The Summer of '62; Episode 63
A Visit From Jenny
Monday morning Rich slowly climbed onto the bus that stopped in front of his home. There were plenty of empty seats.
Jenny Chandler sat alone. She got on the bus two stops before Rich and he sat as far from her as possible. She broke his heart.
During the ride to school Rich tried not to look at her, but could not resist.
She stared expressionless out the window as the bus bumped and jiggled along on the country roads. Rich saw her nearly everyday and talked to her. Her clothing was simple and colorless unlike many of the girls. Her hair was always pulled in a pony tail as if done very quickly because unruly strands of hair stuck out all over. She was unpretentious and smiled shyly. She had a sister who was five years older and quite the opposite. She was attractive, popular, and outgoing, but quit school two years earlier because she was pregnant. Rich often surmised that perhaps Jenny bore some of that shame.
At school before the bell rang for homeroom Don Hastings stood relaxed against Rich's locker.
“Our church is having a camp-out this weekend and I can invite someone,” Don said. “Talk it over with your mom and dad and see if you can come.”
“Sure,” Rich said, “I could use some time away.”
“It’s a youth group thing,” Don explained. “And I’m the only one in our school that goes to our church. So you won‘t have to put up with any of this crap. It will just be a bunch of kids from other schools. My mom thinks it would be good for you to get your mind off things.”
“Where’s it at?” Rich asked.
“A woods near Spencerville,” Don said.
“What do I need?” Rich said.
“Just bring your camping gear and a change of cloths. All the food is provided,” Don said. “My mom was thinking that if you can be ready right after school, Friday, we’ll pick you up. We play at Spencerville this week and after the game we can just go to the camp site. They got some things planned for Saturday and we’ll have a youth service at the camp Sunday morning. So it will be going to church without really going to church. If you want to bring your school cloths for Monday you can stay at our house Sunday night and get on the bus at our house Monday morning.”
Rich felt excited. It was refreshing and made his day somewhat pleasant.
Mr. Larsen had Monday off from work and Mrs. Larsen got home early from her job. When Rich got off the bus he told them about Don’s invitation and ask them if he could go. They said yes.
Rich grabbed his football and went out to the barnyard and kicked field goals over the corn bin. He retrieved the ball from the other side of the bin and ran with the ball back to the place where he was kicking the ball from.
On the other side of the fence to the barnyard Jenny Chandler stood erect with her legs pressed tightly together and her arms folded.
Rich ignored her and leaned the ball upright against a clump of grass. He looked at her lonely figure as he stepped back and prepared to kick. He kicked the ball over the bin determined to ignore her. He stepped toward the bin to once again retrieve the ball. “She will stay there until I give her my attention,” Rich thought. He walked toward her and the closer he got to her the softer his hurt feelings became.
Her face was drawn and her eyes were puffy and red. Jenny quivered.
“Looks like you had a fire,” Jenny said.
“Yeah,” Rich said, “but that's not important. What’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry for the way I treated you at the dance,” Jenny said tearfully.
“Don’t worry about it,” Rich said.
“I know I hurt you and that’s the last thing I wanted to do,” Jenny said.
“I got over it,” Rich said.
“I lied to you,” Jenny said wiping a tear from her cheek. “Nobody’s going to ask me to homecoming and I really wanted to dance with you.”
“Okay let’s settle this right now. Will you go to the homecoming with me?” Rich said trying to cheer Jenny. “And we can dance all we want.”
“I can’t,” Jenny said.
“That’s okay,” Rich said. “It’s no big deal.” Rich leaned forward against the fence. He was confused.
“I got to tell you something,” Jenny said.
Rich waited. “Take your time. What ever you have to say, we're friends. I'll understand.”