Jimmy Rudek woke up late after a night sweltering in the late June humidity, threw off the sweat-soaked sheets and padded into the kitchen, where he poured himself a steaming cup of joe. Sipping at the scalding liquid, he passed through his living room and threw open his front door. Out in the driveway his dog Butch was peeing on the bumper of his battered truck, staining the blue-on-gold bumper sticker that read: Hub city---God’s Country, Minnesota. The truck was on the fritz again. Needed a new battery.
Just then, old Bud Gwost waddled up the sidewalk with the mail.
“Nothing but bills I’m afraid, Jim,” he said, hitching his mailbag higher up on his shoulder. “That and the Sears catalogue. I ever tell you we used them for toilet paper back in the days before indoor plumbing?”
A conversation with Bud inevitably led to the merits and demerits of his youth. “Must have been tough in the wintertime, Bud,” Jimmy said, just going with the flow.
“Never heard of a chamber pot I suppose?” Bud said. “You young pups don’t know how good you’ve got it.”
Yeah, Jimmy really had it good all right. Seems like he’d been working at the Hub City Post Office Saturdays and filling in on vacations forever, busting his nut with lawn care and snow-plowing on the side, not to mention National Guard training a Fort Wendell north of town once a month. Jimmy wished Bud would hurry up and retire so’s he could get his job.
Jimmy slapped Bud on the back. “Thank God for Thomas Crapper,” he said.
“Who the hell is Thomas Crapper?” Bud asked.
“He’s the guy that invented the flush toilet.”
Bud doffed his cap and scratched his gray, thinning hair, then started wheezing so bad Jimmy couldn’t tell if it was a laugh or a fit of emphysema. “That’s a good one, boy,” he said. “The guy’s name is a synonym for shit. I can’t wait to tell that one to the old lady.”
When Bud was gone, Jimmy plopped down in his creaky recliner and sighed like a punctured inner tube. If he didn’t get a new battery soon, he wasn’t going to be able to mow the grounds at Northern States Power Co., the best job he’d had all year. Had to be at least two acres of good, thick bluegrass.
Jimmy flipped through the Sears catalogue. He liked to look at the girls in their skimpy costumes. Never ogled the girls in Playboy or went to R-rated movies though. He got a queasy feeling in his gut when he saw a naked woman, probably a carryover from his days attending Green River Reformed.
Although his dad never went to church, he made Jimmy go. “Have a little respect for your ma, Jim,” he’d say, spooning a mouthful of oatmeal past his bristling chin. Jimmy’s mother was one of those ladies who went door-to-door asking folks if they thought they were saved. Jimmy would spend three hours braced in a middle pew of Green River Reformed with a cramped tailbone, listening to Rev. Falk’s spooky sermon. What an eerie place Green River was. Brown walls, brown floors, and brown people. Windows without the comfort of stained glass. The smell of industrial-strength floor varnish. No music.
The congregation sat bolt upright when Reverend Falk took the lectern and leaned forward. Rimless glasses, clean-shaven, no forehead, hair beginning midway along his crown and greased back.
Reverend Falk always preached a version of the same sermon. Man was a vile, sexually-obsessed insect bound for the fiery pits of hell, where the cackling, hunch-backed mutants stoked the flames. Jimmy’s knees would turn to rubber and his bowels would loosen. He’d have nightmares for the rest of the week: Reverend Falk was a dentist wrenching his blasphemous teeth from his skull.
So Jimmy didn’t go for anything pornographic. He found what he was looking for on page thirteen, the one particular girl in the Sears catalogue that he liked. Dark-haired Raven had arched eyebrows that gave her a sort of perpetual frown, even when she showed her dimples. No earrings in any of the pictures, or discernible make-up. Thanks to Rev. Falk, Jimmy didn’t approve of women wearing rouge or lipstick or even earrings. In one picture, Raven had her hair up in uncombed curls, and she was wearing a sleeveless T-shirt with the number 38 in a circle between her breasts, and she had on cutoffs they called short-alls in the catalogue. Her perfect white teeth gleamed, and her slighted slanted eyes the color of bluebells seemed to laugh at the camera man. About her only fault was her legs; they were kind of skinny.
Jimmy ripped the picture out and tucked it in his billfold so he could look at her whenever he wanted. He’d never been too successful with girls. He guessed it was his nose, too big for his face, and his weak chin. Still had all his hair, though, thank God. It was so thick he had to go to the barber every two weeks, or get called on the carpet by his supervisor at the post office.
