up our part.
      After all that work, when we went to join our section to theirs we were only off by a foot or so from meeting up flush. Some quick adjustments lined everything up in short order.
      With both crews working together we managed to finish joining the sections and making everything fast, then we ran the gas engine across the new sections to make sure they were solid before we tried it with the heavier Dinah steam engine.
      It held just fine.
      Before dinner we were offering to take the women around to show them the new line.

      "I think they ought to go naked," Mark and John said several times.
      "If ya'll do," Miss Connie said, "but first, you all need a bath."
      "Pardon my sweat," John said, "I've been working on the rail road."
      Nate sniffed at his own very dirty shirt and nodded, "I think we all have."
      "How about a compromise," Bill offered, "we'll go get a quick shower, then we'll all take a ride?"
      "I'll go for the shower, since we stopped working, I can't stand to be around myself," Mister Murray said, then he added, "We can use both sides of the bathhouse."
      "I'll get in and out and go get the passenger car," I said and headed for the bathhouse while the others were still talking about it.

Lady Helen Writes:
      That double loop around the farm was the most fun on a train ride I've ever had. Everybody was naked, we all sang, and joked, and at one point Murray stopped the train out near the woodpile and we did a fire drill. We were all still running around the train when Bill jumped into the cab and started it going and we had to chase it to get on.
      As we went around the house Bill changed the switch and instead of going back to the campground we turned off at the house and he took us around the barn and horse pen where Dallas showed off for us while we all laughed and clapped.
      Then we stopped at the lake and almost everybody went for a quick swim. Then finally we went back across to the campground.
      The cheer that erupted from us was spontaneous and prolonged when he brought it to a stop.

      We built up the fire and discussed what to do about dinner when the idea of just putting some hamburgers on the grill came up and was met with general agreement.
      It was only some time later that I realized that this was the largest co-ed gathering of naked people I had ever been part of. And I mean, ever.
      The evening was spent in silliness, and a half serious game of Un-Strip Poker where the person that lost the hand had to put something on.
      Later there was some singing and dancing, and a few more intimate acts.
      But while my husband was a little more shy than the other men, he had a good time, but we didn't do anything more together than sit and enjoy all that was going on around us, which was OK with me.
      Bill has told me on several occasions that he doesn't like to drink that much, and he doesn't like to be around those that do.
      "Sometimes I think it's the liquor talking instead of them," he said.
      "I think you're right," I said with a smile remembering something that had happened when Bill went to reload the smaller ice chest with cans of beer from the huge chest in the back of one of the pickup trucks and I was over by the grill so I don't think they realized I could hear them.

      "So, is Bill, you know, a little slow or something?" Glen asked softly. "He's a good guy, and worked me half to death today, and I don't mean nothing but, you know...."
      "Let me tell you about my friend Bill. He's doesn't have a college degree but he's the smartest man you'll ... no, let me change that. He's not the smartest, that's not a fair statement. But I will always say he is probably the wisest men I've ever known," Murray looked at the rest of them, "and that includes all of you."
      "I agree," Eric said immediately.
      "Without a doubt," Mark said. I could see John and Ray nod in agreement.
      "Then I withdraw the question. Forget I said anything," Glen said.
      "I already have. Except this is empty," John said and tossed the empty can out of the tent, "Bill! Where's that beer?"
      "Coming, sir! I put some more ice in the ice chest with it."
      I stood there just outside the tent with a bottle of wine and didn't know if I should just pretend I didn't hear anything or what. Fortunately, Linda began singing and they all looked her way and I was able to vanish into the background and smile at what the rest of them had said to Glen about my husband.

      Finally we had to admit that it was really late and everybody was tired.
      "I don't believe that even the Alchemists of Olde would have been more satisfied with their work of the day than I am now," Glen said as the Count.
      "That's good to hear," Murray replied.

We see how their new life agrees with them in this chapter.

Lady Helen Writes:
      After the campout weekend, life on the farm settled into the routine of me and Bill working our day jobs, then coming home and either spending the rest of the afternoon doing chores on the farm, or occasionally spending the evening together in the trailer.
      Most of the time when Bill was out helping repair a fence, or cleaning out the horse pen or whatever needed to be done with Murray, or more and more often, by himself, I would work with Katherine in the craft shop or in the train shed painting things that took a long time to dry.
      One of our projects was to come up with something that we could make for the gift shop at the hospital that was unique, but something that would sell, and something that wasn't tremendously labor and time intensive for us to make. What we came up with was small knitted teddy bears made with acrylic yarn and polyester stuffing so they were minimally allergenic. We could run sections off on her knitting machine, then join them into body parts and arms and legs on the sewing machine, then stuff them, and then put them together with yarn and a crochet hook. Once we got the system down, we could make ten inch tall bears by the dozen with what seemed like no trouble at all.
      Then one day we mis-set the knitting machine and didn't notice until we'd run it for awhile, then we made the bears anyway, and all of the sudden we had two sizes of bears. Large, about eighteen inches tall, and the smaller ones.

      The next event with The Group From Last Night was at Mark and Lori's and was the Mother's Day Weekend dinner where the men waited on our every whim hand and foot, entertained us, and all of that.
      I was counseled to play it straight and not to be mortally offended if one of them forgot to serve us from the right. I promised to follow the lead of the other ladies and go with the flow.
      "And we are expected to drink too much and get all crazy and all of that," Naomi said.
      "Do you?"
      "Yes!" Was the immediate answer from several of the women.

The Laird William Writes:
      I was told a couple of times that since it was Mother's Day, the women usually didn't ask us to get naked, "But that will not be the case in the fall, or if we have a special event for one of their birthdays or something. That's a totally different environment," Nate told me.
      "Yeah, we won't mention some of the things they've asked guys to do." Mark said.
      I didn't know what I was supposed to do for the dinner, or how to do it, or even how to put the short bathrobe on that we were supposed to wear as the servants for the day.
      "You've seen the women wear them," Mister Eric said to me.
      "Yes, sir. But when they wear it I'm looking at them, not the robe."
      "Face it Eric, the man is not a fashion critic," John said.
      "Then you show him how to put it on. I need to go check on the dinner," he said and left.
      John held the robe out to me, "You really don't know how to put it on?"
      "No, sir. I've never worn one of those in my life."
      "I don't know how to wear this thing either." He held out the arm and turned it this way and that, "Would you rather wear a kilt?" He asked me.
      "The skirt?" I said looking at what he was wearing.
      "Yeah, but with it you get a sword too," he patted the short sword that was hanging off his belt. He drew it and showed me the blade, "It's real."
      "In that case, sure."
      "I don't have an extra sporran with me," he said indicating the pouch thing on his belt, "but I do have everything else, including a short sword."
      "I'll be OK without a pouch."
      But then Ray and Mark were laughing at me.
      "What?" I said to them as I stepped into the skirt and pulled it up.
      "Real Highland Scots don't wear underwear under it," one of them said.
      I looked at John and he shook his head.
      "I do," I said and fastened it with the big safety pin John handed me.
      I wasn't sure about wearing a skirt, but once I had the whole outfit on, including the sword and a dark green beret with a ball on top, I looked in the mirror and almost didn't recognize myself. And when I stood next to John, who I thought looked good in it, he said we looked like we were going off to "fight the Bloody Brits".
      Then I thought about it, "They really don't wear drawers under the skirt? I mean, the kilt." I asked John.
      "No, sir, a real Scotsman has nothing on but his skin under it."
      I stood there and looked at our reflection for a moment, "I'll be right back." I said and went and took my underwear off. Then, still getting used to the, I don't know how to put it, getting used to the air, the freedom, the, general idea of wearing a skirt with nothing else on, I walked back over to John.
      "Now I'm ready, I think. Sir." I said.
      He stood at attention and saluted me with his palm facing me and his thumb down by his cheek, "Very Well, Sir!" He said sharply.
      I tried to return the salute, but I don't think I got it right. But it didn't matter, we lined up and went out in line like I'd seen the women do.
      I listened to the advice of the others. Mark had told me to just play along and stay close to him. Mister Murray advised me to spend most of my time picking up dirty plates and keeping wine glasses full. I thought I'd just kind of hang back and see what needed done like I usually do.
      The women were all dressed like ladies of the castle or manor or something, and they were all acting as grand and proper as you could want them to act.
      Mister Eric made a speech about how it was our honor to serve them this evening, "And it is our greatest wish that you have an excellent time this evening and avail yourself of every luxury available with the barest of requests."
      "Thank you," Miss Naomi said from the head of the table, "For our hostess, the Lady Lori, I welcome your service. Please begin."

      We served them appetizers, and drinks, and they made comments about everything from talking about our costumes to complaining about slow service and the fact that I'd put wine in her water glass.
      "But that's OK, it just means I have to drink twice as much wine," Connie said.
      As the main course was served the women began talking about how there was a lack of entertainment.
      Mark juggled some kitchen utensils, and John told jokes that everybody had heard before, but all that did was make them talk louder about how they'd had more entertainment at someplace that gave them French fries with their order.
      "Bill sings one song better than anybody else I've ever heard. And he can do it without music," Helen said nodding at me with a smile. She meant the song that that one actor that I can never remember his name sang in the Don Quixote movie.
      "Madam is kind," I said trying to say it the same way I'd heard the others say it.
      The other women immediately began saying that I should sing it.
      I didn't know what to do. I took a step backward toward the kitchen to get away from them, but then I looked at my wife. For her, I'd do it. And I did it.

Lady Helen Writes:
      I knew that if I could get Bill to sing "The Impossible Dream", that it would bring the place to a standstill. Bill has a good singing voice, most of the time that's all it is, a good voice. But when he sings that song you'd think he should be on a TV show.

      Bill was really nervous, the last time I knew that he sang a solo in front of other people was when our son was a baby.
      He looked at me with actual fear in his eyes, but I nodded and smiled and he said, "OK, this once."
      And then without moving, without going to the front of the room, without background music, and not even putting down the dirty plates he was holding, he started singing.
      And the room came to a literal stop. The other men came out of the kitchen and stood in silent awe. Nobody moved, drank, or whispered, which for this group, was astonishing.
      When Bill began the verse that said "This is my Quest, to follow that star, no matter how hopeless, no matter how far," I couldn't help it, I had tears streaming down my face, and I could see that I wasn't the only one.

      He sang it exactly the way he always did, and it was just as beautiful as it always was. And until then, he'd only sung it to family members. And if I remember correctly, the last time he'd sung it was to his mother when she was sick a few years ago.
      His voice reached that unreachable star on the last verse even if he was still standing in the dining room in a kilt holding a stack of dirty dishes.
      "Thank you," Bill said with a slight bow and turned to flee from the room.
      The other men stopped him at the door and turned him around for our standing ovation amid calls of "Bravo! Bravissimo!"
      Finally after the applause started to die down, Mark and John let him go out to the kitchen.
      When the swinging doors shut behind him the other women began congratulating me for an excellent suggestion and for having a husband with such an amazing hidden talent.

The Laird William Writes:
      Mark met me in the kitchen and looked at me with wide eyes, "Dude," he said sounding like we were still in school, "I didn't know you had that in you. You can really sing."
      "Just to my wife," I answered.
      "That's fine, you did a wonderful job singing to your wife," Mister Eric said, "And to all of ours as well, which we appreciate more than you'll ever know."
      "Thank you, sir."
      "What other songs do you sing?" Mister Murray asked me.
      "Not much," I answered. "At least not like this."
      "He's told me that he sings a couple of others, 'My Way' and that one, oh hell, 'You are beautiful'. I think that's the name of it," Mark said. "Something like that."
      "Could you sing one of them later? Just sing it to Helen," Mister Eric said, "and they'll love it."
      "Could you guys come out with me?"
      "Sure," Mister Murray said.
      "Bill!" John said from the door, "They're calling for an encore."
      "It is our day to serve the ladies," Mister Murray said.
      "Do the Sinatra song first, then later, for dessert, you can sing the other one. That'll be a nice way to close the evening." Ray suggested.
      Mister Eric agreed, "Very romantic. 'My Way' first it is. OK?"
      "OK. Yes sir."
      Mister Murray patted me on the back, "See, I told you there were reasons why I really liked this guy."
      "What are we going to do? Sing along?" Mark asked.
      "I can't sing a note," John said.
      "You can stand there and hum can't you? Do you know the song?" Mister Murray said to him.
      "No," John answered, "I don't think so."
      "That's OK. I know it," I said after I took a sip of an open beer that was on the counter.
      "You can just stand there," Mark told John.
      "That, I can do," he reached down and gripped the handle of his sword.
      "OK, I'm ready," I said.

Lady Helen Writes:
      When Bill got to the part of the song about what was a man and 'what has he got' his voice was so strong and determined that there was no doubt that he was a Man.
      The other men stood behind him, shoulder to shoulder, and hummed along like a Greek Chorus.
      And once again, the end of the song brought us to our feet and there was no question at all that it was well deserved.
      This time as we applauded and cheered they let Bill exit through the line and the other men followed him.
      In a minute or so John and Eric came back out to check our glasses and plates and offer more of this or that.
      When Eric came by my seat I whispered to him, "Is Bill OK?"
      "He is fine, your Ladyship is kind to ask."
      "I just know he doesn't like a lot of attention."
      "I'll check on him again in a few minutes, perhaps your ladyship would care for more wine?"

