Sunday, May 15, 2016

Liberty #59: Riley & Tyler, Part 2

By the end of February, Tyler and Riley had entered a rut in their relationship. After school
they would walk to Tyler’s apartment where they did their homework. Tyler always holed up in the recliner while Riley was on the couch, her feet pulled up onto it either crossed in front of her or one under the other. Tyler looked up from his homework and looked at Riley. A couple of times while he was looking, she reached down and scratched herself. After the second time, he chuckled.

“What?” she asked.

“Nothing. You just scratched yourself again. I think it’s cute when you do boy things,” he responded.

“Boy things?”

“Like scratching your balls or burping or that one time at the movie theater when the women’s restroom was too busy so you went into the men’s room and stood next to me at the urinal to pee,” Tyler explained.

“Girls get itchy down there, too. And they burp,” Riley said. “Why is it cute when I do ‘boy things’?”

Tyler laughed. “I like it because you do them and I love you.”

“I’m not a boy. This penis isn’t always going to be there,” Riley said. “I just don’t want you to fall in love with something that’s not always going to be here and then resent me later on.”

“How can I fall in love with it? I’ve never even seen it,” Tyler pointed out. “I love you because you make me happy and make me feel good. I like spending time with you and talking to you. Everything I love about you is based on personality and intelligence with looks a very close third because, let’s face it, you are cute as hell. The biggest problem I have in our relationship is that you’ve given me so much pleasure and happiness and you’ve kept me from reciprocating. I’ve never seen you naked and it would be nice to know what it looks like, what it’ll look like when it’s gone and if it’s bigger than mine.”

“Balls yes, penis no,” Riley quickly said and smiled, blushing.

Tyler smiled back. “Really? Interesting,” he said. He closed his textbook and placed it on the floor as he stood up. He walked over to Riley and leaned down on top of her. “My Mom won’t be home for another hour if you would like to go into the bedroom.”

“And do what?” she smiled coyly.

“Get naked.”

“Fine,” she rolled her eyes and pushed him off her. “But you are going to reciprocate the pleasure and happiness I’ve given you.”

“Looking forward to it,” Tyler said and he dragged Riley through the apartment and into his bedroom.

“You fucker!” Ashli screamed as she smacked her boyfriend of barely two months, Nathan, in the chest with an open hand. “You cheater! How could you do that?”

“I told you that I have an overactive sex drive,” Nathan said.

“Bullshit. If it’s so overactive then why didn’t you sleep with me? We’re the ones dating, not you and Emily,” Ashli shrieked.

“Emily was closer and Emily doesn’t have eleven family members living at her place.”

Ashli scoffed. “We don’t have to stay here. You have a car with a backseat,” she said.

In Ashli’s bedroom, Hannah and Matt were smoking weed and doing homework. There was music playing but it wasn’t loud enough to drown out Ashli’s yelling. “What are they fighting about?” Matt asked.

“Nate screwed Emily Valentine like a week after he and Ashli started dating,” Hannah said.

“And? I’m pretty sure screwing Emily Valentine is required to graduate,” Matt chuckled.

“She’s pregnant and she’s keeping it so Nate is going to try the father thing. At least until he realize that women hate deadbeats and leaves.”

“The father thing didn’t work out the first time so why does he think it will work out this time?” Matt asked.

“The first time?”

“Yeah. Nate already has a kid. Two-years-old, I think.”

“Ugh, that’s depressing,” Hannah said. “I was a virgin when we slept together just so you know.”

“I know. You told me after we did it.”

They went back to their homework, they heard Ashli call Nate a plethora of names which Nate happily returned. “Is it weird that we don’t fight?” Hannah asked.

“We fight all the time.”

“But not like that,” she pointed to the wall indicating Ashli and Nathan.

“You want to fight like that?”

Ashli got really shrill as she yelled at Nathan and she stomped away but only a couple of feet. “No, but what do we honestly fight about?”

“We fight about our differences of opinion which is what couples are supposed to fight about. Not about who we cheated on each other with,” Matt said.

“When we first started dating, did you think that we’d be together this long?”

“No, I didn’t. I’m glad we’re still together because we started dating because we had already slept together. It makes our relationship more legitimate,” Matt explained.

Hannah smiled and blushed. “Why’d you ask me out after you had already slept with me?”

Matt shrugged. “I liked you.”

“You liked me? That’s it?”

“There’s more to it but it’s stupid.”

“Tell me.”

Matt looked away and covered his face. “It feels like you were made for me.”


“When we’re together, at school, with friends, with our families, when we make love, it feels like you were made for me.”

“So you asked me out because of the way my pussy feels around your dick?” she closed her textbook with her paper marking her place. She slid off the bed and climbed onto Matt, who was sitting on the floor. “I think that’s sweet,” they began making out but Hannah stopped after a few seconds. “It’s quiet.”