Whistling for Butch, Jimmy strode off toward Ward’s Standard where he’d try to weasel a new battery out of Al Ward, the owner, who’d been his dad’s fishing buddy. The Sheltie trotted up and attacked the ripped part of Jimmy’s blue jean cuff. Jimmy knelt and ruffled the dog’s golden-brown fur, then slapped him on the nose, a signal to nix the tomfoolery. A neighbor had given Jimmy the dog when Butch was a pup. When Butch wasn’t roaming the neighborhood digging up gardens and hunting cats, he was the best friend Jimmy had ever had.
Al agreed to let Jimmy have the battery on credit and Jimmy and Butch moved on toward the Super Valu, just a couple of blocks away. All Jimmy had in the fridge were bread heels and wilted lettuce. When he ran out of Cocoa Pops, he was forced to do something about it. He had them every day, sometimes twice. Usually he hated grocery shopping. When he was forced to go, he’d be in and out of the supermarket in ten minutes.
Jimmy tied Butch to a grocery cart outside the Super Valu, strolled through the self-opening doors, past the video display, past the magazines and paperback books, past a lady with pizza samples, on a b-line to the produce section. According to a talk show he’d seen on singles, the supermarket was an ideal spot to meet women, and the fruits and vegetable section was the best place of all.
Twenty-five years old and he hadn’t had a date in over a year. The last one was with Emily Linnerud, a fellow alumnus of Green River Reformed. His mother had set that one up. That’s how desperate Jimmy had become. He took her to see “Pretty Woman” at the multi-plex in St. Cloud. Jimmy thought she’d like something romantic. But he hadn’t counted on Julia Roberts playing a prostitute. Emily made him take her home. She was kind of mousy anyway.
Hardly anybody in the Super Valu; nobody in produce, except for an old lady squeezing the tomatoes. Jimmy got his Cocoa Pops and other staples and was on his way to the cooler to get his milk when he saw her. Jimmy grabbed his back pocket, took out his wallet, inspected the picture. She was the spitting image of Raven, the girl in the Sears catalogue. Same little smirk when she smiled, same everything. And she stared straight at Jimmy as if she knew him. Jimmy ducked behind a Doritos display. When he peeked back out, she was gone. As he collected his milk, Jimmy grumbled to himself, calling himself a gutless little mama’s boy. “She wanted to talk to you. You’re going to be an old bachelor. Your old man already thinks you’re gay.”
Jimmy went through the express line, then piled his grocery bags next to a bench, waiting for somebody he knew to hitch a ride. He sighed, watching the customers go through the lines. None of them would ever make the Sears catalogue.
Then she sat down next to him, poking a cigarette in his face, her blue eyes boring into his, an electric shock surging through his loins.
“Can I get a light?” she said.
He cursed himself for never having acquired the filthy habit. “S-sorry, I don’t smoke,” he said. “I could get you some from the check-out lady.”
“And I thought chivalry was dead,” she said, smiling that I-could-kiss-your-face-off smile.
He lit her cigarette and she inhaled, crossing legs that were much better than the ones in the catalogue. A butterfly tattoo on one well-shaped ankle seemed to flutter in the fluorescent supermarket light.
“Waiting for somebody?” she said, as if she knew he’d been watching the checkout line for her to come through.
“Just tired,” he said. “Everything seems to be conspiring against me. My truck is down with battery trouble, and I have this deal to cut the lawn at Northern States Power. Got a new one, but---”
“Don’t feel pregnant,” she said. “You should try walking in these shoes.” Jimmy didn’t know if she meant the extra-clunky-looking clogs or if she, too, had problems.
He caught a whiff of what he thought was Charlie perfume, a brand his sister wore. Why not just come right out with it and ask her if she was the girl in the Sears catalogue? Most girls would take it as a compliment. “Are you a model?” he finally said.
“Nah. I’m nothing right now. Three jobs in the last six months, would you believe? Receptionist in a doctor’s office. Clerking at Wal-Mart. And two days at day care. That was the worst one by far. I’m never gonna be a mother, let me tell you. Is that what you do, lawn care?”
He shrugged. “I got a part-time gig at the post office, too.”
“Wow. Civil service. You’re set for life. They can’t fire you there.”
