Temlar And Winnie (A Love Story of Biological Warfare)
Temlar had a plan, desperate as it was.
"All's fair in love and war(fare)....
There were four things wrong with Francis. He was too rich. He was too handsome. He was too distinguished. And, he liked Winnie too much.
But, not the way Temlar did.
[If you have experienced or observed a truly loving relationship of long duration, that’s how Temlar loved Winnie, and his torch had never burned brighter.]
Francis only liked Winnie, and Temlar was determined to save Winnie from Francis, and hopefully save her for a future he himself could share with her..
But, Winnie’s mom and dad had a love for Francis. He was their godson, and they had treated him, when they had an opportunity, like they would have treated a real son, if they had been able to have other children after Winnie was born. They couldn’t.
Francis was the only "son" they thought they would ever have, and they wanted him as a son-in-law, and that meant Winnie marrying him to make it happen.
Now that didn’t mean her mom and dad didn’t love Winnie. It only meant that they felt Francis (from years of watching Francis growing up and succeeding) was "as good as it gets" and they wanted only the best for their Winnie. They overlooked his weaknesses, seeing only the bright moments a son might have brought them.
And what about Winnie?
Winnie was a dutiful daughter. She respected her parents and her parents’ judgment. She was not excited by the prospect, but Winnie was ready to wed Francis and "live happily ever after." It didn’t seem to matter that Cupid’s arrow had never pierced her consciousness.
As for Temlar, his suitorship was an uncracked egg. His heart beat loudly, but he was an audience of one.
Oh, yes Winnie knew Temlar, but if she was searching at all for true love, her searchlight had scanned right over Temlar without recognizing his poorly disguised ardor.
As for Francis, his searchlight had already spotted Temlar as his leading competitor. Francis was determined to decorate his large home with a hostess named Winnie to manage his vote-getting parties, manage his household staff (whose names he only knew from signing off on their paychecks), and to manage any "urchins" (his term for all children) who might result from his sense of obligation to eventually consummate a relationship with Winnie that would secure her as his party hostess, supervisor, and "noses wiper."
Temlar could see that Francis was making a run to the altar and that Winnie was his unresisting lamb.
The question that needed answering with a quick answer was how to slow the process long enough for Winnie’s searchlight to swing his way again.
There was a second important consideration: how to insure that when, and if, he slowed Francis’ plans, he could speed up his own candidacy. He was looking for a much different relationship with Winnie, one in which she would become his queen, companion, lover, and helpmate for the children who would be the outward expression of an eternal love he would cherish and nurture forever.
He must have decided "first things first" because he sat down and invested a whole, precious day in thought. He needed a comprehensive plan.
By "Day Two" he believed he had one that would work, and knew it was time to work it!
The first move was his most diabolical: it was time for Francis to experience chicken pox.
Temlar had recalled in his planning that, while chicken pox had cast its menacing pox over Francis’ class back in seventh grade, Francis had boasted that he was "too tough" to get the illness, and he hadn’t had "the pox", then or ever, yet.
Francis, except for his daytime staff, lived alone. If he was home in the evening, he answered his own door, and reluctant as he might be to do so, he paid his own paperboys. (He subscribed to the local, state, and national papers). Twice a month a paperboy showed up with the current newspaper and asked Francis to ante up for the month’s bill.
One of those two paperboys also delivered a daily paper to Temlar, and often complained about how hard it was to get Francis to realize that a pittance of Francis’ royalties should "trickle down" a drop or two to his paperboys each month.
This paperboy had already had chicken pox, as he had explained to Temlar a year before, telling Temlar why a substitute carrier had taken his place. So the idea of slowing Francis’ plans and arranging a quiet period to approach Winnie had birth.
Temlar spent the next day "doing a survey" first of grade schools to find out the names of students "out" with the chosen chicken pox. Then he proposed giving the local paper the benefit of his "research" for an article one of their cub reporters could whip into print.