      The rest of the dinner was spent discussing why Bill didn't sing more often, and the other men trying to follow up his songs with acts of their own. But even the best that Nate could do on the Dulcimer that he played at the Renaissance Fairs, and he was very good, I'm not taking anything away from him, he was very good, and even sold CDs of his music, but it just wasn't in the same league as Bill's songs.

The Laird William Writes:
      "My boy, I think you're going to be the designated singer," Mister Eric said to me from the kitchen door after I went out to clear some plates.
      "I don't want to be."
      "It's only twice a year. And trust me, a performance like you gave can glean much forgiveness for minor transgressions throughout the rest of the year."
      I didn't know what he meant until later, but I then I nodded and said, "Yes sir."
      "That means, you're going to have to learn a couple more songs," Mark told me as he walked by with the first dessert tray.

Lady Helen Writes:
      I don't know how they did it, and Bill wouldn't tell me, but all of the sudden we heard him singing one of the songs that he always sang to me when I'd had a really bad day at the clinic, or even back when I was pregnant and feeling 'fat and frumpy' as I put it. I'd seen him come and go as they brought out our dessert, but then Eric made a little speech about how they had been delighted to serve us in honor of Mother's Day, which I guess was enough of a distraction for Bill to slip back in unnoticed, and then he sang what he always said was his song to me.
      What's funny about this song was that I hated every version of it I've ever heard, except Bill's. And now, there he was, standing just behind me, staring into my eyes, singing about how I was so beautiful to him.
      And yes, by the time he finished, I didn't just have tears streaming down my cheeks, I was actually crying.

      "If you don't give him the blowjob of his life tonight when you get home, I will," Katherine said, which was immediately seconded by a couple of the others as we applauded and cheered him as he retreated to the kitchen once again.
      I blushed, but I said something about seeing what I could do and tried to change the subject.

Miss Babs Writes:
      Laird William was most energized by the events of the evening.

      As was I.

      I can tell when the Laird has reached the point of ecstasy when I use my mouth on him by the look of total abandon he gets in his eyes. I've never seen that expression in him any other time.
      Tonight, he had it. And for a few minutes while I performed on him, I think I did too.

The Laird William wrote the following with some small assistance:
      I saw something at work the week after that that I thought would be a perfect gift for Mister Murray.
      We had been renovating an old shelter at a picnic ground in one of the county parks when the guys ripped down a wall and found an old time payphone in a cubby hole. It didn't work, and it had been sealed up in the wall where some sort of birds thought the top of it would make an excellent nesting site for at least the last twenty years. Nobody knew it was there until they saw it and called me.
      I looked over at Old Ben, "Surplus?" I asked him.
      "Trash," he said.
      "I'll put it in my truck and check with Property," I answered.
      "They won't want it, these were put out in the fifties. And now, I don't even know the last time I saw a phone that takes quarters." Old Ben used a rag to wipe stuff off the card on top of the phone where a faded note said local calls were now twenty five cents.
      I squinted my eyes and could make out the date, "June, 1985," I read off it.
      "That was expensive back then."
      We walked the old metal box out to my truck and put it in the back with the old light fixtures that we were all pretty sure that the inventory people wouldn't want either.
      The county's property manager told me that the phone company had disowned them and he didn't want it so I should take the thing to the recycling center as obsolete. So I recycled the light fixture that was above it and brought the phone home.
      It took me a couple of weeks and a lot of figuring out how to make do with what I had. But once I had the phone apart and cleaned up, and took the dimes and quarters out of it to put in the fund raiser, and I plugged it into the phone jack in the kitchen in the trailer, it worked! I called my cell phone from it and the call went through, then I reversed that process and the same thing happened.
      "Now what are you going to do with it?" Helen asked me as I started putting it back together.
      "I was going to give it to Mister Murray. It's kinda like the stuff they like."
      "It's chrome, not brass, but, OK."

      We ended up putting the phone on the outside of the bathhouse. Then we built an awning over it and ran a wire to it from the trailer, and then there was a working pay phone in the campground that would make a local call for a quarter, and all proceeds went to the hospital auxiliary.
      The really good thing about it was that the ringer on the pay phone was loud enough that if somebody called the number for us in the trailer and we were outside, you could hear the phone on the bathhouse all the way across the creek.
      So it all worked out for the best in the end.

Lady Helen Writes:
      It was about a month after the Mother's Day event when the Director of Emergency Services came into my office carrying one of the small bears. "Miss Helen," he said softly.
      "Yes, Doctor Wright?"
      "They said you're the one making these."
      "Yes, sir. I have some help though."
      "Can you make more?" He asked and when I hesitated he explained why he wanted to know. "We've been giving them to children in the emergency room. I bought a few of them and put them in the central station, and when a kid comes in and needs one, somebody gives them one."
      "That's wonderful."
      "I didn't know you were making them until the lady in the gift shop told me just now. I bought almost all of what they had."
      "I didn't know where they were going, I just knew somebody had been buying them."
      "I haven't bought them all, so some have been going for full price." Dr. Wright answered. "I'll pay for your materials, that's no problem. And if you can make something besides a bear, that's OK too."
      "We were donating them to the auxiliary, so the material is no...."
      "I want about fifty of them a month, and the gift shop wants the rest. That way if we need a few more we can get them from them."

      Katherine was thrilled with the development. "That's great news, we'll have a work day on weekends and bring the other girls out and we'll just have a blast and make bears for the children."
      "We could do that."
      "As for the other patterns, I was kicking around the idea of a bunny rabbit the other night. If we lengthen the ears to a point, and change the front legs," she gestured with her hands like she was making the piece, "I think it'd be fine."
      We tried it out in the craft shop and, with a few minor adjustments, her idea for rabbit ears worked fine. The tail was a bit fussier and required making a small thick circle out of white yarn, but we thought that somebody could crochet a bunch of them fairly quickly. And so we began what amounted to industrial production of the stuffed animals.
      And once the pediatric ward saw them coming upstairs with more of the children admitted through the ER, they wanted some too, so now we were making almost a hundred of the things a month.

      So once or twice a month, several of the women from 'The Group From Last Night' would come out to the farm, sometimes with their husbands, and sometimes without, and while we made bears, they would go out and do stuff with the trains, or fish for the yellow belly catfish and sunfish that thought the pond was the greatest place on Earth. Or they'd drink beer and smoke cigars while they burned off the brush pile, or whatever else kept them as far from the craft works as possible.
      But to be fair, while we were all busy doing that, some of them would cook lunch on one of the big grills at the campground, or at least Bill would. So it would be a very good and fun and productive day, and then once in awhile a couple of the ladies would come with me and we'd deliver a bunch of the animals to the Pediatric department and they'd get to see the smiles their efforts ended with.
      The only downside was that no matter how hard we all worked, and how quickly we could put the bears together, we simply could not get all of the ones Dr. Wright and the others wanted done in one day once a month. So some of the ladies began coming in on Friday and staying over until Sunday and what had become a work day for a charity became a serious project.
      But that way, we were able to meet the demand for our cute little knitted bears. Or rather, bears, bunnies, cats and dogs, some rather comical looking barnyard or zoo animals, and other critters.
      "I don't know, it was supposed to be a cow, but I think you're right, if I give it a longer nose it could be an elephant." Lori said putting her finger where the trunk should have been.
      "For a cow, we'll make the ears smaller," I offered.
      She looked at it, "That would help wouldn't it?"
      "We'll put a trunk on it and some kid will love it," Katherine said.
      "I hope so."

      It was a couple of months or so after we started making the critters by the scores that a nurse in the children's intensive care ward who I'd worked with before came into my office with a handful of the stuffed animals. "I tried something with one of your bears, and it worked," she said. "We had a cancer patient that was in isolation and couldn't have any real toys. I'd heard that you used acrylic stuffing and all, so I put a new one through the sterilizer and then had it tested in the lab."
      "It didn't melt the stuffing?" I asked her.
      "He came out a little flat, but it was OK. And he passed the lab test, so I did two other ones, one was a rabbit, I'm not sure what the other one was, and gave them to the patient. You should have seen her face light up."
      "I can imagine," I answered. "Thank you for telling me that."

      When I told the story at our next work day, Debby sat at the knitting machine and cried for twenty minutes.
      But for several weekends after that, we didn't have any problems motivating each other to work as hard as we could on the animals.

The Laird William Writes:
      We had used every full section of track that Mister Murray had and most of the larger pieces, and the majority of the other hardware and all we were left with was odds and ends and one broken switch that we had used for parts to fix the switch for the siding we'd put in by the trailer for the inspection car.
      "I want to keep some parts and pieces for repairs and in case we have to replace anything," Mister Murray had said.
      "Good idea, sir." I nodded to him, "I've sorted out the joiner plates and some of the other parts up there." I pointed to the rows of hardware that I'd hung up on nails on the wall. "That way we can see what we've got and what we might need to buy or make to do something."
      "When did you do all of that? I hadn't noticed that before?"
      I looked at the wall of parts, "I've been working on it off and on since we moved in," I said, "I wanted to get it done before now, but there's a lot here."
      "Yes, sir. There's more here than I thought I had. It looks good."
      "Thank you, sir. I put the parts that were broken or too rusty in that barrel to take to the recycler," I pointed to the old oil drum. "They'll pay for that stuff."
      "Yes, they will." He walked over and looked in the barrel, "You've been busy."
      "I try to stay busy sir. It passes the time better than just sitting around."
      "I wish more people felt that way," Mister Murray said as we looked at the pieces of rail that I'd sorted by length. "Say, I was supposed to ask you if you have a poofy shirt for the dinner next month."
      "No, sir, I don't think I do."
      "You do know what one is don't you?"
      "No, sir."
      "Remember what Glen was wearing at the campout dinner?"
      I thought about it and nodded, "Then, no, sir, I don't have anything like that, and I don't think I'd wear one if I did."
      "You have to wear it to come to the formal dinner. Everybody will be all dressed up like that, in fancy old time outfits, and we hire waiters and waitresses to take care of us for the evening. It's a blast."
      "Neither one of us have anything like that."
      "Helen does now, they've spent the last week or so making it."
      "She said they were sewing, but didn't say what they were doing."
      "That's it. And I hate to tell you, you've already paid for your dinner. So. We need to get you an outfit my boy."
      "In that case, yes sir, we do."

Lady Helen Writes:
      I'm sorry, but I don't know how else to put it. One of the doctors I work with always says "he'd rather go to the dentist than to do ... whatever he has to do but doesn't want to". Bill is exactly like that about shopping for clothes. He simply will not do it. Most of the time, I buy his stuff for him, and I know what he likes, and what he will tolerate well enough that sometimes he doesn't realize that something in his closet or dresser drawer is new until he's worn it a couple of times.
      But with the costume, he had to go to the store with me and Murray and Katherine and try stuff on and put up with me and the sales lady tugging at the collar and checking the waistband and all for the duration.

      Now, Bill is Bill. He will put up with almost anything for longer than any other man I know. Especially when it is something I want him to do. But when he's had enough, he's had enough, and you don't want to be the one trying to tell him otherwise.
      Katherine said before we got to the fancy-wear store that Bill should have two outfits with a couple of shirts each, and the associated hats and capes and all that that went with it.
      Bill modeled the various choices and kept his mouth shut until we had exactly two outfits. One set was very formal and looked like it would be at home in a staged production of a Shakespearean 'King' play. The other was more for everyday wear, say to go to a RenFaire in.
      "It fits him just about right," the sales lady said about the hat he had on, "and it goes fine with the costume."
      Bill looked at me and I nodded. "We'll take it all. I'll bring it back out to you so you can ring it up," he said and went to the changing room.
      The lady didn't know what was going on.
      "He's tired of being a model," I said, "But we will take the two outfits and the hat and all."
      "Yes, ma'am."
      Katherine had been sorting out what went with what and keeping things organized. "Let me make sure we've got it all, one shirt here plus one more coming, pants, cape...." She put all of it together and then waited for Bill to bring her what he had on.
      In the mean time, Murray tried on a frilly black shirt with huge complicated sleeves and red and silver highlights that might have even been a bit much for a revival of the "Pirates of Penzance", but on him, and with him putting on airs and strutting around, it was, still, a bit much. But he wanted it. So he got it.

      I knew I'd probably never get Bill back into the store, so I bought the two extra shirts he'd tried on and that fit, and one extra pair of pants that were the short style that went with knee length stockings that he'd said might have been Robin Hood's.
      For the shoes, he had one pair that he said he'd wear if they wouldn't let him wear sneakers or work boots. They looked just as uncomfortable as they could be, but we took them as well.
      By the time Bill came back out of the changing room, Murray had paid for one of his outfits.
      "Just a thank you for all the work you've done to the place," Murray said to him, "and besides, that way Katie won't know how much my shirt was."
      "You bought the black shirt?" Bill asked him.
      "Yes, sir." Murray answered him with a big grin.

      After the shopping trip we went out to dinner before going home and it was so nice to be out with another couple and no kids. We had a marvelous time, then went home.
      "Come over tomorrow after you get off and I'll show you how to launder these things so you don't have to do any ironing, or very little." Katherine said as Murray parked behind the house.
      "To get away from ironing, I'll take notes." I said with a smile.