“Think they killed each other?” Matt jokingly asked.

Hannah got up and went to the bedroom door. She opened the door a crack and saw Ashli sitting on the kitchen counter, her shirt up and no pants. Nathan’s pants were down around his ankles and they were wrapped in each other’s arms and Ashli was quietly moaning. “Ashli and Nathan are apparently making up.”

“Gross,” Matt said.

“At least it gives us time to finish this,” Hannah said and undid her pants as she got back on top of Matt.

Riley was still lying naked in bed but Tyler had gotten up and was getting dressed. “Uh, as much as I love having a naked girl in my bed, you should get dressed since my mom will be home soon.”

“This was a big step for me,” Riley said as she started to get out of bed. “Big step.”

“It was just a blowjob,” Tyler chuckled.

“It’s what it represents. I’m always felt comfortable as myself and comfortable with my body but this was a major step. I was always afraid that still having a penis would change the way boyfriends
would look at me. You still see me,” Riley said.

“Of course I still see you. You are amazing and beautiful. Thank you for letting me be intimate with you,” Tyler took Riley’s hands and helped her up off the bed. They kissed and Riley got her clothes back on.

Holding hands, they left Tyler’s bedroom and walked back out into the front room. “Do you want to continue working on our homework?” Riley asked.

“Sure,” Tyler shrugged. “Mom will be home soon. If you stay for dinner then there’s a greater chance of ordering pizza. If you want to stay anyway.”

“Always,” Riley smiled.

It was not the spring break that Riley and Tyler were hoping to get. On Saturday night, Linda got a phone call from a cousin saying that Uncle Buford had died. Sunday afternoon, Tyler said a passionate goodbye to Riley and he and Linda began driving to suburban Chicago for a funeral to be held on Tuesday.

Buford was not technically Tyler’s uncle but his grandma’s sister’s son. Whatever the relation, Tyler considered Buford most like a father to him despite rarely seeing him. With Tyler gone until at least Thursday, Riley spent more time with Sydney but Sydney had started dating somebody so even their time together was limited. Riley’s loneliness was exacerbated by her parents being at work and Hannah opting to spend most of the time with Ashli, even spending the night there. Riley stayed home, watching TV and drawing. She talked with Tyler on the phone every day after lunch but it was one of the laziest spring breaks Riley had had in years.

Hannah had told her parents Sunday evening that she was going to spend the next few nights at Ashli’s. After getting the okay from her parents, Hannah and Ashli walked to the gas station along
the highway where they met with Matt. Hannah thanked and hugged Ashli and she and Matt got in his car and drove off to Colorado. They returned early Thursday afternoon but first stopped at Spring Lake so they could have a few more minutes together.

“Think anyone knows?” Matt asked as he held onto Hannah, his arms wrapped around her waist from behind.

“I don’t think so. It didn’t seem like the police were looking for us so I think we’re in the clear,” Hannah answered.

“Did you have a good week?”

“Amazing. Aren’t you glad I talked you into kidnapping me and taking me across state lines?”

“Totally worth it,” Matt said and he kissed Hannah’s neck. “We should get home. I want to take a nap before I go to work.”

“I told you that you should’ve taken today off, too,” Hannah said. “Come on, let’s go.”

“Hey, maybe you could do what you did on the highway between Limon and Denver while I’m taking you home,” Matt suggested as they got in the car.

“I don’t know, Matt. We’re a long way from Colorado.”

Tyler and Linda got back home in the middle of the afternoon. As they pulled into a parking spot in front of their apartment building, Tyler asked. “Can I take the car and go over to Riley’s?”

“Yeah. Call if you are going to stay for dinner. Be back by midnight, I need the car for work tomorrow,” Linda said as she got out of the car and Tyler slid into the driver’s seat.

Tyler drove over to the Saxberg house and rang the doorbell. Riley answered the door to see her boyfriend standing on her front step.

“You’re back?”

“Got back into town about fifteen minutes ago.”

“Get inside,” Riley pulled Tyler inside the house and slammed the door. They went upstairs and
Riley got on top of Tyler as they kissed. She began removing his shirt then her shirt. “I missed you so much,” she breathed and slid down to remove his pants.

Tyler and Riley laid in bed, Tyler’s arm wrapped around Riley. His other arm was softly stroking her hair. “Best welcome home ever,” he said and hugged Riley.

“Was it good?” Riley asked, she was gently pulling at the arm hair on the arm Tyler had around her.

“It was amazing,” Tyler began. “Were you planning on us having sex during spring break?”