Jimmy fished the picture out of his wallet, showed it to her. “The reason I asked about the modeling . . .”
“Oh, that doesn’t look like me,” she said, her voice cracking. “She’s got those storky little legs. I’m almost insulted.” She knelt down and picked up one of Jimmy’s bags. “Come on, I’ll give you a ride.”
They went outside, Jimmy unhitched Butch, and they all piled into a dirty brown ‘77 Merc, Butch in the back with the pop cans, McDonald’s wrappers and other crud.
“Just sweep that stuff on the floor. I’m not your June Cleaver type. I guess if I had a newer car I’d shovel it out once in a while.”
“No sweat,” he said. “You should see my place.” He held out his hand to shake. “Name’s Rudek, Jimmy.”
“Smith, Rosemary,” she said, clutching his hand with the grip of a man. “Everybody calls me Rosie.”
If her name had been Raven, Jimmy would’ve had to get fitted for a straight jacket. “You might try at the post office if you’re job hunting. There’s a test . . .”
“I was never any good at tests,” she said. “Attention deficit something or other.”
She started the car, the mufflerless explosion causing Butch to howl and hold his paws to his ears.
“I’ll help with the lawn if you want. How much you getting’ if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Seventy-five smackers. I’ll give you half.”
“Nah. It’s your equipment and you found the job. Gimme twenty-five and we’re square. I was gonna spend the afternoon watching soaps anyway.” The brightness of her smile scorched his eyes. He couldn’t picture her behind a lawn mower.
All afternoon Jimmy humped it, loading a dozen bags with clippings from the neglected lawn at Northern States Power, the grass pollen causing his sinuses to run like the spring melt. Mainly it took so long ‘cause blisters swelled on Rosie’s palms after a round or two pushing Jimmy’s extra John Deere mulcher. She spent the rest of the afternoon playing with Butch and sunning herself, causing quite a stir when she doffed her top and lay there on her stomach. Said she needed to tan all over for a possible job opening she had. She wouldn’t tell Jimmy what it was. And she took the twenty-five bucks when they were through mowing.
A few days later, Jimmy was changing the oil on his mowers when Rosie sauntered by his house. Butch charged after her like a racing greyhound on the trail of one of those phony rabbits, caught up to her, and stood on his hind legs, begging for her to pet him.
Frozen, Jimmy just stood there, wiping his hands on a rag. What was she doing walking by his house? Could this be a coincidence? Not hardly. She wants me, he thought. Nah, she’s probably somebody like that lady in the movie with Michael Douglas, the one-night stand who wouldn’t let it go. He’d pretty much given up on her after her lackluster performance at Northern States Power. If he hooked up with her, he’d wind up paying off her credit cards and co-signing for a new car. So damn beautiful, though. Almost worth it.
Jimmy went to retrieve Butch. “Raven, is that you?” he said.
“Name’s not Raven,” she said. “Is that what you call the catalogue girl?”
Jimmy felt the blood rush to his face. “Yeah, pretty sick, isn’t it? I had this awful religious upbringing. Girls kind of spook me.”
“Ah, he’s blushing.” she knelt and gave Butch’s ears a good going over. Butch went orgasmic, a puddle of drool accumulating at his paws. “My first husband was like that. Went to church more than we had sex.”
Jimmy felt his face turn a deeper shade of crimson. “How many husbands have you had?” he asked.
“Only two, so far. I’m working on getting rid of the second one. Nice house you got there. I have to confess I was looking for where you lived. I almost called you the other night. Do you think you could put in a word for me at the post office? The apartment manager is after me about the rent.”
“That job fell through, huh?”
“What job was that?”
“The one you said you needed the all-over tan for?”
Jimmy wondered whether Rosie ever told the truth. She really freaked him out, and it wasn’t just that he’d seen her first in the Sears catalogue. Even timid women like Martha scared him. This one made him want to dig a hole and pull it in after him. But he didn’t tell her that. Instead, he said, “Sure, I’ll coach you on the test if you want. I still have my study booklet somewhere I think.”
“There’s no time like the present,” she said.
“Why not. I don’t have any other jobs today. I’ll make us some lemonade.”
Raven/Rosey was the worst study partner Jimmy’d ever had. She just could not seem to concentrate. First she made peanut butter sandwiches, then she flipped on the TV to watch Oprah’s Book Club, and finally she told him now cute he was, and they spent the rest of the time necking on the couch, during which time he got his first ever French kiss. She hinted at the bedroom, but he played dense.