      Two weeks later we went out to the hotel where The Group From Last Night had been going for years to have their 'fancy dress ball'.
      The event was hosted, and primarily paid for, by Eric and Naomi, who sat at the head table with another couple as the Royal Household.
      Bill and I were guests for the night of Murray and Katherine's and we were at the table next to theirs on one side with Glen and Amanda, while Ray and Connie were on the other side. Then the others from the group were seated throughout the room in a large rectangle.
      Each table had two servers, a man and a woman, who began the evening in Roman servant togas. There was a rotating crop of entertainers ranging from a comic who was almost funny but he was a very good juggler, a woman who sang folk songs, and a couple of bits by the various ones of the wait-staff to break it up.
      The food itself wasn't anything to rave about. We'd had better at other events, and for my money, we cooked better at things like the campout. But that wasn't the point of the evening. Tonight, we sat together as couples and had somebody else wait on us. And I enjoyed it immensely.

      The juggling comic was playing the Master of Ceremonies and kept things moving. From what I understand, this was his third year doing the central role, and his fifth as an entertainer for the evening, and he thanked them for inviting him back to do it again.
      "How long have you been doing this?" I asked Katherine between courses.
      She sat and thought about it for a moment, "I'm really not sure, I think this is our sixth, but I seem to remember more, just not as well organized."
      She asked Murray, who didn't have a clue, he asked Eric, who asked Naomi. The four of them discussed it with input from several of the other long term members and finally came to the conclusion that this was their fifth consecutive year having the full dinner with three other occassions before that as special events.
      Eric nodded, "Yes, we took over from Lon and Ethel. I remember that now, they'd had a dinner like this now and then just to do it, then we made it a yearly thing."
      "And we made it a little more risqué," Naomi added nodding toward several of the serving staff who were now partially disrobed.
      "Lot more fun that way," Eric grinned.
      "Hear! Hear!" Murray acclaimed and was answered by several of the rest of us, including me.

      "And now," the MC said between the entree and the first dessert, "I was told that there is a special singer tonight. Lord William, at your pleasure," he bowed to Bill and took a step back.
      "He learned a new song just for tonight," Murray said to finish the introduction.
      Bill stood up in his spot and nodded and smiled to the applause.
      And then, just like that, he sang one of the most hauntingly beautiful versions of "They Call The Wind Maria" that I have ever heard. And just like when he sang at the first dinner, his rendition of the show tune brought the place to a standstill. All of the waiters and waitresses stopped everything and listened to him sing.
      And when he finished, everybody in the place applauded and cheered, and many of us wiped at our eyes as well. It was that beautiful.
      "Bill, if you would, I'd like to hear you do 'My Way' again," Naomi said, "I never really liked that song until you sang it for us."
      "Yes, ma'am, thank you," he answered. And then he did that one too. No accompaniment, no pitch pipe, no nothing. Bill simply stood there and sang it like it had been written for him instead of Frank Sinatra, just like he had done every other song I've ever heard him sing.

      When he finished and the protracted round of applause died down the waiter that had sang a couple of numbers earlier, with recorded music on a boom box I might add, came up to our table with his hand out, "Mister William, that was wonderful," he said, "if you ever want to make extra money singing, call me." He handed Bill a business card, then he nodded to the rest of us and went back to work.
      Bill looked at the card, then sat back down next to me. He put the card down on the table and shook his head, "I don't want to sing for anybody else."
      "Then don't," Katherine said to him, "just sing for us, once in awhile."
      "I can do that," he took my hand and squeezed it tightly.
      "Good," she answered.

      I am usually very proud of my husband. He's a good man, a fine father, and an excellent husband, which I think is pretty special. And now, he was the best singer I knew as well. One of my relatives had called him "just plain ol' Bill" on a couple of occasions. One of these days I'll tell them that that description no longer fit.
      Or maybe I won't say a word.

Laird William's Chapter, as composed with input by the Lady Helen.

      I had been told to report to the main county office early one Monday morning. And so I did.
      I sat in the new Administrator's office and didn't know what to say or do.
      The lady asked me if I understood what she had said and done.
      "Yes, ma'am."
      I had just been fired by somebody who had been in their job for less than two weeks.
      "You've got until Friday, then we'll close that section and the contractor will take over."
      And not only me. I had to go back to my shop and tell everybody in it, everybody, all the part time grass cutters, Old Ben who had been there since forever, everybody, had been fired. Not laid off, fired. She didn't cut our hours back, or reassign people from one side of the county to the other like other new big bosses would do to make it look like they were doing something. She came in and fired everybody.
      "If I wasn't doing my job right, you should just fire me, not all of the other guys," I said to her.
      "You were doing an excellent job," she said with a smile as phony as every other political person I've ever had to talk to. "Outsourcing the physical plant services just makes sense at this time. I am looking out for the bottom line of the county taxpayer. If there were openings in other divisions you would be transferred, but as there are not. I'm sorry, but I have to let you go."
      "Yes, ma'am."

      And so I went back to the complex with a stack of envelopes for everybody.
      Ben's was the only one different. They were retiring him. The rest of us were just being let go.
      Me and a couple of others were lucky in one respect. I had enough time in service with the county that I did have some retirement vested and when I was old enough I could draw on it. There were a few others in my group that did as well. But in the meantime we were out of a job just like the newest guy who had just started about six months ago.
      Some of the guys said they'd seen it coming because the new administrator had been talking in the newspaper about cutting the budget and outsourcing services.
      "I don't see how somebody else can do it cheaper than we do," I said still holding my letter.
      "They can't," Old Ben said, "it's just another empty promise. In the long run, it'll cost them more. But that's not how they look at things."
      "And then when they go to undo it, it'll cost them twice as much," another man said. "So what are you going to do?" He asked me.
      "Clean out my desk, and my locker, and go home."
      "Are you going to come back tomorrow?" Old Ben asked me.
      "Yeah, what are they going to do? Fire us if we don't?" The younger guy said.
      "I'll be back," I said, "It's only right."
      "That's you," the younger guy said, "me? I'm out of here. Sorry guys, it's been nice working with you." He got up and shook hands all around, then he went and cleaned out his locker, and left.
      The other guys said they'd have to think about it.
      "I'll be here the rest of the week, it says they're going to deliver my retirement papers here on Wednesday, so you've got me until then."
      "Thanks," I said. "I think we should all take the rest of the day off. To start looking for another job if nothing else."
      "I'll lock up, I don't need another job," Old Ben said.

      It was the longest drive into town of my life. The only thing I could think of was that I had to stop by the hospital and talk to Helen. I had to tell her what had happened.
      I waited until the lady at the desk was free, then told her I needed to see Helen.
      "Oh, you're Bill, her husband."
      "Yes, ma'am," I answered. It seemed like every time I went there, there was somebody new behind the desk.
      "She's a wonderful nurse, and a nice boss," she said.
      "Thank you, ma'am"
      She pushed a button or two, then told Helen that I was here.
      "She's free, you can go on back. Do you know where her office is?"
      "Yes, ma'am."

      I didn't know how to tell her, and that's what I told her.
      "Tell me what?" She asked me.
      I just handed her the letter. She always amazed me with how fast she can read things.
      "They're outsourcing the entire grounds and maintenance section? That's stupid."
      "That's what we all thought, but it's already done. Jeremy walked out this morning and he's not coming back. Ben's retirement papers are in the works. I don't think some of the others will be in much past tomorrow. I gave everybody the rest of the day off to go look for another job. She said it is effective Friday."
      "What are you going to do?"
      "Go look for another job."
      She reached out and took both of my hands in hers, partially crumpling the letter in her left hand as she held my right with it. "You don't need to work, we can live off my salary here. You were already on my insurance, I'll just change it to make my policy our primary coverage. We'll be OK."
      "I know, but I need to work."
      "I know you do."

      Since we'd moved out to the farm I'd always said I liked the farm supply store that Mister Murray dealt with. So I stopped there on my way home and asked for an application.
      While I was filling it out the manager I knew stopped by where I was and asked me what I was doing.
      "I need a job, sir" I said and handed Mister Clark the paper from the county lady.
      He didn't read as fast as Helen, but he read it very quickly. "Those bastards," he said, "what can you do?"
      "I can do almost anything, just ask Mister Murray. He's my best reference."
      "So I've heard. When is your last day at the county?" Mister Clark asked me.
      "Then Monday you start here in our shop. It'll only be part time for awhile, but it's better than what they did to you," he handed me the letter back.
      "Thank you, sir. I'll do my best for you."
      "I know you will. I'll see you Monday," Mister Clark shook my hand and I left feeling a lot better than I had since I'd left the Administrator's office.

      I had to tell the entire story to Mister Murray and Miss Katherine, and they both read the letter. Then Mister Murray went to the county's website and read the notice that they had on there about the new service providers.
      "She didn't just fire your crew, she's laying off the guys at the trash transfer station and all, they're done after next week," he said.
      "I didn't know that," I answered.
      "It's right here," he pointed to the computer screen.
      "I believe you."
      "She's just tearing everybody a new one," Mister Murray said. "Everything she can, she's outsourcing, and doing it all at once. She's even doing away with most of the payroll department."
      "If she fires everybody she won't need payroll people."
      He looked at me and nodded, "And that is exactly what she is doing."
      "Can she do that?" Miss Katherine asked me. "I mean legally, does she have the authority to do that?"
      I folded the letter up and put it in its envelope, "I don't know ma'am. But apparently she thinks she does, and after next Friday it won't matter because everybody in every section will be gone."
      Miss Katherine shook her head, "if the country board fires her they can bring everybody back."
      "I don't think they will. This is what she told them she'd do," Mister Murray answered. "I saw an interview with her on TV last week. She promised to cut the number of employees so they don't have to pay benefits and all. So, I guess, they're all for it."
      "Mister Ben said that it will cost them more in the long run."
      "It could. A lot of these contractors will give a low bid to get in the door, then when they renew the contract they jack up the price and bill you for everything under the sun."
      "Oh," I said, "I guess that's what he was talking about."

      Helen was all worried about me and came out looking for me when she got off.
      I had the inspection car and its trailer out on the back loop working on the new culvert where it had started to erode around the pipe after a couple of hard rains. She walked all the way from the trailer out there in her high heeled shoes on the tracks.
      "Katherine said you had more news."
      "Yes, ma'am."
      "Bill, you don't have to say 'ma'am' to me," she reminded me. She'll do that once in awhile.
      "Yes, ma'am," I said with a smile as I climbed up to the bank to her. "And it is good news."
      "Well?" She said while I wiped my hands off on a rag.
      "I've already got another job," I said, "Next Monday I start at the farm supply store. Mister Clark said it would only be part time for right now, but it's a job."
      "It sure is. What will you be doing?"
      "Working in their shop. They fix equipment and put stuff together for people that buy furniture and machines and all out there."
      "You'll be good at it."
      "I hope so."
      "You will be," she said and kissed me. I like it when she kisses me like that. "Fire this thing up and take me home," she said meaning the inspection car.
      "Yes, ma'am."

      Tuesday I went back to the county shop, but it didn't feel right to me. I knew it wasn't my job anymore and I just didn't feel right there. I did what I was supposed to do with the guys that came in. And most of them came in, although a couple of them were late. And I couldn't blame them.
      Old Ben tried to keep everybody in a good mood, but it didn't work.
      I assigned a couple of crews to go out and finish up a couple of jobs that I just thought we should finish up. "I want to make a clean break of it and not leave somebody else to finish what we started," I told them.
      "Yes, sir," the guys said. And they went out and did what they had to do.
      By Thursday, we were all basically saying "to hell with it." Old Ben got his papers and said he was sorry it had ended like that.
      When I left on Thursday, I left a note on my desk about a potential problem at one site that had just come up and that they might want to look into it. I said I had planned on going out next week and seeing what needed done, but I didn't have a next week to do it. I drove by the main office and left them my keys and said everybody had taken Friday off to go out to Old Ben's retirement lunch.
      "I understand, and I don't blame any of you one bit," the office lady said. "I hate what she did to you all, but I can't do anything about it. She's laying us off too, and bringing in temps next month."
      A younger woman who was filing looked at me and nodded.
      "I'm sorry," was all I could say.
      When I walked out, I told myself that I would never walk back in no matter what the board did. I don't like anybody being done dirty like that.

      "Oh, no you don't," Mister Murray said to me Friday afternoon, "this is your weekend off."
      "But the horses need fed," I said as Dallas put on his show for us.
      "I got them, you're on vacation for two days," he took the bucket from me. "Now go kiss that pretty wife of yours, I just saw her car coming in."
      "Yes, sir."
      And that was exactly what I did, in every way I knew how.

      Over the weekend me and Helen went horseback riding, and then we fished in the pond even though she hates fishing. Then I took her shopping and we stopped by the farm store and I showed her where I'd be working and she got to meet Mister Clark. After that I took her out to dinner at a place she liked.

