Note from the editor: The character, Zuzka, has trouble speaking English. There are missing articles, subject-verb disagreements, missing words, possessive pronouns never appear, etc. I apologize, but all these types of errors, and more, have been heard by the author when talking with people around the world who are still trying to learn English. Since he wanted to know what they were saying, he filled in the gaps as they conversed. Not making it a joke but trying to understand. Her English will improve as she learns more. I think she may just be a keeper.
I’m Pink Lady Apple and my friend Deviled Yeggs suggested that I record each project that I set up in the hopes of reforming the people who continue to work for Lily the Pink Enterprises. If for no other reason, it would show how God is at work.
Scrambled and I were at a crossroads. He was ready to move into the Pink Lady ‘mansion’, as he calls it, and leave Rotten in their old house, but there were two problems with that. In trying to sell the house, the house had to be kept up, and Scrambled expected that Rotten would slowly destroy the house – not intentionally, but he would not care when something broke or the carpet was stained or trash missed the trash can when he threw it. In fact, Scrambled was pretty sure that Rotten would forget to take out the garbage. Rotten lived down to the name he was given, by his mother. Rotten had not started kindergarten when his mother abandoned them, right after Poached was born. Rotten had become sullen and stayed that way.
But that put me into an uncomfortable position. If Rotten came to the house, he had to live by house rules, but because Rotten seemed to be a rule unto himself, this would not work. That was the other problem Scrambled had.
Thus, the first redemption project was not for one of the ladies, from prostitute to lady – but in a way possibly so – it was the redemption of Rotten Yeggs.
To see if there was a volunteer to be Rotten’s teacher, I had an all-employee meeting. We had the cider vats shut down for cleaning, everyone could attend. We had a large conference room in the corner of the cider house.
About half of my employees left after the police raid to shut down the prostitution, arrest members of organized crime, and catch a murderer in the process, but the cider operation is still going strong. No one has to split their time between the cider production and ‘other activities.’ Most of the human trafficking victims stayed, but some requested to go to their home country, and I paid their way home. Most of the ladies who came to the company as prostitutes left to take their business elsewhere, probably Stout County, except for some of the older ones, wanting to settle down to a steady job. My cook, and best friend, Gwen Quinn stayed. She agreed to help with security. Everyone volunteered to cross-train with someone else until we could hire more people. One of the accountants left, and the IT person was arrested for helping Baldwyn with some illegal things that he was doing, including using the dark web to find the various ladies that were being sold. Since she was blocking my access to the internet, not allowing me to study Bible Commentaries, I was not disappointed that I had to find a new IT person. Poached Yeggs was doing some IT work for us, just as a favor to his future stepmother, me, but he was not up to speed in everything that the company needed. Besides, until the ladies under my care are more comfortable with men in their presence and not as customers, I want to stick to women employees. Most of the custodian staff was still at work, but all the ladies agreed to clean their own apartments and that freed the custodians to clean the cider house, about half of the main house, and cross-train in cider house operations.
Gwen cleaned my room and the master bedroom because I was improving with my standing and walking, just not well enough to clean. I tried vacuuming and fell a couple of times. On the second time of falling, Gwen heard the vacuum running and lectured me about doing too much. The poison that Baldwyn had fed me was out of my system, but the muscles in my lower body had to relearn what to do and then gain strength in doing it.
At the meeting, we went over some business items, including the staffing issues. Then, I told the group that we needed ideas on how to deal with Rotten Yeggs, even with his father, Scrambled, in attendance, they were not bashful in that they did not feel safe with Rotten on the grounds. They preferred him to simply disappear and even suggested ways to do it. Some suggestions were inventive, and some were far from kind. Five of them had Rotten for a ‘customer’ and each of them had been injured in some way. Rotten had not done it on purpose; he was just rough and did not know his own strength. Angela, one of the five, had received a broken arm. She said it was more of a rape than it was a professional sexual encounter. All the ladies said that he gave them uneasy feelings, fear that he might pounce.
I suggested that he could be taught how to act properly around women. They groaned, but I pressed forward. “Do I have anyone here willing to teach Rotten Yeggs how to be … not rotten? We can put you in the living room with him alone for the training sessions, but security can monitor the situation, armed with tasers. We can mute the video so that you can have a private conversation, or we can monitor that also. Is there a volunteer?”
Most of my beloved employees stared at the floor. The four Latvian ladies that Uncle Delly had mentioned in his letter were very animated. Baldwyn had a lot of human trafficking victims from other countries in addition to the four Latvians. The Latvians were talking in their native language, and they kept nudging the youngest of the four. She finally raised her hand. I asked her to report to my office and dismissed the meeting.