Finally, she got around to her real purpose. “I’m really hard up for money, Jimmy,” she said. “You still got that fifty?”
“Nah, I had to pay for that battery I told you about.”
“I really, really need money. I’ll do anything.”
Jimmy gulped. Rev. Falk’s sermon played in his mind: He who falls prey to the sins of the flesh shall be covered in boils, shall suffer from bowel obstruction, shall be unable to pass water. “You’re not talking sex, are you Rosie?” he said. “Because I wasn’t raised that way.”
Her face pruned up and she spit the words at him. “Little holy-roller’s afraid he’ll go to hell, huh? Well, I’ll have you know I’d sooner do it with that dog out there than with you.” On her way out, she slammed the screen door so hard it came off the hinges.
“I always knew it was too good to be true ,” he told himself, dropping the Sears catalogue in the trash. Guys like me we don’t get girls like Raven.
A couple of weeks later, Martin Janey, his supervisor at the post office, called Jimmy into his office. “Got a new girl I want you to train in for me,” he said, exhaling smoke from his non-filter cigarette. Janey looked more like a meat packer than a post office supervisor, with curly black hair on his head and the backs of his hands. Liked to show off his pipes, too, with his sleeves rolled up past his elbows. “A real looker. Can’t imagine what she wants with the post office. She could be in the movies.”
Jimmy knew before he asked. “Name wouldn’t be Rosemary Smith, would it?”
“Yeah, how’d you know?”
“Met her. Helped her study for the test.”
“Why you old dog you. If I wasn’t married with the three kids, I’d follow her around like the hippies followed the Grateful Dead.”
The red, white and blue mail truck whisked across the Mississippi River Bridge, Rosie at the controls on the right side of the truck, Jimmy sorting stacks of mail on her left. “It’s a bitch getting used to driving with the steering wheel on the wrong side,” she said. “I’ve already had a couple of close calls.”
“You’ll get used to it,” he said. “I hear they drive like this in England all the time.”
Rosie seemed to have forgotten all about their little fracas. “Thought I’d never pass that test on my own, didn’t you?” she said. “Scraped by with a seventy-one. Ain’t that a kick? I figure I’ll do this until I get settled in my evening job.” She made a left turn at the light, and they cruised toward the starch processing plant, their first stop.
“Evening job?” he said.
“Remember I said I needed a full-body tan? Well, that job was out at Fort Wendell. You know the club they got outside the front gate?”
She rolled the truck up on the lawn and braked. “Yeah, that’s it. They got strippers there. And some of the other girls hinted around that you could do better after work.”
Jimmy’s eyes got huge. “You mean prostitution?”
She waved at him dismissively. “Why not? What else is marriage but glorified prostitution? I can get a couple of hundred a pop.”
“Jesus, Rosie. I think there’s some kind of morals clause in the postal service regs.”
“Not that I noticed. Next week I go on weekdays. How long did you say you’ve been waitin’ to go on weekdays?”
He bit his lip. Janey had fallen under Raven’s spell.
Jimmy wasn’t about to take Raven’s treachery lying down. The next day he straight-armed his way into Janey’s office, bracing the man about Raven/Rosie. “Rosie tells me she’s going on weekdays, Mart. I’ve been subbing for two years now, and I got a better grade on the test.”
Janey put his feet up on the desk, rolled down his sleeves, tightened his yellow checkered tie. “Actually she got one of the highest grades ever on the test, Jim. And we’ve had nothing but compliments from the people on her route, something I can’t say about you.”
Jimmy grabbed the edge of his chair, his knuckles turning white. “You never said anything about any complaints.”
“You gotta learn to be a little more effusive, Jim. A mailman is practically a member of the family you know.”
Jimmy made a strangling sound, constricting his throat. “But she told me she didn’t do so hot on the test.” Jimmy’d feel like a shit if he told Mart about Raven’s stripping or the implied prostitution.
Martin smiled, looked at him as if Jimmy were a big-eyed little orphan boy in one of those public service ads. “Look, Jim. I feel bad about this. Let me take you out for dinner tonight. You doing anything? You name the place.”
“How about Fourteen Acres?” Jimmy said.