“Oh, yeah. My parents are at work, Hannah has barely stepped foot in this house all week so we would’ve had the house all to ourselves for most of the week,” Riley revealed. She continued pulling at the hair. “Was I okay?”

“You were great,” Tyler said. “What do you mean?”

“You’ve had sex before, I’m a virgin. Was I good? Did I feel okay?”

“You felt amazing,” Tyler said. “Hey, I love you and I’m glad that you are comfortable with me enough to do this and to let me know what you want.”

Riley chuckled. “I guess I did get a little forceful with you there at the end.”

“Don’t apologize. Don’t ever apologize for knowing what you want,” Tyler said and kissed Riley’s ear.

Riley sighed contently. “I love you, Tyler.”

“I love you, too.”

“I need to pee,” Riley got up and grabbed a pair of underwear and a white tank top off the floor and threw them on. At the door, she took another look at Tyler.

“Are you going to stand up to pee?”

“Probably,” Riley laughed.

“Hot,” Tyler smiled at her and touched himself.

“Shut up,” she continued laughing and left the bedroom. As Riley approached the bathroom, Hannah came out of her bedroom. Riley’s arms shot up and she attempted to cover herself. You could see her nipples through the tank top and a clear outline on her underwear. “Hannah! I didn’t know you were home.”

“I got home about fifteen minutes ago. So you two finally did it,” Hannah grinned big.

“You heard us?” Riley gasped and blushed.

“Of course. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. I’m sure you’ve heard Matt and me numerous times,” Hannah said. “You don’t have to cover yourself for me. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”

Riley let her arms fall slack. “Sorry, it’s just weird standing here in front of my sister and her being able to see everything.”

“I won’t keep you then. I just wanted to congratulate you.”

Riley scoffed. “Thanks. I have to pee,” and she walked past Hannah and went into the bathroom. “By the way, how was Denver?”

“What? You knew?”

“Sydney heard a rumor and when I saw Ashli and you were nowhere in sight the other day, that confirmed it. Don’t worry, I won’t tell Mom or Dad.”

Hannah breathed a sigh of relief. “It was good. We went up into the mountains, visited the zoo, toured the U.S. Mint and spent a lot of time in our motel room.”

“Sounds like a good time. Maybe Tyler and I could do something like that this summer,” Riley thought out loud. “If you and Matt do something like that again, please, let me know so at least one person in this house knows where you are.”

Hannah nodded. “Sure. No problem, sis.”

Riley closed the door, went to the toilet and started urinating. She smiled when she realized that Hannah called her ‘sis.’

Since Tyler had started at his job, he had put away a few dollars to save up for a car. After a little more than three years, he had enough money and found a car he liked—a 1997 Chevrolet Blazer. On a Friday, he drove in with Linda and Riley to actually buy the vehicle.

He and Riley took it on a test drive. “Like it?” he asked her.

“Why an SUV?”

“I like having the room. Also, I’m going to have so much sex in the back,” he smiled.

“With who?”

Tyler shrugged. “Whoever agrees to have sex with me. Any port in a storm, you know.”

“Slut,” Riley smiled and leaned over to rest her head on Tyler’s shoulder.

When they got back to the parking lot where they had met the man selling the Blazer. Tyler got out, “I think I’ll take it,” he said ecstatically.

“Great. Just so you know,” the owner began, “there is a problem with the starter. There are times when it won’t start properly. It’ll probably need to be replaced soon.”

“Okay,” Tyler said hesitantly. “Two hundred off? Eight hundred instead of a thousand?”

“Deal,” they shook hands, signed over papers and exchanged money and the man handed Tyler the keys.

“Grab something to eat?” Linda asked Tyler and Riley after the transaction was complete.

“Sure, I could eat,” Riley said.

After the three of them ate a meal at a dinghy Mexican restaurant, they got back into their
vehicles. Linda backed out and left the parking lot, turning into traffic. Tyler attempted to start his new SUV but it stuttered. Several times.

“Seriously?” he exclaimed as he kept turning the key. He sighed and reached under the dashboard to open the hood. “I’m going to try that trick he showed me. When I tell you, turn the key.”

Tyler got out and propped open the hood. He turned the fan wheel a bit and then gave a thumbs up to Riley. She turned the key but nothing happened but a click.

Tyler got back in the Blazer. “Going to have to call Mom and have her drive us home,” he grabbed his phone and called Linda.

“Hello?” she answered.

“Hey, Mom, the starter died so we’re stranded in the parking lot,” Tyler chuckled.

She sighed. “Okay, I’ll turn around. Be there soon.”

“She’s turning around,” Tyler said. “Sorry about this,” he looked at Riley.

“It’s fine. While we’re waiting, you know the best thing about dating a girl with a penis?” she asked as she leaned the seat back and began undoing her jeans.


“Easier to bring her to orgasm,” she smiled.