I was walking without the walker, while in my office, as I showed her to my visitor’s chair.
“Zuzka,” I asked. “I saw your friends nudging you. Did you volunteer willingly?” When I could not get her to look me in the eyes, I insisted upon it.
Her eyes were moist, but she looked at me for about thirty seconds before speaking. Zuzka was the least verbal of all my employees. I had wanted a lady older than Rotten, and I got the youngest employee. I felt stupid in not seeing that a girl of her limited English vocabulary and so young would not come to the USA for employment. I should have known that Baldwyn had bought her as a sex slave. And could she teach Rotten how to behave? She rarely constructed a sentence.
“I volunteer,” Zuzka said. “I tell friends I do it. Stasya say I not do. Rota and Irusya say I should not be fear. Not right word. My English not good. Maybe I bad teacher.”
I suggested, “Maybe while you teach Rotten some manners, he can help you with your English. The more you practice, the better you get. When I first met you five years ago, I did not know that you had been kidnapped and brought to the USA. You never wanted to come here. I knew none of this until recently. I do not blame you. Baldwyn threatened all the human trafficking victims, like you and your friends. I could fly you home. You do not have to stay. I hear that when you finally called your parents that they were elated to hear your voice.”
She smiled, “At first, they not believe. They thought … dead. Then, they say, stay. My brother, sister too many mouths already. Times not good. Farm not make money. Maybe they feel shame me being sex slave. … I want to ask you. If I teach Rotten, can I work at greenhouse? I study hydroponics two years in college, kidnap before finish school, just 19 at time. My name mean ‘lily flower.’ Maybe, growing water lilies in greenhouse … it sign from God.”
With that, I was sold, but I would have to supervise closely, listen in even if she wanted it private. It was obvious that Zuzka needed help formulating a “lesson plan” and maybe even scripting out some things to say. She and I worked together for a couple of days. Her language skills were terrible, but we each contributed to a plan of attack. Then I invited Scrambled over for a little conference, but our conference was really going into the security office and watching and listening to Zuzka and Rotten. And recording so that I could transcribe the encounter.
Zuzka was already in the room. She insisted on sitting in a chair that I thought would be uncomfortable. She was folded like a pretzel, but she wanted it low to the ground, below Rotten’s eye level. She wore clothing that we had purchased the day before, professional looking. We had difficulty finding a size that worked. Even then, the skirt was too short. She was reading a Bible. She said that she was adequate in reading English, looking up words when she did not know them, but in speaking English, she had a poor vocabulary and no sense of grammar. She was a farm girl, and, much to her regret, she ignored those language classes in college.
Scrambled and Rotten Yeggs entered the room. My Scrammie said, “Rotten, you sit in the recliner there and don’t leave. I have to work out the final details of me moving into the master bedroom upstairs while Pink Lady remains in the room across the hall, no sleeping together until we are married. I’ll be back in a little while. I see you didn’t bring a book or magazine like I told you. Maybe you can count the polka dots on the curtains. Just don’t leave. I won’t be long.” Scrambled left the room.
It did not take Rotten long to notice Zuzka, who was quietly reading. “Hey, Babe, let’s go to your room, and I can show you a good time.”
Zuzka shook her head. “Please, I read. You rotten. I not touch you anyways.”
Rotten asked, “And what is wrong with being Rotten?”
Zuzka set the Bible aside. “Many things wrong. You have no job. You have no friends, except for the friends who get you in trouble. You go prison because friends say do something. You do! That not rotten. That stupid!”
Rotten got up to leave. “Hey, this place is full of girls who like to party. I’ll find someone else.”
Zuzka shook her head. “You father say stay. You stay. I ask all girls … entire world. No one touch you. You do not make love. You hurt people.”
Rotten turned toward the door. “I ain’t puttin’ up with this. I’m leaving.”
At that moment, Angela came into the room. She slapped Rotten across the face and shoved him back into the recliner. Angela leaned in close, “She said that no woman would touch you, but she was wrong. I slapped you and I could find a few dozen ladies in this building and the cider house who would volunteer to hog tie you, put you in a boat in the river at flood stage and send you on your merry way, hoping the boat makes it to the Gulf of Mexico, but if it doesn’t and you don’t make it? No big loss for the world. … Jerk, when you had me in my room, you broke my arm. I am keeping my eyes on you. You listen to this young lady. It is your only chance. You harm her, and we’ll chop some holes in the boat. Bye-bye, sucker!” And Angela left.
Rotten turned to Zuzka and said smugly, “This is not the only whore house.”
“This not whore house. This recovery place for whores and sex slaves. We have good jobs. We have place to live. We have value. We only see boys on dates, and they only touch us when we willing to be touched.”