“Oh, yeah. Been meaning to try their food. Heard they got a bang-up fish fry. We’ll have a few beers afterwards. Next opening comes up I promise you’ll get it.”
The first stripper was a big blonde who had kind of a cowboy act. She was pretty damn good with a rope, lassoed Martin from a good thirty feet, rubbed his face in her 44s. Martin forgot all about the fish fry.
The second stripper started out dressed as a Geisha. She was really quick with those fans, and they were always strategically placed. By this time, Jimmy was getting that queasy feeling in his stomach, and he felt as though he’d been threshing grain all afternoon on his grandfather’s farm, all dirty, hot, and smelly. He wished Raven would hurry up and get on out there. He wasn’t sure it was her when she did slither out onto the stage, rigged out in a cat suit. She must have recognized Jimmy and Martin, too, because she never did take off the mask part of her costume. Took off all the rest, though. Everything. Jimmy had to have her now.
“Hot damn, Jim!” Martin said on the way home. “That’s the best night out I’ve had since the marines. I can’t believe we’ve got something like that in little old Hub City. Wasn’t the one in the cat suit something else?”
The next morning Butch was gone. Jimmy didn’t think anything of it until that night when the Sheltie didn’t show up for his dinner. Usually all Jimmy had to do was bang his supper dish with a butter knife and Butch would come charging across the lawn, his pink tongue lolling like Michael Jordan driving the lane. Not this time.
Jimmy couldn’t sleep that night. Raven, it had to be her. She was showing him that two could play at this game. If she’d done anything to Butch, he’d chop her into fish bait.
On Thursday morning, it was just before the Fourth of July and some kids were setting off fireworks early, Jimmy went into the post office to ask Raven if she knew anything about Butch.
She was standing on the platform at the rear, just getting ready to go out on her route. It was kind of hard to believe but she looked even better in her uniform than she did in the cat suit. “Can I talk to you, Raven?” he said.
“Sure thing, Jim,” she said, acting as though nothing had happened since the last time they’d talked.
“I might as well get to the point,” he said. “My dog is missing. He’s never been gone this long before. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you? Maybe tryin’ to get even with me for taking Martin out to see your act?”
She shed her cap, combed her Cleopatra bangs down over her forehead. Her hair was as sleek and black as a baby seal’s and he wanted her more than ever. “What you must think of me, Jimmy,” she said, her voice cracking in that sexy way it always did. “I had no idea you brought Martin to see my act, and I haven’t seen your dog. Have you tried the Humane Shelter?”
“Are you telling me you turned him in to the shelter?”
“Not hardly. I’m just trying to be helpful. It’s been fun, Jim, but I gotta get out on the route. Martin’s got me up for employee of the week, did I tell yah?”
She thrown away Butch’s license, and it cost Jimmy a hundred and fifty dollars to get the dog out of lock-up, for his shots and everything. He had to sell the John Deere mulcher to come up with the money. He knew when he was beat. She was the devil.
The following Monday, Martin Janey called Jimmy into his office. The man reached for one of the non-filtered cigarettes from the red and white Pall Mall package. He seemed to be smoking more than ever lately. “We’re gonna have to let you go, Jim,” Martin said. “Of course, you have the right to a hearing . . .”
“Does this have anything to do with Rosie, Mart?”
“Not at all.” Janey could not look Jimmy in the eye. “You weren’t available last week when Carter went on vacation.”
“But I had guard duty, Mart!”
Jimmy was tempted to bum one of Mart’s cigarettes he was so rattled.
“I warned you not to join, didn’t I? We need reliable substitutes.”
“Come on, Mart? You’re cutting your own throat. When the postmaster hears Rosie’s been doing a strip act out at Fourteen Acres and that you knew about it, you’re gonna wind up homeless.”
“You gonna tell him, Jim? I thought it was ‘turn the other cheek’ with you Christian types.” Martin lit another cigarette off the burned-down butt of his old one.
“Maybe I’m not as Christian as you think, Mart.”
“Yes you are, Jim.”
“I can’t believe you’re doing this, Mart. I thought you and me were friends. Are you sure everything is all right. You look nervous.”
“It’s nothing. The old lady and I are on the outs again is all. She kicked me out of the house last night, and I’ve been staying with my brother and his family. Bunch of yowling brats. Make anybody nervous.”