The next day, Tyler went over to Riley’s where Hannah, Matt and Ashli were also hanging out. “Matt, I’m glad you’re over here,” Tyler said. “Do you know how to replace a starter in a ’97 Blazer?”

“Never done it before but I probably could,” Matt said.

“Could you do it today if I bought the equipment and tools?” Tyler asked. “I’ll give you fifty bucks.”

“I’ll try,” Matt shrugged.

They all piled into Tyler’s mom’s car and drove out of town to where Tyler had abandoned the
car the day before. Tyler and Matt began working on the Blazer while Hannah, Riley and Ashli stayed around the other car and watched the boys.

“Look at the men getting all oily and greasy,” Hannah purred.

“Working on a car is so out of character for Tyler,” Riley noted. “It’s kind of sexy but I’m fond of the Tyler I fell in love with.”

“Do you see you two being together next year or after you graduate?” Hannah asked.

“I haven’t really thought about it. I just try to enjoy the time we have together,” Riley said.

“I think about it all the time,” Hannah exclaimed. “I’m so in love with Matt that losing him worries me.”

“Honestly, it worries me, too—losing Tyler. I worry that he’ll wake up some day and want a real girl or that we’ll be together for a long time until,” she motioned at her crotch, “this is gone and he’ll realize he’s gay or something.”

“I don’t think Tyler would do that. He’s only known you as a girl, Riley, so there’s that but he also started dating you and fell in love with you because of your personality. I’ve seen him look at you, penis or not, he is in love,” Hannah said to Riley as she pointed to Tyler.

“You and Riley are so lucky to be in the same class,” Matt said to Tyler.

“What do you mean?”

“I graduate next year, God willing, but Hannah will still have two years after that.”

“So you see yourself with Hannah even after you graduate?”

“Yeah. Why?” Matt got defensive.

“No reason. I’m glad you two are happy. Who am I to judge relationships? I’m dating a male-to-female transgender,” Tyler smiled. “But I can’t see myself without her.”

“We had a pregnancy scare back in November,” Matt began “and inside I was so happy because if Hannah had been pregnant then we’d be together forever but that’s kind of a selfish reason
to bring a child into this world.”

“Little bit, yeah,” Tyler said.

“What do you think I should do?” Matt asked.

“What? About you and Hannah after you graduate?”


Tyler shrugged. “I say talk to her. Let her know how you feel and maybe you two can figure it out.”

Matt nodded. “Yeah. Thanks.”

Overbrook Road was the only road in the southern half of the county that went across the whole county. Matt had driven this road numerous times because it was more secluded than driving on the highway one mile north. Matt always drove faster than posted on this road, typically hovering between 45 and 50. Hannah sat next to him in the front seat and they held hands, their arms resting on the console between the seats. Ashli was in the backseat, sitting close to the front so she could talk with Matt and Hannah.

“A hotel room in the city?” Matt asked. Hannah and Matt were trying to plan for their one year anniversary in June. “We did that over spring break only in Denver,” Matt reminded.

“Either way you are getting a hotel room so you might as well start from there,” Ashli said.

They were eight miles west of the city, going about 50. Matt was looking into the rearview mirror as he was talking to Ashli. “What if we choose a hotel and there’s not much around? What then? We need to figure out what to do first then find a hotel.”

“This would be a lot easier if you guys like history or art or museums or really anything,” Ashli said. “Why can’t you guys just do dinner and a movie and then make love all night in a hotel room?”

“That may be what we end up doing,” Hannah smiled.

The intersection of Overbrook Road and Missile Silo Road shifted slightly to the north while going down a hill at the same time. Matt, despite being familiar with the road, didn’t maneuver and went over the hill. He quickly turned the steering wheel which did nothing and then smashed into the road sign and then the deep ditch along the road. The passenger side of the car had careened into the ground where the ditch went up.

Matt unbuckled his seatbelt and opened the door. “Everyone okay?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” Ashli said, climbing back into the backseat after being thrown from it.

“Hannah?” Matt looked at Hannah as he started pulling himself out of the car. “Hannah?”

Riley had been avoiding the viewing room since the funeral started. Friends, distant family, former acquaintances and, for some reason, well-wishers who had no connection to the Saxbergs milled around the viewing room and huge parlor. Riley just sat in the parlor away from everybody.

Tyler walked over to her and kneeled down. “Go in and see your sister,” he said softly and put his hand on Riley’s knee.

She shook her head and moved her leg so Tyler would move his hand. “I can’t,” she croaked. “You don’t have to be here all day.”

“I loved Hannah, too. She was like a sister to me,” Tyler said.

“But she’s not your sister so you don’t have to be here.”