      Monday morning, I went to work at the farm store, and was given my first assignment right after I filled out the paperwork their office lady, Mrs. Steele, needed.
      My job was to assemble a big mower deck that goes on the back of tractors that they use to mow along roads and around fields. I'd worked with those sorts of machines for years, so putting one together was almost not even work. Then after lunch I was asked to help sort a shipment of parts in the electrical department, which I found interesting as I'm not that familiar with electrical stuff. And finally, before it was time for me to go home, I spent some time helping a customer load his truck with a whole pallet of bags of animal feed.
      Tuesday was some of the same things, and some different things, like getting together an order of fencing for a rancher, I had to find the right size and number of poles, and hardware, and even everything he'd need for a gate. Then once we had the order together, I helped load it on his truck.
      And so my job was. Monday through Friday, helping out and doing things and learning all about everything the store did.
      Within a month, I was working full time hours most weeks.

      And when I went home on Friday, nobody called me to come in to do anything, unless somebody was out sick or something. Which was great advantage given that my time off was a lot more interesting and productive than it had been not long before.

      I had been there a couple of months when another advantage to working there came up.
      One of the special sales the store has from time to time is that they offer to take 'anything with wheels' in on trade for one of the utility vehicles. This time, a farmer brought in an old camping trailer and the sales manager offered the farmer a good price for it as a trade. It ended up in our parts yard and Mister Clark asked me if I wanted it for what the store gave the farmer for it, minus the employee discount.
      "It's just taking up room here and it'd be more trouble to sell than we'd make off it. You get it as it sits," Mister Clark said to me. "And if you want, we'll do the title transfer as a dealer for you."
      It was such a good offer I couldn't say no. During my lunch break I borrowed the delivery truck and towed it to the farm and parked it in the campground.
      Then when I got off that afternoon me and Mister Murray looked it over and he came to the conclusion that other than being a little musty and having a small leak around one window, that it was worth at least three times what I was paying for it and he'd help me make it as good as it could be.
      He showed me how to work the crank down feet to make it level, "I'll even help you seal up that window so it'll never leak again."
      "Thank you, sir."

      Helen was a little skeptical of the camper, but she agreed to keep an open mind and see how it went. Which I was very grateful for.
      Before long Mister Clark made me the assistant service manager and gave me a pin on tag to put on my shirt under my stitched on name. I was doing the same things I had been doing, but now I was working full time hours and getting paid more for it.
      Helen was as happy as she could be with the promotion, and she said she was even happier because I liked what I did now more than I had before. And I had to admit it, I was a lot happier now than I had been at the county. Most days I looked forward to going to work almost as much as I looked forward to going home to her.

      It was in September when I got a call from the County on my cell phone.
      "We need you to come into the office first thing in the morning," some woman I didn't know told me.
      She didn't ask me to come in, she ordered me to come in.
      "I'm sorry, ma'am, I'll be working in the morning," I said.
      "Oh, we didn't plan for that. Hold on," she put me on hold.
      I looked at the phone and shook my head and pushed the off button. "I don't work for you anymore," I said to it as I put it back in my pocket.

      The phone rang again about five minutes later, "We were disconnected," she said, "when can you come in to meet with Mister Hensmanson?"
      I'd never heard of him, but I was curious about what was going on, "I get off work at two tomorrow."
      "Then we will see you at two."
      "No, Ma'am, I said I get off work at two, it will take me a little while to get to the office."
      "Oh, of course, then two thirty is better?"
      "Yes, ma'am."
      Then she hung up without even a good bye or thank you or anything.

      I told my wife about it when she got home, "And she was the most unpleasant woman I've ever talked to."
      "What did she want?"
      "I'm supposed to go to the county office tomorrow after work to meet a Mister Hensmanson."
      "What about?"
      "I don't know. I guess I'll find out."
      "After you do, either call me or stop by and tell me."
      "I will."

      I almost forgot about the meeting at the county office until just before I got off. The only reason I did remember was that I knew there was something I was supposed to call Helen about, then what it was came back to me.
      I thought about going home and changing, but then I thought that maybe they didn't believe I had another job, so I wore my work shirt with my name and the name of the farm store sewn into it even though it was a little dirty from everything I'd done that day.

      I walked into the administration office and saw what had to be the woman that had called me yesterday. She just stared at me.
      "I have an appointment at two thirty."
      "And your name is?" She said.
      "I'm William, you called me to come in today at two thirty."
      "Oh, yes. I'll tell them you are here," she said. Then she pushed a button on her phone and said, "That Bill is here." She listened for a moment, then looked up at me, "He'll be right out."

      I only had to wait for a minute or so and then a man in a suit came out and introduced himself as Brian Hensmanson, we shook hands and went into the office.
      "Good to see you again Bill," the lady from the county board said to me.
      "Thank you, ma'am."
      We all took a seat around a small table, then Mister Hensmanson asked me about where I worked now.
      "At the farm store."
      "You're the assistant service manager?" The board lady asked me after she read the tag on my shirt.
      "Yes, ma'am."
      They looked at each other and then came to the point. "The outsourcing Ms Bakker did, didn't work out."
      "I heard there were problems," I said. "Some of the guys I used to work with stopped by the store and told me about some of it."
      "So you know that she was released from her position," Mister Hensmanson said.
      "No, I hadn't heard that."
      The lady answered for him, "In truth, she violated state law. Several laws, and broke contracts, and did other things that weren't above board. Not only was she released, she has been indicted in a criminal matter regarding some, impropriety, in the matter. All of the contractors and temps she brought in will be replaced with the full time employees that had been let go."
      "Oh, OK." I said, I wasn't sure what all that meant, but I knew it probably wasn't good for her.
      "We want you to come back," Mister Hensmanson said.
      "We need you to come back, your time in the position will be like you never left," the board lady said.

      I thought about it, and I didn't want to do it. Then I thought about what my wife would say if I agreed to it. And I really didn't want to do it.

      "No ma'am. I will not come back. Maybe some of the others will. But I won't. The county board did me and everybody else wrong and I'll remember that until the day I die."
      "But we didn't...."
      "Ma'am. The board hired that lady knowing what she said she was going to do, and even after she started firing people, you didn't do anything about it. I'm not coming back." I stood up, "thank you for your time," I said as politely as I did when I was being a servant for the women at the dinner.
      "We can offer you more money," Mister Hensmanson said.
      I stopped and looked at him, "I'm sorry sir, it's not about the money. I'm making less now than I did with you, but I like what I do now, and I like who I do it with, and to me, that's worth something."
      They looked at each other and didn't say anything.
      "Thank you," I said again and walked out.

      "So when are you starting?" The woman at the desk asked me.
      "I'm not," I said to her and just kept walking.

      "Good for you. That is exactly what I would have told them," Helen said to me when I told her what had happened. Then she kissed me.

      "Great! Way to go," Ms Katherine said, and she kissed me too.
      Mister Murray didn't kiss me, instead he pounded me on the back and offered to buy me a beer.

      When I told Mister Clark about it he looked worried for a minute, then I told him that I had turned them down flat, and why, and his smile went from ear to ear.
      "I knew we had the right man this time," he said and shook my hand and said he was going to buy my lunch that day.

      And I was happy with myself over it.

      Later I heard that Old Ben had laughed his ass off at them, but a couple of the guys did go back, and so did the regular office lady, but, that was OK too. It was a good job.
      But I had a better one now.

"To Swing, or not to swing, that's a hell of a question."

The Lady Helen Writes:
      During the summer we had some sort of event about once a month, except for in July when we had two, a camp out over the Fourth holiday and then a dinner at John and Debby's that was my first experience with a full on slave-girl evening. And I kept true to my word about giving a different 'girl' a physical during our time to relax, ending with her experiencing a full blown G-spot orgasm. And I gave them a pretty thorough physical as well, and I meant it. If I noticed something, I mentioned it, and in one case, it turned out to be a good thing that I had because Miss Naomi had a pilar cyst under her arm that she'd just written off to getting older that ended up being surgically removed when she followed up with her doctor about it.
      In August Lori's physical ended up being a bit more than any of the others so far because when she made it, she lost control of her bladder and I had to change my costume before we went back out to check on the men. But she spent the next month apologizing to me even though I told her that I took it as a compliment that I was able to so thoroughly relax her that that had happened when she made it.

      On Friday night two weeks after Bill's interview with Mister Hensmanson we had an impromptu party for Laird William and his decision not to go back to the County.
      Me and Bill stayed in the camping trailer. I had made him go out and buy a new mattress and I got new linens for it. Some of the others from the group came out, and we had a grand old time with a large campfire in the circle and all.
      "I learned a new song," Laird William said as the fire began to die down.
      I don't know why he said it, nobody asked him to sing and we hadn't been discussing music, but he had said it, and that's all that counted.
      "But I need to have a tape playing, it just works better," he said when we began clamoring for him to sing it. "The music is on the overhead player at work, and I can hear it in the shop, so I learned it like that."
      "My keyboard is in the car," Linda said, "I might know it. Would you sing it if I do?"
      He nodded, then he whispered the song's name in her ear.
      "Oh, I love that song, let me go get the keyboard," she said and almost ran out to her car to get her instrument.
      "What is it?" We asked him and he just shook his head, "You told her."
      "Because she can play it. And she needs to know which song it is."
      Linda set the electronic keyboard up on the far side of the fire and tested it, then she changed it from sounding like an organ to a piano and nodded at Laird William. "Don't sing with the piano," she said, "You sing, and I'll play with you. Just start, and we'll go together."
      "OK," Laird William said. "This is for you guys, my friends." He paused a moment, then began, "When I was young, I never needed anyone...." Bill sang the song to the accompaniment, and when he was done, there wasn't anybody sitting around the fire that wasn't totally speechless, and a lot of us were wiping at our eyes. Including the men.
      "Well? Did you like it?" He asked as we just sat there in stunned silence.
      "Oh, hell yes. Damn man. I loved it." Murray said, "Shit, I'm sitting here crying like a baby. Yes, we liked it!"
      "Me too," Eric added, "And I am not usually affected by music like that."
      "Sing it again, please," Naomi asked him with a smile.
      Laird William looked over at Linda, she nodded and played the introduction to "All By Myself" before he sang it this time.

      If I wasn't already in love with him, I would have been after that.

      And then, of course, we had to have him sing his other songs with Linda playing for him as well, and I didn't even know that he knew "We've Got Tonight", but he did, and he sang it beautifully as Linda played with a flourish worthy of a much better stage.

      It was really late when the party broke up and we all went to our own accommodations. Well, I got the distinct impression that the initial arrangements for the evening may have been slightly altered, but I didn't pay that close of attention.
      But I do know that in at least one case, two couples of them went into one RV and I don't think they went there to check the fuse panel to see why the light in the bathroom didn't work.

      Me and Laird William broke in the new bed in the camper in no uncertain terms as well. And this time, it wasn't me as Miss Babs who was entertaining the Laird. I was his wife, and I made love to him in every way I possibly could until we both fell into a pleasantly exhausted sleep.

      I woke up in the wee hours and realized that Bill was up. I thought he'd just gotten up to go to the bathroom, but then I heard people outside so I got up and went to take a look. I had to stop in the bathroom and clean up a little, then I pulled on one of his T-shirts just because I didn't know who was outside. Then I looked and saw him sitting in the dinette watching some of the others around the picnic table next to the fire pit.
      "They really do all make out with each other," he said. "They're out there going at it now."
      I looked out and saw that there were three couples mixing and matching in the moonlight. "I know. They don't do it all the time, but they do do it."
      He looked out the window and I could see him thinking about it. "What do you think of it?" He asked me.
      "I don't know. Nobody's really said anything to me about it."
      "They all like you," Bill looked at me and I could see a smile in the light from the fume hood over the stove. "When we were working on the culvert for the train Mister Glen said you were the best looking woman he'd ever seen naked in real life, and the other guys agreed with him."
      I know my husband doesn't lie, I don't think I've ever heard him lie unless his mother or somebody like that asked him if he liked something they cooked for us. Even then it was obvious he was lying when he said 'it was all right'. And now, I could tell that he was telling the truth. And hearing that from him made me very happy in ways that would be hard to explain to anybody else.
      I slid into the opposite seat. "What did you think when they said that," I asked him.
      "I agreed with him. I thanked him for thinking that you're as beautiful as I think you are."
      Now I wished that I had sat down next to him so that I could lean over and kiss him. But instead I picked his hand up and kissed it.
      "What do you think about them doing it with each other?" I asked him.
      "I don't know," he answered. We heard them laughing and encouraging each other. "They must like it." Then he shook his head, "I couldn't do anything out there with the rest of them watching, with anybody."
      "You don't want to do anything with any of the other women? I mean in private, not out there like that."
      "Do they do something different than what we do?"
      "I don't think so. But they're different women."
      "And they're not as pretty as you are," he said looking at me.
      "What about Linda? She's very pretty."
      "Yeah, she is, but you're prettier. And I married you, not her."
      "But she's really sexy," I said, "like when she dances."
      "Yeah, I guess she is," he answered, and again, I could see him thinking about it. Up to that minute, I would believe that he hadn't thought about her in that way once her dance, and the comments from the other men, was done. "And she is pretty, I didn't mean that she isn't. All of them are in their way."
      "So, what would you think about trying it with her sometime?"
      "But that means that you'd have to do it with Nate," then he looked at me and I caught a gleam in his eye that let me know that Bill was way ahead of the conversation. "Do you want to make out with him like that?"
      "I don't know, I've never thought about it."
      "He thinks you're pretty too. He likes it that you're tall," William said. Then he looked back outside, "What do the women think of me?"
      "They all like you."
      "That much?" He said and nodded to a couple that were on the table doing it.
      "A couple of them do," I answered honestly.
      We sat there quietly and watched the group of bystanders watch the conclusion of the act on the table. When the two finished the others cheered and applauded.
      "You know something?" Bill said in his best Laird William voice as he slid out of the bench seat and stood up.
      "What, sire?" I asked him as I got up and looked into his eyes.
      "Watching them, and us talking about it, just makes me want to take you back into the bedroom and make love to you more than ever."
      I smiled at him, "I think that is exactly the point."
      "Then it worked," he held out his hand to me and we went and did exactly that and it was even better than it had been earlier.