Jimmy went to clean out his locker. Didn’t want the stupid job anyway. It had been Janey’s idea to go out to Fourteen Acres, kind of, but Janey was right about Jimmy not telling. The postmaster would have to find out for himself about Raven’s sideline. Bud Gwost was just putting on his uniform when Jimmy finished up.
“You hear the latest, Jim?” he said. “Martin Janey’s been living with that new girl. The one who looks like one those Spice Girls my granddaughters are always yapping about. He left his wife and kids for her.”
“That so, Bud? Jimmy said, jamming the last of his stuff into a carton. “I hadn’t heard.”
“Say, what’re you doing? You’re not quitting, are yah? I thought you were up for my job when I retire next month?”
“Nah, I got the can, Bud. Said I wasn’t effusive enough.”
Bud’s lower lip protruded so far you’d think it was him who’d lost his job. And his cushy pension. “What’s that mean?” he asked.
“Something about not trying to be a member of the family.”
It was three o’clock that night according to the red digital numbers on Jimmy’s bedside clock when Butch’s constant barking got him out of bed. A knocking at the door followed in short order.
Raven. In a too big Green Bay Packer jersey and white shorts, red welts from mosquito bites marring her otherwise alabaster legs. Once inside she laid a lip-lock on Jimmy that jarred the fillings in his teeth, took him by the hand, and led him into the bedroom, where they fell into and out of his twin bed, rolling around on the floor, the Green Bay Packer Jersey floating off into the dark, the white shorts dangling on the bedstead.
The milky, rubbery smell of her worked its way into Jimmy’s pores, his mind going blank, and he only knew one thing: he couldn’t ever get enough of Raven. He’d gladly pay her credit cards, buy her a small island if he had to. Rev. Falk could go to tarnation. Before he knew it, the alarm was ringing, and she rose up in bed, bridged herself with an elbow, one breast dangling close to his nose. “Aren’t you going to work?” she mewled.
“You got me fired, remember?” he said.
“Would I do a thing like that?” she said.
“Yes you would. You kidnapped my dog, didn’t you?”
“A joke. Can’t you take a joke?”
Slowly he got his wits about him. “Raven,” he said. “Is it true you’re living with Martin Janey?”
“Why not?” she said.
“But Raven. The man has a wife and three kids. You’ve ruined his marriage.”
“Aren’t you going to ask what I’m doing here?”
“What are you doing here? I thought you hated me.”
“I’ve never had a man say no. I found it irresistibly sexy. And there’s something about a religious boy. There’s a certain shyness that turns my crank.”
At noon she went to shower. “I’m all grubby,” she said. “If you need anything, just whistle.” He missed the implication, since his fibrillating heart was scaring him. By the time his heart stopped pounding and he’d rolled out of bed and shrugged into his clothes, she’d disappeared.
Jimmy searched all day for her. She wasn’t with Martin Janey. She didn’t answer the number she’d given Jimmy. She’d drawn her check at Fourteen Acres and the other girls didn’t know where she’d gone. Jimmy tossed and turned all night, sleepwalked through his lawn care job the next day, forgetting to trim around the trees and bushes, mowing down the lady’s gladiolus.
A couple of weeks later, a rainy day with the tornado siren going off intermittently, Jimmy was loading his clothes into the truck, when Bud Gwost showed up with the mail.
“Just bills, Jim. That and the Sears catalogue. Did I tell you we used to use the pages as toilet paper in the old days?”
“Yeah, I think you did, Bud.”
“I hope you find what you’re after in Alaska, Jim. When I was young I had an urge to go out West. Never did it though. I could kick myself for not going.”
“Well, it was nice knowing you, Bud,” Jimmy said, grasping the old man’s hoary hand.
“Sorry about you losing your job, Jim. If it’s any consolation, Martin Janey got the boot, too. He embezzled some money, I guess.”
“Well, gotta get going. I’m already a half hour behind. You oughta see the new guy. He makes Janey look like Casper Milktoast. Just out of college. Thinks he’s God’s gift. . .”
When Bud was finally gone, Jimmy sat down on the front steps and thumbed through the catalogue. On page thirteen, there she was. She was wearing some kind of Australian bush outfit, her hat brim turned up on one side. Khaki shirt, and khaki shorts, and workman’s boots, a whip in one hand. She was winking at Jimmy and seemed to be saying, “You may hate me now, but you’ll thank me later.”