With an article assured, Temlar began visiting families having one or more children out of school with the chicken pox. At each home he showed the sick child the current day’s paper, having them look at and touch the page their photo might appear on, if they were the child photographed for the article on "the chicken pox today." Each one was shown a different page.
With this thoroughly contaminated current paper, Temlar placed it in a plastic "rainy day newspaper bag" and tied it tightly so none of the pox bacteria could escape until it would be opened. He attached a note to the outside referring to an article on an inner page as a "don’t miss article" and had the paperboy deliver it to Francis that evening, explaining he felt sure Francis would want to know of the article. He gave the paperboy a good tip to deliver the wrapped newspaper, along with Francis' regular daily paper.
That evening, Temlar stopped by at Winnie’s home, but only her parents were at home.
"Winnie is having dinner with Francis, and they are planning their wedding," the father said, smiling broadly.
"I’ll stop by tomorrow, then," was Temlar’s only reply, as he searched his memory trying to recall, if Winnie had ever had the chicken pox.
The next day Temlar stopped by Winnie’s home after work and asked how her wedding plans were progressing.
"Quite well, I guess," was her only response, and Temlar’s heart fluttered with this knowledge that fervent desire and eager anticipation were not factors driving Winnie to Francis’ altar. Temlar felt certain his own "alter" plans stood a chance of success.
"Winnie, you and I have been classmates through school, and I wonder, would you do me a favor?"
"Why certainly. What can I do?"
"Have you ever had chicken pox?"
"I did in junior high school, but I didn’t miss classes because I came down with it at the start of our Christmas vacation. You should have seen me! I looked like the worst case of acne you’ve ever seen!"
"Winnie, there is a humble family I know, and all the children are home with chicken pox. I want to pick up some ice cream and take it over to them, and I hoped you would come to encourage the single mom. She looks so tired and overwhelmed. She needs to be at her job to support the family, but she has been at home with the sick children, and filled with worry."
"I’d love to go. How thoughtful of you to want to do such a thing!"
The drive, the time alone with Winnie, the shared good feelings, from the partnership in helping and encouraging the mother and children, made it a very memorable evening.
Winnie fell in love with the three children and, on her own, told the mother she would come the next day to care for the children so the mother could return to work and keep her job.
Winnie’s family was well-known, and Winnie was the pride of townsfolk, so the mother, hesitating only an instant, accepted Winnie’s generous offer, and the children were excited that Winnie would be their unpaid baby-sitter.
Temlar promised to stop by with pizza, and everyone’s joy was complete.
"So far, so good," thought Temlar and he drove home after a pleasant "Goodnight" from Winnie, and her "Thanks for including me in your efforts to help them. I’ll see you there tomorrow, for pizza! Don’t forget me, and the kids!"
Temlar was happy with his own reply, "There’s no way I can forget you, or those kids, and I mean it." He thought he had seen the glimmer of a question in her eyes.
How the hours dragged by until "pizza time" and rejoining Winnie the next day, and how quickly the afternoon lunch and fun with the recovering children passed by.
As Temlar left the children’s home, Winnie said, "If I had pizza like this everyday, I’d get too large for my wedding dress---but it would be fun."
"Then I’ll bring us salads tomorrow. What’s your favorite dressing, other than a wedding gown?"
Trying to impress Temlar with her sophistication, she replied "Russian" (a dressing Francis usually asked his cook to use on his salads).
"Okay, Russian it will be," said Temlar as his heart raced again at Winnie’s acceptance of another lunch date with her and the children.
He had impulsively wanted to ask Winnie for a date of their own, but sticking to his plan he had thought the better of it, and had contented himself with another "tomorrow".
The wedding plans were still progressing a week later. The children were recovered and back in school; their need for Winnie’s help was ended, and so were the daily lunches.
The last of the lunches, however, had been Temlar’s special surprise for Winnie. Temlar had provided a sumptuous lunch of rainbow trout. He knew Winnie and her dad loved to fly-fish for trout and always ate the trout they caught, freezing any extra they caught, so as to enjoy them on special occasions.
