Gregory Hemmingway rapped loudly on the door of the boarding stable office. He pulled his baseball cap down tight over his carrot top head, stuffed his T-shirt that displayed a famous gray haired bearded country singer into his jeans.
"What can I do for you, young man?" Rob Talbot asked when he opened the door.
"I need to talk to the manager about applying for the job that was advertised in the paper," Gregory said. "I've got a wife and kid sitting in that old Studebaker next to the house. I was laid off last week, that old car and our clothes is the only possessions we have."
"I'm the manager," Rob said. "I need someone to clean stalls and mow. I had to let a fellow go this morning. I caught him red-handed stealing tools from the shed. There's a two bedroom furnished house that goes with the job. Take the little lady and baby out to the house and get settled in. I'll expect you to be here at eight sharp in the morning."
"Thank you, sir," Gregory said. "I'll see you in the morning."
Gregory was on time the next morning. He stopped the lawn mower to wipe perspiration from his forehead. He glanced up and saw Mary Jo walking down the road carrying little Stephanie on her hip. She stood at the gate watching Gregory for awhile, then turned and walked back out the road.
It was only a few minutes before Mary Jo came back to the gate. She shifted Stephanie in her arms. Her eyes sparkled with anger when she saw Gregory talking to Rob's wife Charlene. She opened the gate then let it slam against the post after she came through. Her eyes were spitting fire by the time she approached Gregory.
"The washing machine isn't working," Mary Jo snapped. "I could use a little help if you can stop flirting with this woman long enough to come home."
Charlene's face turned crimson. She was only telling Gregory what Rob wanted him to do after he finished with the lawn.
"I'll get the barn cleaned up soon as I get the washing machine going for Mary Jo," Gregory stuttered. "I'll be sure to take off the time I spent working on the machine this evening."
"Where's Greg, Charlene?" Rob asked coming through the office door. "I've got a truck load of feed that needs to be unloaded."
"He went home to fix the washing machine for Mary Jo," Charlene said. "She was here not long ago throwing a tantrum, and accused Greg of flirting with me."
"I wouldn't worry about it too much, honey," Rob said, cuddling Charlene close. "You can expect women to be a little jealous. After all, you are a beautiful woman."
"You really know how to cheer me up," Charlene said. "I'm not too sure about Mary Jo. You didn't see the hatred coming from those big chestnut brown eyes. I think that girl has a problem."
"She'll be all right once she gets to know you," Rob said. "She's probably one of those women who don't trust anyone."
Mr. Petrie, a boarder came galloping in on his red roan. He swung his leg across the saddle, bounced off and quickly tied the horse to the hitching post.
"There's a lady standing on the porch of that old house screaming bloody murder," he said excited. "She was yelling for me to call the police. She said the guy that's in the house with her is trying to beat her up."
"I guess I better mosey out that way and see what's going on," Rob said. "I doubt very much it's anything serious. It's probably just another domestic dispute, since Mary Jo seems to think every woman Greg speaks to is ready to run away with him."
Rob went to the hitching post, untied the gray appaloosa and leaped on his back. He went at a trot out the road to Gregory's house. The first thing he noticed was all four tires were slashed on the Studebaker. Gregory was going at a run up the steep hill behind the house. Not far behind Mary Jo followed with Stephanie under one arm, waving a knife frantically and threatening to butcher Gregory.
"Greg," Rob shouted. "I need to talk to you and Mary Jo."
"I'm not coming back until she drops that knife," Gregory yelled.
"Mary Jo," Rob shouted. "Get yourself down here and give me that knife."
Mary Jo looked toward Gregory with hatred, turned and carefully walked down the hill. She handed the knife to Rob then broke into tears. Gregory ran down the hill and came to a halt, keeping a good distance between him and Mary Jo.
"I really need this job," Gregory said. "I hope this little incident won't cause you to fire me."
"I can't have this sort of thing going on," Rob said. "You and Mary Jo fighting like a bunch of cats and dogs sure won't be good for business."
"I can't promise you it won't happen again," Gregory said. "Mary Jo always has flipped out when she sees me talking to any woman."
"Maybe I wouldn't get so upset if you really were my husband," Mary Jo sneered. "You're not half the man that Timothy is, I'm sure glad Stephanie is his daughter and not yours."
"Shut up, Mary Jo," Gregory said through clinched teeth. "If he's such a moncho guy, why's he in prison for bashing his old school chum, Diana in the head with a jar of pickles?"
"I'll have to say you didn't lie to me, Greg," Rob said. "You said you had a wife and kid in that old car. You just failed to say whose wife and kid."
"You're just like the others Greg has worked for," Mary Jo shrieked. "They all had flighty wives, but thought they would never think about looking at Greg."
"Young lady, I've got a little advice for you," Rob said. "You probably won't pay any heed, but the best thing you could do right now is go home to your family."
"I'm not staying if Mary Jo has to leave," Gregory said. "She won't cause anymore trouble if you make sure Charlene isn't the one telling me what to do."
"I have other things to do and Charlene has to direct the help most of the time," Rob said. "I want you two out of here by nightfall."
Rob mounted the horse and went down the road at a walk. He slid out of the saddle and tied the horse to the hitching post.
"Give me that coffee pot, you crazy fool," Rob said, grabbing the full coffee urn from Mary Jo's hands. Hot dark brown liquid ran across the floor when Rob burned his hand and dropped the pot.
Charlene dropped the phone on the desk, and stared in disbelief at Mary Jo grabbing for the coffee pot.
"You can't always be around to protect her," Mary Jo screamed at the top her lungs. "I'll beat her up just like I did that little bimbo Diana Muchworth."
"Call the police, Charlene," Rob said, flanking Mary Jo, throwing her on the floor and tying her with a lead rope like the rodeo cowboys tie a calf.
Charlene grabbed the phone, she had forgotten about talking to Mrs. Birchwood before all the commotion started.
"I've already informed the police, Charlene," Mrs. Birchwood said. "They should be arriving anytime along with our best reporter."
"I want you to look at this, Will, she's got both arms and one leg tied behind her," the short stocky officer said to the reporter when they entered the office. "I've never in my ten years on the force seen a person tied up quite like this."
"It's like this, old buddy," Will said. "You gotta know when to rope'em."
Copyright © 1992 Jo Ann Lovelace. All Rights Reserved.