      As usual, Bill was the first one up, and, as usual, he went and did his chores and started making breakfast for everybody long before anybody else even saw the sun. The first thing I did was to go to our house and start a load of laundry, and air out the bedroom of the camper because it smelled like sex. Then I helped Bill with breakfast for the group.
      The others staggered out into the sunshine by ones and twos, some were more cheerful than others, but before the fried potatoes were done, everybody was accounted for.

      "So how did you sleep in your new camper?" Murray asked as he started his second cup of coffee.
      "Not bad," Bill said, "how did you guys do?"
      "Pretty good," Murray said, then he glanced over at me. I smiled and nodded and he understood. "I think everybody did everything they wanted to. I know I did."
      "Did everybody do it?" Bill asked Murray, then looked over at Katherine and she answered, "Yeah. That's the way we do it. It has to be both," she glanced toward me and I shrugged.
      Bill was satisfied for now, and asked if they wanted more sausage and potatoes.

      There really wasn't anything planned for the rest of the weekend. So while the women spent part of the afternoon in the craft room the guys made the plans for the haunted train weekend fundraiser.
      One of the things we were doing for the fundraiser was selling ghosts that we made the same way we made the animals for the hospital. They began life as a mistake, but one that looked enough like some of the animated figures we had on the ride that I thought they'd go over pretty well as souvenirs with some minor adjustments.

Laird William Himself Writes:
      I tried not to think differently about the others, and I think I did OK. I know that people have unusual hobbies, and if theirs is doing things like that with each other, that's OK with me. And I know that they want Helen to join them, and I know that she is thinking about it, but I'm not sure I want to.
      I guess the right thing to do would be to talk to her about it, and see if she wants to try it, like she tries things to see if she likes them, and then have her decide. Except that would mean that I'd have to try it too. And I don't know if I want to.
      Mister Murray called it swinging. And he said that they had been doing it for a long time.
      I try to be open minded and accepting of other people and their ideas and the things they do. And I know I'm a little old fashioned and not as (what is the word I want?) sophisticated (Helen helped with that) as some of the others, so I think I'm better off doing what I have been doing as far as almost anything important goes since we had been dating. That is letting Helen decide if she wants to do, and then to do what I have to do to keep her happy.
      It works for me, and having my wife happy makes me happy. And so far, she's made pretty good decisions as far as I can tell.

      That Saturday we spent some time clearing brush along the road back to the other field, and then we used it to build a bonfire out in the clearing on the new loop.
      "That'll be good for that Sunday night," Mister Murray said.
      "Sunday night?" I asked.
      "Oh, yes. We run the show Friday and Saturday nights until midnight. Then we spend Sunday sleeping in and eating too much BBQ, then we have a big bonfire Sunday evening."
      "And then what?" I asked.
      "And then we all go home and go to bed. After all that, everybody is usually too wiped out to do anything else, and most of them have to work the next day."
      "Oh. OK."

      We built several shacks where one of us would attack the train, or act like they were chopping up one of the dummies that were in the shed, or whatever they were going to do.
      I made myself a blind at the bend just before that line got to the 'y' at the sundial so that you couldn't see me until you were past me, then I was going to jump out and just yell at the passengers as loud as I could as a set of really bright lights came on in the trees above the train. Since they'd already been through the worst of the frighteners, and I was coming at them from the general direction of John's animated monster, I thought it would be very effective.

      A week later we had a practice run with the train in its own Halloween costume.
      Even though it was a bright and sunny afternoon, some of our monsters and demons were very scary, and I knew who was wearing the costume.
      The only glitch was when one of John's special effects didn't go off when the train went by. He made some adjustments to the sensor while I backed the engine up and then we tried it again.
      "Hold on, that's not quite right," he said as the animated scene went through its routine. "I need to delay it about five more seconds." He went back to the control box and made another adjustment.
      It was supposed to begin just as the first passenger car was going by. I backed the train up and we waited until it reset, then he waved me to go again and I got the train up to between five and seven miles an hour.
      The scene lit up and made its noises and an air piston made a monster-man rise up out of a crypt and it all went fine.
      We clapped and cheered as John's creation did its best to scare the daylights out of us.

      The weekend before Halloween we had a steady stream of people in to experience the new, over two mile long, haunted train ride. And since the tickets were the same price as last year, almost every train was full.
      Of course, to use the outer loop from the campground station where we had the best parking, Mister Murray had to back the train up beyond the switch by our house, then change it to the other way, and then go forward around the loop. But it was OK and it just added to the ride.

      About an hour before the gate opened Mister Murray took the actors once around on a run at the tour speed so we could see how long it took, then he went back around and let us off at our stations.
      I didn't know if my own act would work or not as I put on a wig of wild hair and a vest that made me look like John's animated monster, which was the idea. But I got off and growled at them as they waved and left me alone in the woods.

      Later I could hear the train coming, then I saw it through the woods, so I got ready.
      When the first train went by and John's trigger turned on the lights, I jumped out and yelled and waved a big stick at the train, and the people screamed and swore and carried on like I was really attacking them, even though I did as Mister Murray said to and stayed more than an arm's length away from the cars. The screams I heard from the passenger cars as it came by and the guests were still talking about John's scene before they saw me were real, and very satisfying to hear, and I got very good at my fake attacks.

      One of the things we did this year that they hadn't done in years past was to use the inspection car to follow along some distance behind the train and pick up things that the guests dropped. In other years, they had to go back out in the morning and go around and look for things, like shoes and purses, and even a set of false teeth according to Miss Katherine. Now we put some lights on the inspection car and a couple of the others rode it along after the train had gone through and picked up anything that didn't belong there. Including drink bottles and somebody's sweater.
      Then they'd pull in behind the big train with the good stuff that somebody might miss and returned it to the rightful owner if they asked for it.
      Something else Helen and whoever was with her did was to check on the actors and give us snacks and make sure everything was OK. It was good to see her after being alone in the woods and then attacking the train about every half hour or so.

      Sunday was the work day to clean up and put up and take the stuff down and put it back into storage. We'd raised a lot of money, and they'd sold almost all of the ghosts that they'd made, and there were several people that said they were coming back next year and bringing all of their friends.
      So, it was a hit.

      The bonfire and BBQ was a hit as well.
      But everybody was all wore out, and Mister Murray had been right about that too. By the time the sun was going down, we were all ready to hit the bed.
      I stayed out there and made sure the fire was out while Mister Murray ran the others back to the campground on the train. Then he came back out and got me.
      I wanted to be romantic with Helen, and we both tried, but it had been a long weekend and in the end, we just fell asleep.

Lady Helen Writes:
      "So, have you decided yet what you're going to do?" Katherine asked me as we followed slowly along behind the haunted train in the inspection car.
      "No," I said honestly, "I want to, I got so turned on just thinking about it that I almost fucked Bill half to death that night."
      "That's a good thing," she grinned.
      "Yes, but it was him. Nobody else. I don't know if I could do it with anybody else. Even as Miss Babs." I saw something in the yellowish lights mounted along the bottom of the car's bumper that we were using to watch for dropped items. "What's that?" I asked her and pointed as I stopped the car.
      "A bag. I'll get it." She got out and went and picked it up. "I remember seeing the kid that had it," she said and put it in the back of the car. If it had been trash it would have gone in the barrel that Bill had tied to the back of the car. She got in and we started forward again. "What's he think of it?"
      "I don't know. I really couldn't tell."
      "I know he likes Linda. And Lori, too."
      "Yeah. But I don't know if he likes them that much."
      "You don't think he's into other guys? Although there are a couple of them that..."
      "No." I said, "he's not bi in any way, shape or form."
      "There's something on your side," she said.
      I stopped the car and got out. It was a big paper cup that used to have somebody's drink in it. They weren't supposed to bring drinks on the train, but we were not the police, and if they did, they did, and then this happens. I left the ice where it was and put the cup in the barrel.
      Then we stopped and checked on the villagers that were being overwhelmed by zombies. Three of the villagers were actors, as were four of the zombies, the rest were everything from mannequins to animated models waving fake body parts.
      We gave them some bottles of water, and I got into the box of supplies and one of them replaced a light bulb that had added extra drama to their last performance by really exploding in the middle of the action. Then we resumed our circuit and picked up a diaper bag.
      "So, you're at least thinking about trying it?" Katherine asked me once we got going again.
      "I've been thinking about it, I just don't know if I want to try it or not."
      "Fair enough," she glanced over at me, then went back to watching for misplaced items.

      After I got out to pick up a drink bottle Katherine said something that made me smile, "You know, some of the women were unsure about asking for you and Bill to join us because you're so beautiful. But then Naomi said something that we all had to agree with."
      "She said that having you are our evenings would make sure the men wanted to come to our events instead of going downtown, and they won't argue about us wanting new costumes and stuff."
      I nodded, "she asked me if I was interested in coming back that first day, and I said it seemed to be a lot of fun."
      "It is," Katherine said, "and sometimes, it's more fun than others," she grinned broadly.
      "So I've seen."

      There was a little more trash, and one child's shoe. Then we stopped and checked on Bill. He checked the fuel tank on the car and had to put some gas in it to get us back to the boarding center at the campground before the people who had lost stuff left for the night.
      "I'll put a bigger fuel tank on it for next year," Bill said and kissed me goodbye. Then I had to run the car at full speed to get back on schedule.
      There were some other displays, and a really creepy tunnel that was built over tracks near our trailer just before the train crossed the creek back into the campground. There was nothing in the tunnel that would come get you, or even act like it was going to, but the lights on the train went out just as it entered the tunnel, and there were sound effects, and small blinking lights that looked like eyes, and streamers that brushed the side of the cars, and some of the screams from the people made me wonder if somebody had fallen off the train when I heard them.
      I left the inspection car's lights on when we went through the tunnel, I said it was so we could see if somebody had lost something, which was true, but it was also true that that tunnel was probably the scariest place I'd ever been in my life. I knew what was in there as I'd helped build it, but it terrified me anyway. Once through the tunnel I pulled up behind the train and shut the engine off.
      Katherine took the items up to the train and found their owners as they were getting off and I added the trash we'd collected to the dumpster.

      When Katherine took a break from following the train and Linda rode around with me for a couple of circuits I had a chance to ask her about her involvement with that side of things while I backed through the tunnel to wait next to the bridge over the creek.
      "You mean with some of the other girls or the guys?" She asked me as we waited for the train to clear the switch by the trailer and head back toward the Sea Monster and Victim in the lake.
      "Honestly? Both," I answered.
      "Ohhh, I like riding around with you," she answered.
      I let the clutch out a little on the inspection car and we crept toward the tunnel, "Do you want me to turn the lights off?"
      "Oh, hell no, I've been through this thing before, that's enough."
      "OK," I drove through and we began our slow motion patrol behind the train.
      "So, do I swing?" Linda said as if she were asking herself the question. "Yes. I do. And so does Nate, and he thinks it is a damned shame that you don't," she looked at me and grinned, "And so do I."
      "Thank you for the compliment," I said to her. "But why do you? For the novelty and variety of it?"
      "I've never heard it put that way before, but yes."
      "That's on your side," I said pointing to something gleaming in the lights just before we got to where the sea monster in our lake was eating a helpless fisherman.
      "Got it," Linda answered, "and the other one too."
      The first was an empty plastic bag from a quick mart, which meant we'd probably find drink bottles and snack wrappers further down the tracks. The other was a large piece of paper that could have come from anywhere.
      When she got back into the car she evidently had thought about what else she wanted to say.
      "I don't make out with other women most of the time. Once in awhile at the ren-faire. But not any other time. And I don't usually make out with other guys at all, that's pretty much just with the guys in our group. And Nate is the same way."
      "He makes out with other guys?"
      "Once in awhile. He doesn't do it as often as I do with women, but he does. It's something we've had in common since we met."
      "Oh," I said, then I slowed down because I saw one of the displays still lit up ahead of us which meant the train was still there. But we couldn't see the cars, and then the lights on another scene lit up down further. "Something's wrong with it." I said.
      "Pull up and we'll see if we can reset it."
      Linda showed me how to reset the trigger so the display shut down, then we got going again and continued our rounds.

