Press Check

Six months into her pregnancy Loral was feeling fit and she was confident that the package was fine. Loral thought of the two of them as partners on a mission and the package was being a good partner; there was no more morning sickness and overall, Loral felt great.

Bret had called from his road trip to Dwyer Hill and the client’s strong interest would result in delays. His best guess was that he would get back home three days later than he had originally planned.

It was a warm October day and Loral could not stand to see the grass in the yard grow any taller. Most of her tops that still fit were more for dress than for mowing so she borrowed a paint spattered tee-shirt from Bret’s work clothes, she put on a pair of her old cut-off jeans shorts that she had altered with an expansion panel in front, and set about reminding herself how to start the lawn tractor.  That shaggy yard was in for a good clipping.

Gassing-up the tractor and starting procedures were easily overcome. The only surprise was when she killed the engine by trying to adjust herself into a more comfortable position on the seat. An automatic safety system shut the engine down when the mower sensed that the driver was dismounting.

Loral’s greatest concern was noise; she knew that the package was agitated by loud noises. The mower deck and the tractor’s engine seemed quiet enough that both Loral and the package were having a good ride. Loral was proud of one more accomplishment made in the adventure of her first pregnancy. She was looking forward to showing Bret just how well she had taken care of herself and the homestead in his absence.

Yes, Bret would be proud of her for taking on the daunting task of the unfamiliar tractor and a huge shaggy yard, but there was another task ahead for Loral that afternoon and this one would test her beyond her limits as she knew them.

Approaching the end of the driveway, over the sound of the lawn tractor Loral could hear something. She lifted herself off the seat of the tractor instinctively, to get a better look around her and at that moment, the seat safety cut the tractor’s engine off. Loral clearly heard a woman screaming.

Dismounting the tractor, Loral ran down to the end of the driveway, toward the sound. Just north of the tree line, by the side or the road was a parked car; both doors on the driver’s side were opened and a huge man was standing by the open back door.

Loral could clearly see this brute beating someone in the back seat with a club and she could hear a woman’s screams. Loral resisted her first instinct to run over and just jump on this crazed savage; she had no idea if she could finish a fight with someone his size, and she didn’t know if the other woman was in any condition to help put an end to this attack. Loral knew where her pistol was and she was almost sure that it was loaded and ready.

She took one last glance at the situation some thirty yards down the road, then looked up the hill at her house and started running. Knowing that she needed her Colt Combat Commander and knowing that it was just inside the door between the garage and the laundry room, Loral ran up the steep driveway, past a perfectly good eighteen horsepower lawn tractor, her long legs propelling her 6 ft. 3 in. frame up the hill faster than she had thought possible.

Loral’s mind raced as her adrenal glands kicked in. She remembered the day that Bret asked her to marry him. She remembered telling him that he could keep firearms in the house, but she would have nothing to do with them. Loral remembered watching Bret’s friends and some of their wives enjoy target shooting out on Gil’s farm during a July 4th cookout. She recalled how she felt the first time she hit a bull’s eye target with that old .22 caliber Ruger pistol.

Large volumes of hot blood coursed through Loral’s heart and brain as she recalled how happy she was when Bret gave her the Colt Combat Commander pistol for her 25th birthday. She remembered the smell of the smoke generated by her rapid-fire performance on that humid night that she placed third in a bowling pin shooting competition. It seemed like it just happened a moment ago.

Through to opened garage door and into the laundry room Loral eyed her light blue fanny pack on the pegboard, just as she had seen it in her mind. Unzipping the main compartment Loral withdrew the .38 super automatic pistol from the Eagle holster and pressed the slide back just less than half an inch. The exposed bright-nickel plating on the case of the cartridge told Loral that the round in the chamber was a 128 grain Super-Vel hollow point and not her standard practice ammunition. YES; she was ready.

GREAT!!!!!!” she said aloud to herself, as she called out into the house. “GUNNY, get up; we’ve got trouble.”

Knowing Gunthar’s reaction times can be slow Loral left the laundry door open behind her, confident that her young Rhodesian Ridgeback would make his way in his own time. She replaced the pistol securely in its holster as she trotted out of the garage and tried to fit the fanny pack around her waist. She was a tad too big for the belt to fit, so she slung the belt over her shoulder just as Gunny managed to join her at the top of the driveway and the two of them ran down the hill to the rescue.

Gunny had a smile on his face because his mistress was armed; he was curious and alert, but he really felt no sense of danger. He took the lead in the run down the hill and he could hear the sounds of something strange going on, but it was all just fun as far as he could tell.