Temlar’s plan included that meal for two reasons: he wanted the subconscious associations of a link between dad, daughter, and Temlar; and, the trout led into Temlar’s request for a date Winnie might accept, even this close to her onrushing wedding.
"You’ve been just the greatest, Winnie. You have taken your busy time to help Mrs. Peters care for her sick children, and the two of us share a friendship with them which only loving service could create so quickly. Would you do me another favor?"
I have always admired the way you and your dad catch your own trout and are such great fishermen. The two of you share the fishing as a family tradition, a bond between you two that everyone in town admires."
"I have always wished my dad had returned from Vietnam, and he could have taught me to fish like your dad taught you. Would you teach me? I’d be too embarrassed to ask your dad directly until I at least know what a good fly rod is supposed to look like,but I would love to keep him company, if I could start out good enough that he would enjoy taking over where you have to stop on your wedding day."
The latter point seemed to startle Winnie: "Marriage means I don’t fish with Dad as often?" Then, remembering her own enjoyment when she was learning to fly-fish, and sensing the real sincerity in Temlar’s voice and expression, as well as the loss of his own dad, Winnie accepted the ongoing daily contacts with Temlar in a setting she treasured.
Temlar purposely showed up for the first lesson with short, leaky boots which stood a chance of catching more fish than he would!
Winnie laughed, and Temlar laughed with her. He promised to do better the next day, commenting "I guess the lesson I needed first was about boots, not good fly rods!"
Temlar scratched the part of his plan that called for him to slip and fall in. That hoped-for laughter was already heard, and with a good result.
The lesson went well, and, as expected, Winnie caught her share and her "apprentice" finally caught one, too. More than likely that was Winnie’s catch, too. She had chosen a bountiful spot to fish at.
"Now, Winnie, do you think your mom would be willing to teach me how to cook this beauty? It’s no real benefit to learn how to catch them, if I don’t know how to enjoy them after the enjoyment of fishing with you."
"Mom and I, will be cooking mine, too. Why don’t you come over before supper tomorrow and watch how she has taught me to cook them?"
"I’ll be there before the sun rises!"
"Now, now, hold on there fisherman! The crack of dawn is the time to fish, not the time for supper. We eat promptly at 6:00 p.m., and the cooking starts at 5:00 p.m.
Now let me teach you how to "clean" the fish, so Mom never has to do it."
"Okay, teach me to clean mine, and then I’ll clean yours for practice. How does that sound?"
"Sounds great, though Dad might disapprove. He teaches, ‘You catch ‘em; you clean ‘em. Only then you get to eat ‘em!’"
"Wise policy, but I need the practice, and I can’t afford to pay my teacher even her hourly rate for just cleaning fish!"
Temlar had the distinct impression that Winnie had enjoyed herself as much as she probably enjoyed her regular fishing trips with her dad.
Winnie’s dad was impressed that Temlar had selected Winnie to teach him to fly-fish. He saw it as a perpetuation of the lessons he had loved sharing with Winnie.
Better still, Winnie had confided that Temlar wanted to learn so he wouldn’t be embarrassed to one day ask her dad to go fishing in her absence. (If Temlar had been there at the time, he would have thought: "One down, two to go!)
Winnie’s Mom felt a parental love for Temlar that evening. Actually she had admired Temlar’s personality on the high school’s "fields of friendly strife." She had attended more football and basketball games than Winnie’s Dad. Winnie had been captain of the school’s "Spirit Team" of cheerleaders, and Winnie’s Dad had often had to work at such times.
She had seen Temlar’s courage and dogged determination, as well as his team spirit, and somewhere in the back of her mind she recalled having had a fleeting thought that Temlar and Winnie shared many of the same qualities and wouldn’t make a bad couple, if only Winnie’s Dad had observed Temlar as many times as she had.
Temlar was careful not to betray himself by calling Winnie’s Mom "Mom," but when he asked her what he should call her, he chalked up another point in his favor when Winnie’s Mom replied, "Why not just call me ‘Mom’? Winnie does."