      "Some of the guys won't touch another guy, and a couple have tried it and don't do it anymore, unless they're really drunk or something. But I know John, and Glen, and even Mark will have a go now and then. Even Eric has been known to try the other side once in awhile."
      "I didn't know that," I answered, then I saw something on the ground on my side.
      "You're driving, stay there, I got it." True to form, it was a chip bag with a cola bottle in it. "I know who had these, I'll see if they want it back," she said when she got back in.
      Bill was even a little embarrassed when we stopped at his place and he saw me with Linda. But he took the bottle of water we gave him and asked how much longer the show was on for tonight.
      "About another hour," Linda said.
      "Maybe three more trains," I added.
      "OK, just don't forget me out here," Bill said, "it's spooky when nobody is here."
      "With you dressed like that? You'd scare everything else out here," Linda said.
      Bill looked down at his vest and stick, "OK."

      I got in the inspection car and started the engine, but before I put it in gear I looked over at Linda, "So, tell me, at one of our events where things got going, would you do..." I jerked my head toward my monster.
      "In a minute," Linda said, "so how about you with Nate?"
      "Does he like older women?"
      "He likes women any way he can get them. But you didn't answer my question."
      I let the clutch out and got the car moving while I thought about it, "I might give it a fling and see how it went."
      "Good," she said and I could see her grin in the glare from the lights.

      "I'll be right back," Linda said when I stopped behind the train, "I want to ask them if they want their bottles back to recycle them."
      I could see the young couple react when Linda approached them, and the seemed surprised that their litter had come back to haunt them. Was that pun a little too much in this situation? Anyway, they seemed to apologize and then Linda dropped the bag into the big blue can on her way back to the inspection car.
      "They said they didn't even think about it and they were sorry they did it, and they didn't want to be banned from coming back next year," Linda said, "I suggested a donation to the hospital might earn them some good karma to balance it out."

      Linda stayed with me for the last two runs behind the train while Katherine began cleaning up stuff, and putting stuff up, and dealing with stuff that needed to be dealt with. And while we were sitting waiting for the last train to back up and then begin it's run we had a long and very explicit chat about why doing it with another man was different than doing it with our husbands.
      "Sometimes it's like I've never done it before, it can be a whole new type of experience. And every man's reaction is different so you're keying off him, and... it can just be different. Even the same old position that you use at home is different with another guy."
      Put the car in gear and got it moving before I answered, something I realized I had done several times while discussing the topic. "So what has it done to your relationship with Nate?"
      "After one of our weekends, we're like newlyweds again for a couple of weeks." Then she got serious, "We had a bad spell between us and had talked about separating for awhile, we were still together, and we went to an event at Ray and Connie's with John and Debby, it was in the garage," she laughed at the memory, "and it was just so much fun, we never thought twice about it. It took some adjustment between us, but we both agreed that it was what we wanted to do."
      "Stay together and swing?"
      "Yes, and then we got into the ren-faire thing, and really, it saved our marriage."
      I stopped the car and we both got out and picked up a bunch of papers that were all over the track. It looked like somebody had dropped a notebook so we collected them all and put them in the cab with us.
      "That's some story," I said as we got going again.
      "And it's true."
      "Have you always liked both?"
      "Boys and girls?" She asked and I nodded. "Oh, yes. But when I'm with another woman, it's just for fun. You know, a nicmo."
      "Non-committed make out," I nodded. "I guess it has its advantages."
      "Oh yes."

      The customer that had dropped their papers was having a fit at the campground station and wanted to be allowed to go walk the tracks and find them. Then we presented them their papers and they thanked us until it was actually embarrassing. Then they made a donation to the charity from their gratitude for us saving the homework papers they were supposed to be grading.

      By the time we wrapped up it was so late it was actually tomorrow morning.
      I was exhausted, but satisfied with everything that had happened, and I had a lot to think about, and we both collapsed into our bed content with the weekend's main event.

The Laird William Writes:
      Wednesday morning I had to go ask Mister Clark something. I'd gotten a note in my work email that didn't make any sense to me.
      He stopped me before I said anything except, "Good morning, sir."
      "It's about 'demerits' isn't it?"
      "Yessir. But I don't know what those are."
      "Don't worry about it. I'm going to talk to Tanya. It's something they've been doing on the weekends and nights with the younger crew. I don't think it should apply to you."
      "But if Miss Tanya thinks I did something wrong I want to fix it."
      "You didn't do anything wrong. She just felt that the signs for the fundraiser should have been taken down sooner."
      "I'm sorry sir, I was lucky to make it in here Monday, I didn't even think about the signs until the next day."
      "I know. And she'll get over it," he sat back and looked at me, "I loved the train, and you did great."
      "I didn't see you. I saw a few of the others."
      "I was on the other side of the first car from you, about eight O'clock I guess. The kids went twice, once in the front and then once in the back."
      "Oh, good for them," I answered. I didn't know anybody had gone twice. Then I remembered something else. "Our son Kurt is on leave, he's going to come over with his girlfriend to visit for a week or so. I'd like to take a day...."
      "You let me know when he gets to town and you can have all the time off you need. And thank him for his service to our country for me."
      "Yes sir, thank you. It was kinda a last minute thing."
      "That sounds just like the Army."

With Mud comes a new Realization for Laird William.

Lady Helen Writes:
      I tried to play down Kurt's visit, but Katherine still wanted to have a big cookout and camp weekend and all of that so everybody could meet him and his girlfriend.
      "It'll be fine, we'll tell everybody to keep their clothes on and not to do anything too wild and we'll keep a lid on it."
      "Let me ask Michelle if she wants to do all of that," I answered.
      And when I called her at her parent's house the only thing she said was that it sounded like fun and they needed something fun to do after being at her parent's place for three days. "I can't wait, and staying in the camper sounds so much better than in my old room with the princesses still on the walls. Poor Kurt has had to sleep on the floor because they still had the twin bed in there."
      I had to laugh and I told her that I'd make sure it was fun.

      "I think we'll keep it as a surprise," Bill said when we made the plans for the cookout. "It'll be almost dark when we get back here from the airport. So we'll just have a snack for them, and then I'll wake them up in the morning with a train whistle."
      Murray looked at my husband with open admiration, "That sounds like the best plan I've ever heard."
      "I know just what to make for them to eat before bed," Katherine said.
      All I could do was to nod and say that I'd put fresh linens in the camper.
      "I'll come help you. But let's put them in the big one, more room to sit and chat if it rains," Katherine said.

      It was really late when we got back to the farm from the airport, Michelle slept part of the way home, and Kurt didn't care where we were going as long as he could take his shoes off once we got there.
      I introduced them to Murray and Katherine, and said that the others would be coming in tomorrow afternoon.
      We all ate the chicken dinner that Katherine had made, but then they said they couldn't sleep.
      "It was a heck of a trip," Michelle said, "I'm tired, but I don't think I can sleep now, can we go see the farm or something? Some fresh air might do the trick."
      "I can arrange that," Murray said, then he looked at Bill, "we'll do gas, save the other for later."
      "Good idea, sir," Bill answered with a grin, "We'll be right back."

      "Where are they going?" Kurt asked.
      "You'll see," I answered and stood by the camper door to watch for them to come back.

      It wasn't long and we heard the air horn from the locomotive.
      "Wanna go see?" I asked them.
      "You said you wanted to have fun," Katherine said to Kurt and Michelle, "This is fun."
      "Mom?" Kurt asked me with wide eyes.
      "Trust us."

      Both Kurt and Michelle got to drive the train around both loops, and Kurt couldn't wait to fish in the lake. Dallas didn't appreciate being disturbed in the middle of the night and he whinnied loud enough to wake the dead.
      "You were right, mom, this is fun." Kurt said to me as Michelle had the train going as fast as I'd ever seen it go on the straightway along the road.

      We let them sleep in the morning, and Bill went to work early, he said he'd get off when they woke up and then we'd go do something.
      About noon, they roused out and came looking for breakfast, or lunch, and I called Bill to come home.
      The men used the inspection car and went hunting and fishing while Katherine and I showed Michelle the craft room.
      "Oh, God," she said, "just to do girl stuff and not worry about regulations and all that? Tell Kurt I'm staying here. He can go back to the base without me."
      "How long do you have left on your enlistment?" Katherine asked her.
      "Six months. I don't know if I'm going to re-enlist or not. Kurt's got a year left. I don't know." She looked at the wall to wall and halfway to the ceiling craft stuff, "I know a couple of VBS directors who would kill to see this place."
      "What do you want to do first?"
      "I've got a lot of pictures on my laptop, if we could print them, I'd love to make scrapbook pages to send to my grandmother."
      Katherine's face absolutely lit up, "go get it and I'll get the stuff together and turn the printer on."
      Michelle picked the pictures and printed them and then looked through background paper, I cut them to size and Katherine finished off the pages and put them in protective sheets, and before Eric and Naomi had their RV set up, Michelle had three double sided scrapbook pages to mail to her grandmother the next day.
      Later, Murray cooked two pheasants and three rabbits over charcoal and we had a great cookout for supper.

      We had a fairly good turnout even though everybody had gotten short notice, and soon the grill was smoking and music was playing and everybody seemed to be having a good time as the sun went down.
      But then after supper Kurt leaned over to Bill and said something about how everybody seemed to be a little edgy and they weren't relaxing.
      "I know how to loosen them up," Bill answered, "wanna see something really special?"
      Later Kurt told me he had never even seen a real working steam engine before. Now he had gotten to drive one.
      Bill hooked up the coaches we'd used for the Halloween train and had the lights on, and then showed Kurt the controls and as it crossed the bridge to the campground he blew the steam whistle so long the engine almost stopped before it got to the station.
      "Kurt said he wanted everybody to loosen up," Bill said to us.
      "How loose?" Linda asked him.
      When Bill shrugged she pulled off her top and smiled, "Is that loose enough?" She asked Kurt and Michelle.
      "Suits me," Kurt said.
      "I'm not going to complain, I'm a guest here," Michelle answered.
      And so we were loosened up.
      I didn't get naked with my son on the train, but I did take off my top and rode around in my bra as did Michelle and Katherine too.

      "Wanna have a bonfire?" Murray asked Michelle as we rode by the almost ever-present pile of brush and scrap lumber.
      "Cool," she answered.
      Murray yelled up to Kurt to stop the train and let him off. "I'll light it, ya'll come back with the stuff, and some more beer."
      And that was exactly what we did. Nate even brought his guitar out and we had a show next to the fire with plenty of drinks and two huge bags of spicy cheese popcorn from the farm store.
      We even got Bill to sing for Michelle.

      It was late again before they put out what was left of the fire. All the beer and mixed drinks were gone, and we all staggered back to the train with our fingers and faces orange from the popcorn.
      As we got off the train and Murray said it'd be all right where it was for the night, Kurt said that that had been the best time he'd had in a long time.
      "You just like Linda's naked dance," Michelle kidded him.
      "Yeah, I did," he grinned at his girlfriend. "And? Whose bra ended up in the fire?"
      "It was an accident," she answered. "And it could happen to anybody."

      The next day Bill took them by the store, and they went into town to get a few things that they wanted and that a tractor supply store didn't have, and they mailed the pictures to grandma, and then we spent a quiet night together.

      To keep Kurt from being bored they had a work day where they went around the pond with a boat and collected driftwood and sticks and all that to keep it from clogging the spillway during the winter. Then they got out of the boat and followed the larger creek into Sammons's field, and then the smaller creek up to where they appeared out of the ground while picking up more brush.
      "We've got to restock the woodpile for the next fire," Murray said as they went out to work.
      "So what are we supposed to do?" I asked them.
      Michelle had an immediate answer, "more stuff in the craft room!"
      "I like this girl," Katherine said.
      I had to admit that I did too.

      The guys got so dirty and muddy that later Kurt said he felt like he was back in basic training.
      Bill called us on the radio and asked if somebody could bring them all fresh clothes to the bathhouse in the camp ground.
      "You don't want us coming anywhere near either house like this," he said.
      "You're probably going to tell us to burn our clothes," we heard Murray yell from the background.
      "It wasn't my idea," Kurt added.
      Katherine told them we were on our way, then she put the microphone down and looked at me and Michelle, "I'll meet you there," she said.

      I went to the trailer and Michelle went to the camper, then we met Katherine outside the bathhouse.
      There was a pile of clothes and an odd number of shoes outside the bathhouse that looked like they'd been through an industrial disaster.
      "Don't come in, we're all naked!" Bill called out to us.
      "I'm going in, I want to hear and see this in person," Katherine said seriously.
      I exchanged glances with Michelle and she agreed. I opened the door and Katherine led us in.
      Bill hid behind a shower curtain while Kurt used an old towel that had been left in there. Murray was sitting on a bench, so he stayed there.
      "This is the men's bathroom," Bill said.
      "It's my bath house," Katherine said, "my name is on the deed too. So, tough."
      Then we got a good look at what we could see of them, Bill still had leaves and mud in his hair, and he'd already taken one shower.
      "What, did you do?" I asked them.
      "Kurt crawled through the old culvert on the creek and pulled stuff out of it," Murray said.
      "After you had me and dad clear out under the bridge behind the house."
      Bill nodded, "And then it took all three of us to get the stuff out from under the bridge below the dam and up to the train.
      Then Kurt laughed, "And then Mister Murray found the sinkhole where the little creek goes through the woods."
      "I hadn't been back there for awhile. I forgot about it." Murray nodded at his wife, "I need to buy another pair of work shoes. It kept one of them."
      "And his sock too," Kurt answered laughing, "but we got him out."
      "It took both of us pulling on him," Bill added.
      Katherine looked at Michelle, "Well? What do you think?"
      "Did you have a good time?" She asked her boyfriend.
      "Oh, hell, yes," Kurt said, "You should have seen us pull that big mess up the hill with the crane dad built. There were even snakes in it!"
      "I can see this mess, that's good enough, I'll pass on the snakes," I looked at the floor, "You guys can pressure wash the bathhouse when you get done."
      "And the gas engine," Bill said, "it got pretty dirty too."
      "I don't even want to see it," Katherine said, "Get cleaned up and start a fire and we'll feed you."