Loral on the other hand knew what lay ahead and she was angry that someone had picked her quiet place in the country to mindlessly beat-up another person. She was angry that a man so huge would beat-up a woman, and she was angry with herself for having run up the hill instead of taking the lawn tractor that could have gotten her there faster!

As Loral ran past the parked tractor and onto the edge of the county road, she put her hand inside the fanny pack and onto the butt of her trusted pistol. Screaming was still coming from the back of the car and the man was still thrashing away, unaware that Gunny and Loral were approaching him from behind.

Loral was twenty feet behind the fiendish brute with her pistol drawn, securely held in both hands. The safety was off and her right index finger pointed straight forward when she yelled in a horse voice. “STOP IT!!, Stop it and get the hell out of that car!”

Doyle Franklin was having a bad day already. He was hoping that he could enjoy the autumn leaves in a beautiful part of the country that he rarely visits. Doyle started his day looking for some antique shops, but he wasn’t so good at following directions; he was lost in what he considered “hillbilly country” and now he was parked on the side of an unfamiliar road, in a panic, with a bee in his car.

Doyle hated bees, Doyle was afraid of bees, and like every other time that Doyle was afraid, Doyle screamed like a little girl. He had all of his life. As a boy the other kids loved to pull pranks on Doyle and get him to scream, because he was so loud and so shrill.

Now he was thirty-five years old, a grown man with a wife and three kids. Doyle was taking a break in the middle of a very stressful business trip and while confronting a bee in his car with a rolled-up newspaper he couldn’t help but scream when he thought that he was about to be stung.

Doyle had lost track of the wayward bee, but someone was behind him and yelling at him to stop. So, Doyle stood up beside his car and turned around to see what else in his life could possibly go wrong.

Clad in a sweat soaked tee shirt and cutoffs stood an angry, pregnant Amazon warrior; she was breathing heavily, wild-eyed and wielding a large handgun.  She was yelling at him to drop the club and step away from the car. Doyle dropped his rolled up newspaper and slowly stepped toward the trunk of his Toyota sedan.

Weakened by the shock, Doyle’s knees buckled beneath him and he fell to the ground crying, “Please, don’t kill me. I’m just a lost salesman.”

“Where’s the girl?” Loral yelled while keeping the front sight of her pistol on Doyle as he dropped to the ground.

Doyle looked up at his attacker, knowing that she must be insane, “What girl?” was all he could say in a high-pitched shriek.

“THE girl, the woman I heard screaming, the woman that you were beating up just a few minutes ago. Where IS she?” Loral could clearly see that Doyle’s car was empty. As the stranger answered her questions at gunpoint, she began to recognize a familiar and frantic ring in the excited, high pitch of his voice.

Loral lowered her aim away from the stranger on the ground. “Are YOU the one that was doing all that screaming?” she asked.

Doyle looked up at Loral’s face; he was embarrassed to admit it, but he nodded his head “yes”.

Loral slipped the fanny pack holster from her shoulder and took a long slow breath. “What’s happening, why were you screaming?”

“I had a bee in my car.” Doyle said, “I am scared to death of bees; I just didn’t know that I could get shot if I stopped here to chase the damned thing out of my back seat.”

Loral felt a bit foolish. “You won’t get shot; I thought I heard someone getting beaten up. Are you gonna be OK?”

“Yes, I’ll be OK. I just need to catch my breath; I need to calm down a bit.” Doyle’s voice was back to its more masculine tone.

“Me too; it is a long run up to the house and back. You had me frightened; I didn’t know if I could take on someone your size, but that was when I thought I had somebody to rescue.” Loral was still panting a bit as she slipped the safety lever back to its secure position and returned her handgun to its holster.

Loral lowered her head and glanced inside the cabin of the sedan. “I don’t see any bees; all four windows are down; it had plenty of routes to escape.”

Gunthar was still curious as to what all the yelling was about. With Loral examining the stranger’s vehicle, Gunny decided to move in closer. He leapt into the back seat of the Toyota sniffed around at a few interesting spots, turned and jumped back beside his mistress.

“Gunny thinks you’re all clear.” Loral smiled. “Let me give you a hand.”

Doyle offered up his right hand to Loral’s right hand and pulled himself off the ground. He was a muscular 215 pounds and an even six feet tall. Loral could tell that he was surprised by the fact that after standing, he was still not quite at eye level with her.

With their right hands still clasped together, Loral shook his hand and said, “HI, my name’s Loral. What’s yours?”

“I’m Doyle Franklin, and I am happy to meet you; I guess.” Doyle laughed to shake off the last of the tension that had built up from their initial encounter.