“I’m here for you,” Tyler said and attempted to put his hand back on her leg but she moved it away. He got angry and sighed deeply. “What’s wrong?”

“My sister is dead for starters,” Riley snapped.

“Clearly that’s not all that’s wrong,” Tyler began. “You need to see her, Rile. You need to say
good-bye to Hannah.”

She didn’t budge.

“Come on. I’ll go with you. I will be right by your side the whole time, just like I always am,” Tyler took Riley’s hand and stood up, pulling Riley with him. Riley reluctantly stood up and Tyler held her close to him.

They went into the viewing room where a shiny brown coffin say against the wall. The lid above the head was open and Tyler slowly led Riley to it. Riley’s leg started to shake as she could see Hannah lying peacefully in the coffin.

“Oh, God,” she cried and her right leg buckled. Tyler caught her from falling but she pushed away and ran, sobbing, into the bathroom.

Matt and Ashli had been at the funeral for ten minutes but hadn’t went into the funeral home. “We have to go in at some point,” Ashli said. “She was my best friend and your girlfriend. We’re expected.”

“I know but I’m the reason she’s in there,” Matt said.

Ashli was silent because she knew he was right and she didn’t know what to say without lying. “Besides her family, we were the people closest to her. We’ll say our good-byes and leave.”

Matt nodded, steadied himself and he took Ashli’s hand and they walked in together. As they walked, hand-in-hand, into the viewing room, Matt could feel people talking and staring even though he could not see or hear anyone doing that.

They went up to Hannah and looked at her. Their hands separated and Ashli approached the casket first. “Good-bye, Hannah,” she sniffed. “This is such crap. You were too young. I mean, what is this supposed to teach us? It’s not fair. She shouldn’t be here. It’s not fair,” Ashli began sobbing.

A couple people turned to look at Ashli. “I know, Ash,” Matt said and pulled her away. “Good-bye, Hannah. I wish we could’ve seen where life would’ve taken us. I loved you so much and we never really got a chance to tell each other that. I’ll never forget you Hannah and I hope I get to see you again someday,” he took a joint from his inside jacket pocket and discreetly placed it in the casket with Hannah under her shoulder where it couldn’t be seen.

“Really?” Ashli laughed.

“Shut up. She liked smoking and it’s a good reminder of her friends,” Matt explained. “Come on, we can go.”

“You don’t want to stay for the funeral or graveside service?”

“No. I don’t think she would want me to see her like this for too long.”

Riley had thrown up for the third time when Tyler came into the bathroom. “Don’t look at me,” Riley groaned. Her face was tear-stained and blotched red. “Please leave.”

“Why won’t you let me be here for you?” Tyler asked.

“What are you going to do? You can’t bring Hannah back. You can’t stop the way I feel.”

“I can still be here. I can hold you and remind you of all the good memories you have of Hannah. That’s what boyfriends do.”

“Well, I don’t want you to do that,” Riley wiped her mouth, coughed and stood up. She reached over and flushed the toilet. “I never should’ve…” she started to say but stopped. She washed her hands and face.

“Never should’ve what? Do you regret dating me?”

“No, I just…I should’ve been spending time with my sister instead of with you.”

“Hon, Hannah barely liked you before I came along. You two had really only gotten close over the last three months or so. I don’t think us dating hurt your relationship with Hannah at all,” Tyler explained. “Now, come on. The funeral will be starting soon and we’ll all be going to the cemetery and then the get-together at your house.”

“I don’t want you to be there,” Riley said suddenly.

“At…at your house?”

Riley nodded. “I just want to be with my family today.”

“Ah,” Tyler said. “I just assumed that we loving each other and wanting to be together forever kind of made us family. My mistake.”

“You should just leave and not make this any harder.”

“Are you breaking up with me?”

Riley was silent.

“I am going to go and we can talk about this later. Love you,” Tyler said. Riley remained silent as Tyler left the bathroom.

After the funeral and graveside service, the Saxbergs returned home where a couple of close friends were preparing and setting out food. Riley immediately went upstairs to her room where she began loosening or removing clothing. She glanced at her desk where a picture of her and Tyler and a picture of her and Hannah were tacked on with a push pin.

She held back tears and began undoing her shirt when there was a knock on her door. “Yeah?” she answered.

Brent came in. It had been the first time Brent had been in Riley’s room since they moved to this house. “Hi, Riley.”

Riley spoke softly. “Hi.”

“You know that I love you, right?”

“Yeah. I know, Dad.”

“I know that I haven’t really shown it lately but I do love you and I am so sorry for everything that I’ve done or haven’t done,” Brent started to cry.

“It’s okay, Dad. I’m not mad at you,” she had started crying now.

“You’re the only child—the only daughter I have left and I don’t want to lose you,” Brent really
started to cry, stepped toward Riley and scooped her up into his arms. Both started bawling loudly.