      Once we were outside Katherine started laughing and we all laughed so hard at them we were lucky to make it to the house before we peed ourselves.

The Laird William Writes:
      I know it was that weekend that I finally accepted Kurt as both my son and a grown man. We'd worked together before, and we'd played together his whole life. But that weekend, we worked, and drank beer, and told stories, and even smoked a couple of Mister Murray's cigars around the campfire while we waited for the women to bring us something to eat. And while I knew I was spending time with my son, I was also spending it with him as a man.
      And I was happy to do so.

      We cleaned out the bathhouse, then took another shower and went to start the campfire and relax because Mister Murray said the locomotive might be easier to clean once the mud dried. He wasn't worried about cleaning the hopper car full of "really nasty crap", as Kurt called it, or the crane.
      Kurt told us about his new assignment in the armored division and how he'd met Michelle and the week of leave they'd taken last year to go to Hawaii and all that.
      "So, you two serious?" Mister Murray asked him the question I wanted to ask but didn't.
      "Kinda. We'd talked about getting engaged or something, but we thought it might be better to wait until she's out."
      "You still thinking about staying in?"
      Kurt nodded, "I think so, I've got seven years in, why not make it ten and have something worthwhile later."
      Mister Murray looked at me, "He's a lot like you isn't he?" Then he toasted both of us with his beer.
      Kurt asked us what all kind of things we do during the events he'd heard about. I didn't want to tell him everything, but as we talked, he guessed most of it. Especially since he remembered some of what happened around the bonfire with Linda and Nate.
      "Your mom and dad don't swing, but some of the others do," Mister Murray said, "But we have talked your mom into dancing a time or two."
      "She must have had some of this," Kurt said holding out the bottle of rum that had been in the camper.
      "More than a little," I said and took a sip of it myself.
      "So what about the woman that wears the collar?" Kurt asked.
      And Mister Murray answered and told him things that I didn't know about them.

      "Beer? Cigars? Rum? Telling stories about some of those weekends..." Miss Katherine said from behind us, "You two are corrupting this boy."
      "The rum was his idea," I said, "He went and got it."
      "So there," Mister Murray said.
      "Oh, well. What all have they said so I can start denying things," Helen said to us as she put the food on the picnic table.
      "Murray said you can dance."
      "I don't need to hear any more," Helen answered. "Anyway, come eat."

      Both Kurt and Michelle had heard enough about The Group From Last Night that they wanted to come back sometime for one of the events.
      "Katherine's brother comes, how's that so different?" Kurt asked.
      "I don't know, it's up to your mom," I answered.
      "We'll talk about it some other time," Helen said.
      "That means that it's going to take her awhile to come up with an answer." Mister Murray said.
      "You're a lot of help," Helen said to him.
      "Was I wrong?"
      Helen shook her head and then looked at me before she answered, "I don't know. Maybe the next time you guys are here. OK? We'll have a full blown group camp out and party."
      "Sure," Kurt said quickly while grinning at Michelle.
      Murray and Bill started laughing.
      "What?" Helen asked.
      "They're going to hold you to that," Katherine said.
      "... oh ... well ... ok ..."

Lady Helen Writes:
      I was more upset about Michelle leaving than I was with having Kurt going back to the Army. I'd just gotten to know Michelle, even though I'd talked to her on the phone and in video and chat and all, now I'd met her, and I really liked her. I liked her enough to want my son marry her so she could be my daughter in law.
      But I kissed both of them at the security gate and they went through and waved and then they were gone.
      Bill was of the habit of staying at the airport until whoever was flying out had actually taken off. It had worked out one time when some friends of ours were leaving on vacation and their flight was canceled. We were still there when they called us and said they their next chance to get out was the next day. Ever since then, Bill has made sure he was there in case he was needed again. So we went to a café and had coffee and pie while we waited for their plane to leave.
      It was a little late taking off, but we got a text message from Kurt saying they were backing away from the gate and the attendant was telling them to turn everything off.
      We stood by the observation window and watched their plane go airborne, then we left for home.

      A week or so later Bill went in to work on a Saturday to help cover a big fall sale they were having and I took the opportunity to spend the morning finishing up some projects in what had come to be called the Craft Factory.
      Katherine was painting Christmas flowers on place cards and I was elbow deep in hot glue and coffee when Murray came in with his coffee. He was bored because Bill wasn't there.
      But as we talked and he began helping out a little, I could sense that there was something else bothering him besides just boredom.
      Finally I just asked him what it was.
      "I don't know how to put it," Murray said, "And I'm usually not at a loss for words."
      "Then just up and say it and we'll let you know if we understand or not," Katherine told him.
      "Fair enough," he nodded. "It's this. The more I've learned about Bill, and the longer I've known him, the more I like him and the less I want to do anything with Helen," Murray said looking at me and smiling while he said it. "Because he's not sure he wants to share."
      Katherine looked from me to him and back, "But she's beautiful. And hot."
      "Yeah, she is, so?" Murray said, "You just want to do Bill. And her too for that matter."
      Katherine didn't even blush when she answered Murray, "Yeah, I do. So?" But then she looked at me and I did see a little color on her cheeks and around her eyes.
      "Well thank you both for the compliments...."
      "Not a compliment, that was the God's honest truth," Murray said.
      "Then I'll thank you for that," I said, "but don't I get a say in this?"
      "No," Katherine said, "Not if you sign up with Debby and them. Slaves don't get a say."
      "Who said I was going to do that?"
      She shrugged, "So, if not that, what are you going to do?"
      I had no idea, and that was what I said. But then I thought of another angle, and looked at Murray, "You said Katherine wants me, do you want Bill? Like that."
      "To make out with?" He asked and I nodded. "Oh, hell no. I know some of the other guys do that, Eric used to. He might still do it. I don't know. But I don't. No." He shook his head emphatically, "Never have, never will. When some of them start that, I'll go get a drink and a cigar and go out and sit by the pool or something. I don't even want to be around it."
      "There's been evenings when he's spent a lot of time sitting by the pool when we're over to Eric's," Katherine said.
      "I think Bill will be joining him out there," I said.
      "I think so too," Katherine added.

      We worked at the various projects until about an hour before Bill got off work, then I said I was going to fix Bill some dinner.
      "That sounds like a good idea," Murray said.
      "What? You want to go cook dinner?" Katherine asked him.
      "No, I thought you might want to."
      "Want to or will?"
      He shrugged, knowing that anything he said as an answer would be wrong.

      Bill came home a little after three. He had two big bouquets of flowers and a framed picture of an antique farm tractor that he'd won in the employee drawing. "If it was the steam tractor I'd give it to Mister Murray, but it's just an old tractor."
      I looked at it, "I think you should still give it to him. Maybe hang it out in the workshop."
      "That's a good idea," Bill said and turned to go, but he was still holding the flowers."
      I didn't say anything until he started to open the door, "Are you going to put those in the shop too?"
      He looked at the picture and the flowers, "They were a set."
      "You won the flowers too?"
      "No, I bought them from the flower lady when I was leaving."
      "OK," I said, "They're beautiful."
      "I really bought them for you and Miss Katherine," he said and handed both them to me.
      "Dinner's cooking. We can take these up to the house for her and show them the picture and then drop it off in the shop.
      "OK, that sounds good," Bill answered.
      I was glad he agreed because I really didn't want a poster sized photo of a bright red antique tractor in the trailer.

      Katherine was absolutely speechless because Bill had brought her flowers. Murray liked the tractor, and when I told Katherine that I thought it'd look great in their workshop she agreed with me.
      "Yeah, I know just where to put it," Murray said with a grin, "I'll take care of it."
      "Our supper should be done," I said, "we'll see you tomorrow."

      We walked out the back door and just headed for the inspection car like that was the normal mode of transportation for everybody in the world. We got in and Bill started it up and backed up through the switch so we could head back home.
      "You know, I'm really happy we moved out here and do the things we do," I said.
      "Me too," Bill said as he hit the button on the remote control that changed the switch. "I like them," he said nodding toward the house, "and this place," he added as he slowed down as we crossed the bridge and we looked at the water.
      He didn't turn the switch by the trailer to park the inspection car on its siding but kept going until he stopped out by the dam.
      "And I'm really glad I don't work at the county any more so we can enjoy all this together," he said as we looked out at the lake and watched a trio of ducks paddle around quacking at us.
      "Me too," I said.
      I agreed with him, even though our income had dropped significantly, and my pay was over half of what we earned, but it seemed we had more, and were happier, than ever before. I knew Bill was, and to me, that was what really mattered. That my husband was happy.

      But then I felt a sudden cold chill.
      He had said that he didn't want to join in with the swinging, but what if he was only saying that to make me happy? He had admitted that Linda was sexy, after I told him she was. But still, he did agree that she was pretty.

      Let me back up and state something emphatically. Bill doesn't over-think things. He thinks about it once, and he's done. He decides about whatever it is and that's it. I'm the exact opposite. I'll re-run whatever it is fifteen times in my mind, with every possible variable down to whether or not it was a holiday weekend, (no, I'm not kidding), and come up with possible outcomes. And my doing so drove us both nuts. Well, it drove me nuts, and only bothered Bill when I kept telling him about what I was thinking.
      And that's what I was doing now. Except now, I didn't tell Bill about it.

      Glen and some of the others thought that Bill was 'simple'. And he is, but in another way than what they meant. My husband was the single least complicated man I'd ever known. He was straightforward, honest, and saw things in two dimensions. I have known men that see everything on a continuum of gray, instead of right and wrong and good and bad and yes or no, they had an endless range of 'maybe'. That wasn't Bill.
      A couple of the women had been batting around the idea since that first day at Eric and Naomi's, that maybe Bill was a shining example of a good man being cuckolded to make a high maintenance woman happy. And, for what it's worth, I thought that was at least partially off the mark as well. I know my husband loves me, and I have no doubt about that. But even I cannot make Bill do something that he does not want to do more than once. And that one time would be getting him to try it just to see what he thought of it, like a new flavor of ice cream, but if all that did was to confirm that he really didn't like it, he'd never try it again, and you couldn't make him.
      And now I was obsessing about whether or not he really wanted to try 'swinging' but just didn't want to say it.
      Which meant that I was wondering if I wanted to because, as Katherine had said, it was a package deal.
      I had been really intrigued by the idea, and the sheer naughtiness of it made me tingle all over, and I mean All Over, and...

      "You coming in?" Bill asked me.
      While I had been stewing in my own head, he had backed the inspection car up all the way to the siding by the trailer and had pulled it into its shed.
      "Yeah," I said, "dinner should be done."

      Sunday was Bill's only day off that week, so we just took it easy and kinda lounged around, that is, we did after he got up before sunrise and did his chores.
      Even though he was usually very quiet when he got out of bed and got ready to go out, I woke up anyway. I forced myself to get up and go see what he wanted for breakfast.
      "Anything's fine," he said.
      I had an idea, "If mi'laird wishes for French toast I believe we have what is needed." I said as I put on the frilly apron I wore for special occasions.
      "That sounds very good," he said as he fixed a cup of instant coffee to take with him.
      "Yes, mi'laird," I said and for some reason the idea that I'd had turned kinky. And I liked it.

      Bill went out and saw to the horses, and did the other things that he did in the mornings. While he was out, I took a quick shower, and only put on the apron when I got out and dried off. Then I cooked bacon and made the heavily battered French toast that were very browned and then soaked in butter and syrup and answered a quick phone call.
      And the food was ready before he came back, as was I.
      "If'n mi'laird pleases and he washes up I'll put his breakfast on the table." I said as Miss Babs complete with a curtsey as I held the corners of the apron out to my sides.
      "Yes, ma'am," he said and went down the hallway.
      Then I took off the apron.

      I hadn't completely thought out how to do what I had in mind, but I pulled it off, and I managed to time it perfectly. My only regret was that I couldn't see Bill's face when he came back into the room.

