Every encounter with Fortek makes Vicky more uncomfortable than the last. Why would all of this happen to her?
Vicky mumbled all the way into Holdrege. While it was a nice sized town, finding people and places, even in neighborhoods not usually in her routine, was not a big deal. It didn’t take long for her to locate the guy the pastor claimed had offered to sell the greens. He lived at the edge of town with an extensive garden. His wife directed Vicky to a shed behind the garage, where he was organizing the produce that he planned to take to the farmer’s market.
She brought the two boxes and set them where he pointed. The man barely broke his workflow to indicate where he wanted the boxes placed. It was clear that what she brought was the smallest addition to his offerings. It was very likely that nobody would notice anything strange about a few packages of exotics. He already had some fairly unusual things out.
“What made you decide to take the risk of accepting the amaranth?” she asked him. “From what they say, this farmer’s market only lets you sell produce that you grow.”
The man hadn’t stopped since she arrived. Now, though, he froze in place and looked at her. “Pastor Harris has a unique way of getting things done. He converts good intentions into commitments, leaving a person no way to get out of it. I also informed him this was a one-time deal. That makes my answer the same whether you were asking about the greens you brought or why I became a member of his church. For that matter, it’s probably the same reason you agreed to bring the stuff here in the first place.”
“It sounds like he’s consistent, at least.”
Vicky decided to pursue something more constructive. “Tell me, are there any available spaces for new vendors at the farmer’s market? I suggested they sell the greens themselves.”
The man chuckled. “I have never seen them turn anybody away. Just a guess now, but I think somebody we both know planted the thought in your mind. He does it so cleverly that it may be a long time before you figure out how he did it. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that you volunteered to take them since they don’t have transportation.”
Vicky nodded. “I’d love to spring one on you, but that is not the case. You will not be surprised at what I did. Yes, as a matter of fact, I voluntarily offered to take them to the farmer’s market.”
He turned around to face Vicky at that point. “At the same time, Pastor Harris is not the only talented person in this deal. Think about it. I can guess that whenever our new growers decide they need to be someplace, they simply show up. After all, they arrived here, didn’t they?”
“I witnessed that in action. The man turned up out of nowhere to open a bank account. He didn’t get there in a car, as far as I could tell. There were no vehicles on his farm, either. I also noticed that whenever they need to get word to somebody, it gets there without bothering with minor things like telephones or computers. If I didn’t know that stuff like that couldn’t happen, it would make me wonder.”
“It certainly could. I have something to suggest at this juncture. It’s a thing that you and I need to do to preserve our sanity. We have to be glad that the two of us, at least, have our feet firmly planted on the ground.”
He turned back around at that point, picking up the work where he left it a moment earlier. It was like he switched off the conversation. Vicky stood there for a bit, watching him and wondering about this strange conversation. At last, she shook her head and went home on the other side of Holdrege.
The last time Vicky’s day went like this, she went to the bar. Since today was Sunday, the bar was not open. In any case, going there had not done the least bit of good. That left cocooning on the couch. Another possibility would have been to call somebody and try to get together for a while. Vicky even thought about that for a while, and finally concluded there was nobody she wanted to share anything with, much less anything important like today’s events.
Once again, she felt as though everybody was steering her. What was going on? Even the three wives admitted what they were doing was all role-playing. At the same time, they were quick to add there was no way Vicky could ever guess what was going on. At least with reality TV shows, the people in it wanted to be there. They had to apply, go through interviews, and sign contracts. What she experienced was like some invisible force decided to make her go a prescribed direction, similar to when they forced cattle through a chute. Considering where the animals went, it was an unsettling image, indeed.
Vicky curled up on the couch and turned on the boob tube. She flipped through the few cable TV channels, all she could afford. Vicky soon discovered that even with the minimal content, there was no way to concentrate sufficiently to keep track of any show.
Giving up, she went in and poured herself a bath. That seemed to help, at least a little. Later on, though, she looked in the mirror and found herself having the sensation of looking at Paul Fortek’s eyes. She thought she saw longing and hope in those eyes.
That, she knew, was complete nonsense. A man walking around with three gorgeous women hanging on him would never have the time or energy to think about a plain Jane bank employee. He’d already given back far more than she could ever give him. All of this foolishness with lights floating around were just her mind’s way of trying to account for what she couldn’t hope to grasp otherwise.
Another vote for how silly it all was came from the realization that Vicky was not important enough for anybody to care about, one way or another. She seemed to hear a dissenting vote from a back corner of her mind. That large crew of Federal agents came to town for a purpose. For all she knew, they were still around. The thought bothered her enough that she peeked through the front curtains at the street. There was nothing out of the ordinary, but then, she saw nothing out of the ordinary when guiding Paul Fortek to the real estate office.
The bottom line was that nothing fit, at least nothing that mattered. Vicky’s truck should be collecting rust out in a field someplace. People show up out of nowhere. Pastors stroll by at the precise time she needs somebody for advice. Not only that, but he doesn’t appear in the least surprised by what she has to say. He did make a case for Fortek being a human being, at least. That meant the man had meaningful and wealthy connections in agri-business research. He certainly showed up with the kind of funds she would expect from a large corporation.