“Doyle, we’re both hot and shook up. Please come up to the house for a cold drink. Southern hospitality is more than just running around with guns and yelling at strangers parked by the side of the road.” Loral was trying to ease her own anxieties as well as any left in Doyle. “Your car is safe to drive now, pull on up the drive to the house; I’ll fetch the tractor and take it back to the garage.”

“Thank you.” Doyle was somewhat charmed by the young woman who was ready to shoot him a few minutes earlier. “I‘ll do that.”

Loral and Gunthar walked back toward their driveway and to the parked tractor. As she set foot on the gravel drive, Loral looked back to see Doyle just entering the driver’s door of his vehicle.

Loral could no longer see Doyle’s car as she climbed onto the tractor but she could hear the car’s engine approaching as she fired up the tractor and headed up the hill to her house.

Doyle drove slowly, keeping a polite distance behind his host as they went up the hill.

Loral looked back at Doyle as he sat in his car and motioned for him to come with her into the garage. “The house isn’t exactly ready for company.” Loral said as the two walked through the door to the laundry room that Loral had left open for Gunthar earlier.

As Loral turned to her right and took the lead on the stairs she told Doyle where he could wash-up if he’d like to and motioned down the hallway opposite the kitchen. When they got to the top of the stairs Doyle headed for the little boy’s room and Loral went to the kitchen sink where she washed her face and hands in cool water.

Loral took two deep breaths in and out slowly and she cried. It was a short cry and it was a quiet cry; enough for Gunny to notice, but it was a good cry. Bret was hundreds of miles away, she was at home alone, carrying their yet-to-be-born child, and she had to face some tough decisions in some uncertain circumstances.

Loral could hear Bret’s voice saying, “You did good kid.” She dried her face with the dishtowel and smiled as she thought about the events that had just transpired; she did do good she did damned good.

Loral heard the bathroom door open as she filled two tall glasses with ice. “I’ve got iced tea, lemonade, and a couple of kinds of soda; what’ll you have?”

Doyle walked toward the friendly female voice in the kitchen. “I hate to sound picky, but is the lemonade a mix?”

“I use that liquid lemon concentrate and a bit of sugar; how’s that sound?” Loral replied as Doyle came around the corner.

“The lemonade sounds wonderful; this is the perfect day for it.”

Loral poured two lemonades and set them on the table, she and Doyle sat opposite each other. “What brings you way out here, Mr. Franklin?”

Doyle finished a long swig of good lemonade, and looked back at his hostess. “I sell commercial fibers, for carpet manufactures. I was working with a client in Virginia and I took a couple of personal days off to do some antique shopping before going to Georgia and Alabama to see a few more customers.”

“Usually when I am in Tennessee, I just stay on the interstate highways, but it’s such a beautiful time of year and I had heard about some antique shops in Sweetwater, so I just decided that I would take the back roads, take my time, and take a break from the pressures that can build up on business trips sometimes.”

“You don’t have a hillbilly accent.” Doyle noticed. “Where are you from?”

Loral laughed at the observation of the obvious. “I have spent almost my whole life in Minnesota; I’m a recent transplant to the south. My husband and I were married in New Orleans two years ago and we moved here shortly after that.” Loral took another long cool drink. “Where are you from?”

“My wife and I live in Delaware; Wilmington, Delaware, I grew up there, went to school in New Jersey a few years, and then right back to Wilmington.” Doyle replied.

“I needed this drink more than I realized! Beating up bees on a day like this does make a fellow thirsty.” Doyle felt badly about his having frightened Loral with his screaming.

“I am embarrassed at causing you to go through all of that over nothing more than my fear of bees.” Doyle hesitated, then he regained eye contact. “Of course if I didn’t scream like I do, it could all have been avoided.”

Conversation was light and short after that point and Doyle parted as soon as his glass was empty, leaving Gunny and Loral to enjoy their peaceful country home.

Loral reflected on the events of the day, her rage at someone violently attacking another person, and her ability to take control, get the facts, and respond correctly under stress. She remembered what Bret and others who regularly carried handguns had told her from the first day she picked up a pistol. “If you are not sure that you will use it, don’t carry it.”

As dusk fell upon their hillside, Loral and Gunny retired early. Loral was looking forward to a hot shower and a good night’s sleep. The fanny pack holding her Combat Commander was still slung across the back of her chair in the kitchen. Loral carried it with her as she did her final walk-around, locking doors and windows. She almost returned the fanny pack to the pegboard downstairs, but she kept it instead. She knew that it belonged on the night table next to her side of the bed.

She told herself that in the morning, she would take out some of the slack in that belt. She would wear it on a regular basis; it was the right thing to do.

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