Miss Babs Writes:
      "What?" Laird William asked me when he came back into the living room from the hallway bathroom.
      "Mi'lairds breakfast is served," I said from the table.
      I could see his face when he walked into the kitchen, and he looked a little confused, so I had to help him out a little.
      "I'm sorry lord. I couldn't find a clean plate this morning. If mi'laird would take his seat his breakfast is ready," I said as sweetly as I could without laughing as his expression. "Or if mi'laird wishes, I could wash a plate for him."
      "This is fine," he said softly as he looked from my face down my body to his chair at the head of the table, between my feet where my heels were just barely resting on the edge of the table. Then he smiled.
      You see, I was his plate. His French toast was laying on my stomach just above my pussy hair, with syrup and butter running off of them, and me. I had put strips of bacon on my breasts to cover my nipples, and there was a handful of frozen berries slowly thawing in my cleavage.
      The only thing I had forgotten was another cup of coffee for him, but I had an idea of a way to beg for forgiveness for that oversight as well, and my present position on the table was just about perfect for it.
      Bill got his own coffee, then he sat down between my legs and divided his time between eating me, and his breakfast, and telling me that this was the nicest breakfast he'd ever had.
      "You're welcome, mi'laird." I said as he drew a line down my body with a strip of bacon.
      He hadn't finished his French toast before I had my first orgasm, but then, as he spent some time licking syrup off of my stomach and playing with me this way and that, and rubbing now cold bacon grease into my breasts, I made it again.
      "I apologize to mi'laird that I forgot to make him a cup of coffee," I said in a very meek voice. "I did make a full pot. But I didn't pour a cup for you."
      "It's OK, you were busy doing this, and this was pretty good."
      "If it please mi'laird I'd like to make it up to him," I said then I scooted down the table toward him so my butt was right on the edge of the table, "if mi'laird could retrieve that tube of special stuff from the dresser and make use of it to please himself."
      He looked at me, then he looked down at my lower parts and I could see him consider the possibilities. "Yes I could," he said. Then he lowered his head that way and his tongue found what I still thought of as my most private spot and I came very close to making it again while he licked me in ways that only he had. All too soon for me he stopped and stood up, "I'll be right back, don't go away."
      "I'll be here for you, forever," I said. And then I thought about it while I quivered with anticipation for what was about to happen.

      Then I heard him come back, but when he came into the kitchen he was still dressed.
      "I thought mi'laird would have shed his clothing."
      "I will," he said as he sat back down. "I wanted to finish my coffee first."
      "As my laird wishes."
      But he didn't just drink his coffee. He used his tongue and fingers on me, and used some of the special lube on my lower opening and all I could do was lay there and enjoy him enjoying me.
      I have never made a big deal out of doing it 'the other way' as Laird William called it. I don't think he has ever used the words 'anal sex' or any of the slang terms for it. As a nurse, I didn't have any problem with the biologic or the crude and rude terms for it, or, for that matter, the act itself. And with Bill, I had been the one to suggest it more often than not in our relationship. And on the rare occasion when he had suggested it, I'm not positive, but I don't think I'd ever denied him.
      "Ohhh," was forced out of my mouth as several, and I have no idea how many, of the Laird's fingers found they way deep inside me one way and then the other. All I could do was to stare at the kitchen ceiling and sigh.
      "Lady Babs likes that?"
      "Very much, mi'laird." I said without correcting him. Besides, I don't think I could have if I'd thought about it at the time.
      "Good," he said, and I could hear and feel the movements as he used his other hand to undo his pants.
      He did some more fumbling around and he stood up. I looked down at him and saw him smiling at me, and our eyes stayed locked together as he slowly entered me back there. And then in a few minutes another deep moan was forced out, but this time it was from both of us.

      "I'll get you a cup of coffee," Laird William said afterward, as he stepped back from the table.
      "That would be another blessing, mi'laird," I said as I reached for a napkin.
      He stopped and turned toward me, "Another?" he said, "what was the first."
      I smiled broadly and used the napkin to clean up a little before I got up, "what you just gave me, laird."
      "Oh," he said and I could see that he had a trace of a blush just under his eyes.

Lady Helen Writes:
      I was just getting up from the table when we heard a knock on the door, I glanced into the mirror on the far wall of the living room and could see Katherine and Murray standing there. "Come on in!" I said to them. When Katherine had called earlier and said they might stop by on their way out to a superstore, but, I had forgotten to mention it to Bill.
      Bill grabbed his underwear and almost had them on when they opened the door.
      "Well, I hope we didn't interrupt anything," Katherine said, "we were wondering if you wanted to run out to the store."
      "The Laird was just finishing his breakfast dessert," I said with a curtsey, "coffee?"
      "Yes, please," Murray said smiling at me.
      "I'll get it," Bill said. Not only had he pulled on his underwear, he had his pants up and fastened. "I think Helen needs to finish something before we go out."
      My grin was a mile wide as I said "yes, I do." Then I couldn't resist leaning close to Katherine and whispering exactly what I had to clean up from as I headed toward the master bathroom.
      "Good for you," she answered with an almost equal grin. "I'll help you get dressed."

The Laird William Writes:
      I have always loved it when Helen surprises me in a way that she knows I will like, and sometimes in ways that I didn't think I would like, but she knew that I would. Like this morning. When we were younger, she had spilled part of a milkshake down her shirt, and I made a project of licking it off of her. But that was years ago. And I had never even thought about eating a meal using her as a plate. And if you had mentioned it to me last week, I probably have said that I didn't think it was a good idea. But I would have been wrong. It was the most fun I'd ever had having breakfast. But I don't think I would want to do it like that all of the time.
      Just like I wouldn't have planned it to be caught like we were by Mister Murray and Miss Katherine, but it did bring up something that I know Helen had been wanting to talk about.
      Swinging with the others.
      And I knew that eventually we were going to have to talk about it.
      But I wasn't sure that now was when we should do it.
      So I didn't bring it up then. And neither did they.
      Helen came out dressed up to go out and we went to the store.

It concludes thusly:

Lady Helen Writes:
      While Bill hates to shop for clothes, he doesn't mind going to the superstore with us. Maybe it's because they have a large sporting goods department, and a hardware section, and even a buffet restaurant. So we all shopped for a little while, then the men went and had coffee in the restaurant while me and Katherine went through the housewares department to get a complete set of new linens for the campers for when we had Kurt and Michelle, or Glen and Amanda, come in to stay.
      "Oh, I love those," I said when I saw a set of curtains that had a light blue pattern on a cream background.
      "They'd look great in the living room of your camper," Katherine said. "And I bet your windows are the same size as the window over our dinette, and I happen to know it's measurements."
      "Good. We need, two, three, five sets? But these aren't lined like the ones that are in there now."
      "They will be when we get done with them. Do you want to do the window over the sink too?" Katherine said counting on her fingers. "Then that's seven. And what about the bedroom?"

      By the time we'd gotten the new curtains, and the material to line them, and a new blind for the bathroom, and talked about a new mat for the floor just inside the door, it was lunch time. And the guys were right where we'd left them.
      "I was thinking about coming to get you, but Mister Murray said you'd show up sooner or later."
      "He was right," I answered and parked our cart in the holding area.
      "You're not buying anything?" Katherine said.
      "We already did, and I took it out to the truck."
      "That way you can't tell us we don't need the stuff," Murray added.
      "We'll just wait until we get home to say that," I smiled at him.
      "I got a small vacuum to use to clean out the campers, instead of hauling the big one back and forth from the shop," Bill said.
      "Oh, good. That you can keep."
      We ate lunch, and talked about the campers, and then the guys were good sports about taking our two carts through the checkout and loading all of it into the truck.

      I had wanted to spend the rest of the day with Bill but after we got home we got started measuring the curtains and all of that, and when I realized that this was his only day off this week, he and Murray had already gone off to do something out around the spring where the one small creek began and then went through the culvert under the new section of tracks.
      Later me and Katherine went to find them to see what they wanted to do about dinner, and we found both men up to their armpits in mud and muck.
      "Good, you can help," Bill said with a smile.
      "Help do what?" I said not even sure what they were doing besides getting totally covered with slime.
      "We're making another pond," Murray said, "Kurt mentioned it and I thought about it and it seemed like a good idea. I've even got an idea for a fountain to put in it for when we have events and stuff."
      "You're making a big mud puddle," Katherine answered.
      "Ponds with fountains usually have water in them," I pointed out.
      "It will be, but we had to get some of this out of here to make it deep enough." Bill said.
      "OK, what do you want me to do?"
      "Operate the crane and winch this up a couple of times," Bill said patting a large steel container they'd been filling with mud.
      "OK," I answered, "that way I don't get muddy."

      It only took an hour or so for the guys, with Katherine helping a little, to move several containers of goop from one side of the tracks to the other. During which Katherine got even more covered with mud than the guys did.
      But then we were done and I had to drive the train around to the campground so they could use the bathhouse while I went to cook dinner for everybody.
      "Now wait a minute," Murray said gesturing at Katherine, "this isn't fair, she's a big mess and you didn't even get your shoes dirty."
      I looked down at my sneakers, they were pretty much spotless.

      And then it was Bill's turn to do something totally spontaneous. He reached out and grabbed me and pulled me toward him into a full body hug and kiss with his arms wrapped all the way around me.
      I screamed and tried to get out of it, but it was too late, I was almost as filthy as Katherine. I even had mud in my hair now.
      "Looks like you will be joining us in the shower after all," Katherine said.
      "Yeah," I said brushing some of the leaves and slop off me, "thanks," I said to Bill.
      "It just seemed like the thing to do," he answered.

      I smiled to myself while maintaining that I was more than a little pissed off at him. It had been the thing to do, but I'd NEVER admit it.

Miss Babs Writes:
      Laird William and I held hands and walked toward the bathhouse with Count Murray and Countess Katherine.
      We all undressed outside the way the men had the day they had cleaned out the culverts, of the four of us, Laird William was the most shy. I held the door and bowed to the others as they walked into the bathhouse and then I followed them into the women's side.
      Until the day when Kurt was there I didn't know there was a major difference between the two sides of the bathhouse. Afterward, Katherine told me that the men's side had been the original bathhouse with its small stalls, then they'd built on the women's side which was bigger and nicer and each larger stall had two showers in it, one in each back corner.
      "I'll start the water for mi'lairds," I said still in character.
      "Maybe Miss Babs should test it to see if it's warm as well," Katherine said.
      "If it please mi'lady," I said and turned both sprayers in the first stall on.
      "Here, I'll help you check it," Laird William said and tried to push me into the still freezing cold water.
      Of course I resisted and almost got away from him, but the Count and Countess caught me and soon we were all shivering against each other while Laird William tried to turn the temperature up.
      "I'll help madam wash her hair while I'm here," I said to Katherine and used my hand to deflect water into her hair.
      "And I'll wash the rest of you," she laughed and splashed me. I returned the favor and she swatted me on the butt.
      "We should scrub both of them down," Count Murray said and reached for the soap, "to make sure they get good and clean for supper."
      Bill, I mean, Laird William put his arms around me and Countess Katherine and moved both of us into the spray, and the water coming from the one shower was still pretty cold.
      "Your turn," she said and turned the Laird into the spray to block it from hitting her.
      He tried to turn her back into it and they ended up face to face, and I watched her lean into him and kiss him.
      Laird William and Countess Katherine both looked at me and I could tell they both wanted to know what I thought of it. So I kissed him, and then I kissed her too.
      "Wait a minute, where's mine?" Count Murray asked.
      "Do you want to kiss Bill?" Katherine asked him.
      So I kissed him first and then Katherine leaned over and kissed him again before she went back to Bill.
      And that's when I gave up being Miss Babs for the evening.

Lady Helen Writes:
      It wasn't planned, or maybe it was. But I don't think you'll ever convince me that this was what Bill had in mind when he got my clothes all muddy, but we ended up doing a lot more in the shower besides just rinsing the mud off.
      Later as Bill and I walked back to the trailer, naked, with a garbage bag of muddy clothes I asked him what he'd thought of it.
      "It wasn't bad. But I like you more than Miss Katherine," he answered.
      "Good, because you're married to me."
      "But I just.... with..."
      I stopped him and kissed him, "did you fall in love with her?"
      "Good, because I still love you, and I'm glad I'm going home with you," I said.
      "We still have to go over there for supper," he nodded toward the house. "And you were going to work on the new curtains."
      "Which means we should go drop these off and get dressed."

      Bill never became a full blown swinger. And when compared to some of the other women, neither did I.
      But we did enough that my curiosity stayed satisfied and Bill always said he was so glad that he had married me instead of whoever it was.
      Finally I asked him what he thought of Linda as we waved goodbye to the others as we left for home after a party.
      "She's all right," then he looked at me with a slight smile and a glint in his eye, "but she does do one thing different than you do."
      "What?" I asked. "Maybe I can do it?"
      "I don't think you can," he said, "she can do the splits."
      I had to think about it for a minute, but then I nodded. "If it would make mi'laird happy I'll work at doing that for him."
      Bill waited until the light changed before he answered. "No, that's all right. You make me happy just as you are, and I love you more now than I did before we moved."
      I leaned over and kissed his cheek, "And that is how it should be."

End steamswing

[NOTE: All persons, situations, location, and events are fictitious. No similarity to any real anything is intended. The "Gor" series of novels by John Norman (Dr. John Lange) are referenced only in passing as the background of an 'interesting' lifestyle that has been drawn from that source by people who are so inclined. No disparagement of the associated works is intended. All musical references are made within the customary framework of acceptable use. If there are any objections to said references, other numbers can be found to take their place. Any questions or objections should be addressed to the Desk through the usual channels listed on the Desk website. The Desk reserves all rights to this work, including the right of approval for further publication.
-Thank You]

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