The kitchen talk was matched by the happy banter at the supper table, until the doorbell rang and Francis joined the group with a not completely surprised look at Temlar.
It seems Francis had driven by the stream where Winnie and Temlar were fishing the day before. Add to that sighting, the days Winnie had been unavailable for lunches for nearly a week, and Francis had had his first inkling that the sea might be shifting under his yacht.
Once on the scene, Francis moved to take charge.
"I need to have some more help with my part of the invitations. Let’s go over to my house and finish up that part of my preparations. I would have asked one of my staff to help, but they all left early for the weekend saying one of them felt ill and the others thought it best to be home early for their urchins, what with all the chicken pox going around."
"By the way, Temlar, thanks for that article you pointed out on the local banks pending merger plans. I’ve already moved my personal and business accounts to an unentangled, out-of-town bank. The bank here wasn’t happy, but business is business, and my money is just as happy there as here."
"Shall we go, Winnie?"
"Okay. I’ll get my sweater. Goodnight, Temlar. Whose fish did you eat?"
"They were either both yours, or one of yours and one of mine. They both tasted great, thanks to your mom’s cooking lessons, and the lessons your dad taught you, lessons I am thankful to share in. Thanks for a great evening. I must be leaving, too, but it’s been great. We’ll have to do it again soon, if I'm ever to catch another fish!"
What happened next has never been totally clear.
Winnie and Francis did work on the invitations list at his house, but as they were finishing up, Francis said he wasn’t feeling well, and in their discussions it came out that Winnie and Temlar had been helping the mother whose children were out of school with the chicken pox.
By the time Winnie left, Francis was headed to bed and wondering, if he finally had also become a victim of the childhood disease he had previously been spared.
By the next morning he was sure he was a chicken pox victim. Worse still, his servants had all called in to see how he was doing, and didn’t want to come back to work until he felt better, lest they add to their own families’ risks. So he was miserable and on his own.
When Winnie called to check on him, Francis blew his top and demanded that she come over to care for him as she had cared for the single mom and children.
Winnie tried her best to explain that she already had an appointment for a final fitting of her wedding dress, a lunch date with the bridesmaids, and afternoon appointments at the florist’s, at the church, and at the printer’s, but she would have her mother see how she might help him.
Then Francis made his unforgivable mistake.
"I don’t want your d--- mother coming over here. You and your chicken pox charity must have gotten me into this fix. The servants aren’t here to care for me, so the ball is in your court. You owe me!"
The dawn of Winnie’s consciousness was rising faster than any morning sunrise ever did.
"I’m sorry you are feeling poorly, and becoming agitated. Maybe I should just cancel our obligations to others and dash right over to cater to your needs! If you truly have the chicken pox, it certainly isn’ tmy fault. I saw you last night for the first time in nearly a week, a good week by the way, and the only ball in play is the one you want to blame me for. When you figure out what I really owe your selfish temper, you can give me a call to apologize for your inaccurate presumptions, and for swearing about mom!"
Francis waited for a suitably humble Winnie to call him back and apologize. The phone didn’t ring.
Winnie suddenly realized she didn’t expect Francis to call back, but she canceled the day’s outside appointments anyway..
When the bridesmaids came over to see what had happened, Winnie simply repeated: "It’s simply a good case of the chicken pox, and I’ve decided to go fishing again."
Her dad, who had heard the whole discussion Winnie was having with her dearest friends, chimed in with "I’ll go too. Let’s both see how much more perfection we can instill in that fine young fisherman, Temlar."
It was years and several children later, that Winnie finally heard how her salvation had actually come about. Until then, she had always thought it was from her own "perspicacity" (a word Temlar likes using when he praises her typically wise decisions).
When he finally told Winnie how well his plan had worked out, Winnie breathed a sigh of recognition and said, "Truly, ‘the ability to laugh at yourself is the first sign of maturity!’ I wonder if Francis has laughed yet!"
They both shared a contented laugh and the grandparents joined in.
The children just played on, but they wondered when, and if, they would ever get that good disease named after chickens.
© 2004 Demas W. Jasper