“You’re not going to lose me, Dad,” she hugged him tightly.

“I’m sorry, Riley. I am so sorry…” he cried.

This was the first time Tyler had been with someone since he and Riley had broken up almost a month ago. Melissa Markley had asked Tyler out several times during the last couple weeks of school but he had turned her down. He gave in and after their date, the two of them ended up in her bedroom.

It wasn’t like being with Riley who was attentive to her needs and his. He looked down at Melissa, her eyes were closed and her mouth was open slightly, small sounds coming out in rhythm with their movements. He remembered Riley and her three stages. First, she bit her bottom lip then her lips curled into a smile, her eyes remaining open the whole time. After a while, Riley’s eyes closed as she immersed herself in their love-making, softly touching his hip and taking his hand in hers. As they would finish, Riley would look up and watch Tyler move his hips and help bring her to orgasm.

Tyler imagined that he was with Riley again which made him change his style which excited Melissa and her moans got faster and louder. When they were finished, Melissa panted heavily, smiling at the ceiling.

“I knew you weren’t gay,” she said, trying to catch her breath. “My friends didn’t think so. I’ll have to tell them tomorrow.” She rolled over and looked at Tyler.

“Yeah, I’m not gay. You didn’t have to have sex with me to prove that,” Tyler said, trying not to show how angry he was at her comment.

“But you dated Riley Saxberg for most of the year,” Melissa said.

“Who is a girl,” Tyler said, curtly.

“But…” Melissa started to question but Tyler cut her off.

“Riley is transgender. You’d think after a year people would understand or at least not care anymore,” Tyler complained exasperated. He finished getting dressed.

“Are you leaving?” Melissa asked.

“Yeah. It’s after eleven. I should get home,” Tyler’s tone softened.

“Thanks for the nice evening,” she said.

“You’re welcome. And thank you for everything.”

“We’ll have to do this again sometime,” Melissa smiled and hoped Tyler would decide to stay.

“See you around, Mel,” Tyler said and he left the bedroom. When he got in his car, he sighed loudly and pulled out of the driveway. As he drove by the drive-in diner, he saw that Jackson was there. He pulled into one of the parking spots and got out.

“Tyler, didn’t expect to see you tonight,” Jackson said. “Didn’t you have a date with Melissa?”

“Yeah,” Tyler began. “It went okay. It was a decent evening until we had sex.”

Jackson’s mouth fell open. “Really?”

Tyler nodded. “It was to make sure that I wasn’t gay but she didn’t tell me that until after we were done.”

“Oh, that sucks. Was it good?”

“It was fine but sleeping with her and the whole evening in general just reminded me how much I love Riley and that I want her back,” Tyler revealed. “I’m gonna go over to her house right now and get her back.”


“I’m not sure. I’m thinking I’ll just get her attention from the backyard at her window. It’ll be romantic.”

“She’s not home,” Sydney said from behind.


“After school got out she left for Iowa to stay with an aunt for awhile,” Sydney said.


“She wanted to get away from town for a bit and her parents wanted some time alone. She said she’ll be back in August but didn’t rule out staying there for her senior year.”


“Please stop saying ‘what,’” Sydney crossed her arms.

“Come on, Jackson,” Tyler grabbed Jackson’s hand and dragged him to his car. “We’re going to her house. Maybe Sydney is wrong or lying or something.”

The Saxberg house was completely dark except for a porch light. “Everybody’s in bed,” Jackson whispered. “It’s after midnight.”

“Stay here,” Tyler said and he got out of his Blazer. He walked up to the front door and began ringing the doorbell and knocking constantly. Finally, lights started coming on and Brent opened the door.

“What the hell?”

“Is Riley home?”

“No, she’s with her aunt in Des Moines,” Brent said. “Why?”

“Who is it, Brent?” Renee shouted from the top of the stairs.

“It’s Tyler, Riley’s old boyfriend,” Brent shouted back.

“Oh. She’s with her aunt in Des Moines,” she shouted down.

“Yeah, I just told him,” Brent shouted again.

“Oh. Okay,” she replied and went back to the bedroom.

“Why do you want to see Riley?”

“I love your daughter, sir and I wanted to come over and try to get her back.”

Brent smiled. “I’m glad. Riley really loved and cared for you, too. The time you two were together was the happiest I had ever seen Riley since she was 13 and I was surprised when you two broke up.”

“I was surprised, too. I still don’t even know why. Where is she in Des Moines? I need to see her.”

“She works at her aunt’s store. Des Moines River Fabrics. Drive carefully.”

“Thanks, Mr. Saxberg,” Tyler said and ran back to his car. He got in and started it up.

“What did Riley’s dad have to say,” Jackson asked.

“Are you up for driving to Des Moines with me?”



“We need to stop and get something to eat,” Jackson said.

“We can do that. So, off to Des Moines?”

“You’re acting as if I could stop you.”

Making only two stops in St. Joseph and Bethany, Missouri, the trip took just a little over five hours, putting them in Des Moines at about five-thirty in the morning. They pulled into the parking lot of the strip mall where Des Moines River Fabrics was and parked away from the store near the main street.

“Now what? It’s got to be at least four hours before she’s showing up for work,” Jackson said.

“We’ll just wait here. Take a nap. I nearly fell asleep during that last twenty mile stretch,” Tyler said. “We’ll nap for a few hours and be well-rested for the day.”

Tyler and Jackson got as comfortable as they could. Despite his excitement, Tyler fell asleep fairly quickly while Jackson lingered about ten minutes longer.

Tyler was awakened by the temperature rising in the Blazer. He reached over and tapped a button on the radio which showed the time of 9:48. He looked out the window and saw numerous cars in the parking lot. He looked out toward the store and saw someone walk in. “Jackson,” he reached into the backseat and shook Jackson. “Jackson! It’s almost ten.”

“Zuh? What?” he rolled over and nearly fell off of the seat.

“The store is open.”

“You going to head on up there?” Jackson yawned.

“What if she doesn’t want me back? What if she’s not in there? What if she’s with someone else?” Tyler started doubting himself.

“You drove five hours to see her which I think she will consider very romantic and I doubt she’s dating someone else,” Jackson said.

“What if she is though? It’s possible. I had a date and sex just last night,” Tyler said.

“Just go,” Jackson shooed.

Tyler opened the door and got out. He stretched for a few seconds then headed to the store. He went in and looked around. He saw Riley, in an apron, cutting fabric for a customer on the other side of the store. He walked over and waited just out of her eye line.

“All right. Here you go, three yards of felt,” she smiled and handed the folded fabric to the customer.

“Thank you,” the customer said and walked away.

“Hi,” Tyler said.

Riley turned to the voice and saw Tyler. Her eyes welled up and she ran to him. “Oh thank God,” she said. They embraced and kissed, holding each other tightly until it felt like they were the only ones on Earth.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

1: Taking Shelter

Back in January and February, there was an event at the Volland Store southwest of Alma that was of photographs that Tom Parish took of arched cellars in the Flint Hills. He spent several years documenting over 300 man-made caves around the Flint Hills from the Nebraska border through Morris County and photographing over 55 of them in beautiful 360 degree images. The cellars/caves/shelters were used for cold storage, storm shelters, short-term dwellings, and many other things. When I first read about the project in the Kansas City Star, I found it fascinating and wandered through Parish’s website, clicking on the little triangles where he had found cellars. On two Saturdays in February, the Volland Store offered cellar tours which I was unable to go on because of previous plans and lack of money. Then they offered another couple of tours in April which I was able to do. The tour also gave me a reason to wander Alma and return to the ghost town of Volland which I hadn’t been to since 2009. It was amazing to see how the old brick Kratzer Store transformed into the Volland Store, an modern art gallery, gathering place, and guest room. It was inspiring to see the center of a community no longer around still serving the communities that are.

The fairly large group of us boarded a school bus and headed off back to Alma where we stopped at Palenske Hall, a building that used to be a saloon and then a bank. It is currently used for the Wabaunsee County Economic Development and Emergency Management. The cellar was probably used to house alcohol. Palenske Hall was built in 1873 and rebuilt in 1890 after a fire. Since this cellar was actually used for storage for a business, it was one of the larger we were in with a height of eight feet.

After Palenske Hall, we headed south out of Alma on K-99 toward Lake Wabaunsee. A couple miles west, we pulled into an almost abandoned property--a house had been torn down years ago and only steps to it remained. There were two caves on this property, one was 7 feet in height but was filled with water so inaccessible for exploration. The other cellar had two chambers, both 5 ½ feet tall and built into the banks of a creek.
The smaller cellar with water.

The bigger cellar outer arch. Note hanging stones in doorway to second cellar.

Inside the second cellar chamber.

Steps to the house that was demolished years ago.
We headed back to Alma but turned onto Low Water South Road toward Hessdale Road. We saw two cellars in the vicinity of a place called Thoesville, a small community that apparently vyed for county seat against Alma. I can’t find any information on Thoesville except on old maps showing the abundance of Thoes in the area. The “town” supposedly had a post office which is not listed on the Kansas Historical Society’s post office list but small post offices serving only a few residences are abundant in Kansas. We only got to see the exterior of these two Thoesville cellars. The first was built behind the post office, the second was constructed on top of what is called Lookout Hill and was said to be a hideout for bootleggers and bandits. Wild Bill Hickok is said to have used the cellar at one point.
The cellar built behind the Thoesville post office.

The cellar on Lookout Hill.

We continued along Hessdale Road to the Elmer and Evelyn Zeckser property just past Alma City Lake. Elmer and Evelyn were married in the 1930s, Elmer’s father, Frederick, moved his family into a beautiful stone house around the turn of the century. The stone house was considered the most beautiful stone house in the county and built in the 1880s or 1890s. In the 1940s, a wood frame house was built to the north of the stone house. The stone house was rented out for the next several years until it became abandoned. Due to cracking in the walls, the Zecksers, for reasons unknown to Evelyn, tore down the house. Evelyn recalled that she had no pictures of the house where she had started raising her family. The cellar was built into the hill near the stone house and had a covered entrance attached to the house. 7 ½ feet tall, this was my favorite cellar of the ones that we saw.

I believe this slight level rise with a dismantled stone foundation
was the location of the old stone house that stood for more than
50 years.
The next cellar was built into an embankment and seemed to have been recently restored. Stone wall ruins still stand a top of the cellar and part of the original house sits to the west. The property owners allowed us to view their other outbuildings including a renovated barn that is now a guest house, an outdoor stone fireplace, and a round silo.

The ruins of the original house.

The round stone silo.

The last, and largest cellar, was at an agricultural site called StoneBridge, the original homestead of Christian and Magnalena Kuenzli. In 1859, the Kuenzli’s moved to Wabaunsee County where they became involved in many different ventures including livestock, a vineyard, and cheese manufacturing. The cheese business failed due to weather and problems getting the cheese to market. The cellars were built in 1860 and 1861, are 8 and 10 feet high. In 1905, a fire mostly destroyed the house and it was rebuilt to be a barn. The land stayed in the Kuenzli family for 145 years before being passed to Bill and Kathy Hogue in 2004 who spent years renovating the barn and the nearby summer house.
The former house-cum-barn, now a museum commemorating
local agriculture.

The summer house.

A newly built stone wall with the ruins of another Kuenzli house
in the background.

This was something close to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and if other tours are offered I highly recommend signing up. For more information on the cellars, you can go to For more information on The Volland Store, go to and for more information on StoneBridge, go to

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Telltale Head

Episode Number 7G07 (#108)
Created by Matt Groening; Developed by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon
Written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Sam Simon, Matt Groening
Directed by Rich Moore
Starring Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, and Harry Shearer

For some reason, Bart and Homer are carrying the head of a statue through Springfield and are soon chased by a mob with torches and pitchforks. We soon learn that Bart had sawed the head of town founder, Jebidiah Springfield, off because some older kids thought it would be cool and Bart wanted to fit in. As the mob surrounds them, Bart tells the story.

The Simpsons are off to church but no one but Marge really wants to go. Bart and Lisa are in Sunday School and learning about who and what go to Heaven or Hell. It's here that the kids learn that Heaven is only for people and not Lisa's cat Snowball or cavemen but a soldier's gangrenous leg will be waiting for him in Heaven.

On the way home, Bart sees that Space Mutants IV is playing and wants to see it but Marge refuses. He later sneaks out to see it anyway where he runs into Dolph, Jimbo and Kearney who are sneaking into the theater. The kids are kicked out of the movie and go to the Kwik-E-Mart where the older boys shoplift while Apu's back is turned making the Squishees that Bart is buying for his new friends. They lounge on the ground looking up at the clouds and see some very specific formations.
Bart then sees a cloud that looks like the statue of Jebidiah Springfield only with the head cut off and Jimbo remarks that he wishes someone would cut the head off which gives Bart a wonderful idea.

Convinced by Homer that popularity is the only thing that matters, Bart sneaks out at night to saw the head off of the statue and feels bad almost immediately. It's soon learned how beloved the town founder was to the people of Springfield and even to Dolph, Jimbo and Kearney who threaten to knock the block off the person who cut the head off.

Friendless, public enemy number one, and carrying around a giant bronze head, Bart buries the head in his backyard but admits what he did when Jebidiah keeps talking to him. Realizing that this is partly his fault, Homer goes with Bart to return the head when they run into the mob of Springfieldians and wind up back at the beginning of the episode.
After hearing the story, the mob "no longer feels like killing anymore" so Bart returns the head and everything is wrapped up nicely. Homer cautions Bart, however, that not all mobs are this nice.

This is a short post because the notes I wrote for this episode were lost and I am currently unable to watch the episode and write new ones. #ElevenSeasons will be going on hiatus until I can figure out a way to watch the episode and get screenshots. Thanks for reading and I hope to have #ElevenSeasons back as soon as I can.