“Are you willing?”
“No! Not now. I make you human being. Then we have date. You behave on date. You hold hand. We go no farther until we know each other.”
Rotten said, “I know all I need to know about you. You are a girl that knows how to have sex. I’m willing to pay.”
“What money you have? Daddy’s money. You not have job.”
“I’m an ex-con. There are not many jobs for ex-cons. I have looked. Waffle House is not hiring. And you are right. My friends dared me to do something stupid. I did it. Someone died. I did my time, and now I pay for it forever? That ain’t fair.”
“I not talking about fair. I talking about you being rotten. You not have to be rotten.”
“Girlie, I was born Rotten. When a kid in kindergarten called me rotten and laughed, I punched them. When the teacher pulled me aside, I kicked her in the chins. I’m rotten through and through.”
“No, you stay here with me two times each week. You learn how to act nice. I teach.”
“You teach me? You can’t even talk right.”
“You teach me English. I teach you how to be decent human being. How not be rotten.”
“Good luck with that. What happened? Did you draw the short straw?”
“No. I volunteer. No one like you. Want you gone or dead. I not like you either, but I think you can learn.”
“I have more years at being rotten than you have in being alive. What can you teach me?”
Zuzka smiled, “I teach you new name.” (Zuzka was now off script. I wondered where this was going to go.)
Zuzka continued, “You name going to be Otto once you not rotten. Only after you learn more, now you still rotten. I want you say ‘I Otto.’”
Rotten said, “If you want me teaching you English, which I flunked in school, you should tell me to say ‘I am Otto.’ Not ‘I Otto.’ ”
Zuzka giggled, “You say ‘I Otto.’ ”
Rotten growled, “I was just correcting your English when I said, ‘I am Otto.’ I was not admitting that I am Otto. Otto is not my name. I have no idea why you want me to say, ‘I am Otto.’”
Zuzka smiled, “You said it three more times.”
Getting irritated, Rotten asked, “Why Otto? Why not George or Wilber?”
Zuzka asked, “How you spelling name?”
Zuzka asked, “Would it be Rotten if you spelling it R-O-T-T-O-N?”
Rotten shrugged, “That is spelled wrong, but I guess that would still be Rotten. I think you would pronounce it same, but that’s wrong. Why spell it different?”
Zuzka smirked, “The ‘R’ and ‘N’ silent. You Otto.”
After a lengthy pause for that to soak in, Rotten laughed. “You got me, but why a name change?”
Zuzka waved a hand over her head in frustration. “You think you rotten because name Rotten. My name Zuzka. That mean lily flower. Do I look like woman or lily flower? Why you think you rotten? If you Otto, you not have to be rotten.”
Rotten frowned, “But what has Pink Lady cooked up here? She must be behind this. She wants me to play nice. Why?”
Zuzka looked at the Bible but did not pick it up. “She worry about family she going into. She love you father. She not worried about Poached Yeggs. He a little funny, but he nice. But women here at Lily the Pink afraid of you. Trust me. If you tried to touch me, security be here like lightning with tasers. We cannot have one security person follow you for all time. If you father house sold, you homeless. But you can live here if you prove to be good, not rotten.”
Rotten asked, “What is this crazy project you have for me?”
Zuzka laid out the initial details. “You not like going church or visiting mission. You have no choice. Pink Lady and father take us to church. We sit Sunday school, church. You listen. My English not good. I ask questions after. You answer questions. We not touch each other. You get job. Maybe Pink Lady hire you at truck gate at night.” (Again, off script. We used a buzzer at night, but it might not be a bad idea and Rotten would not ever be inside the house.) “We meet here in room and talk. We learn about each other. We not touch each other. When we here, clean people go you house.”
“Clean people? You mean cleaning people? Janitors?”
“That word. Custodians go to house and clean.”
“Great! Then I don’t have to.”
“No, no, no. We not hold hands until custodians come back 2-3 weeks of house clean, no need do nothing.”
“That’s a double negative. So that meant that they had to do something.”
“You know what I mean! You keep house clean, so house can sell, but also prove you be, ummm, responsible for first time in life. You take bath and brush teeth every day. Use deodorant. Wear better clothes. You will be here to act human. Impress me and we might have chaperoned date. We might hold hands. No touch until you human, not rotten. Look in mirror every day. Say “I M Otto.”
Rotten looked like he was going to correct her English again, but he stopped. “Why are you doing this? With no one else who was willing, why you?”
Zuzka looked at the door as if to find a way to avoid the question. She sighed, “When Pink Lady introduce us Latvian ladies to Tuesday Wednesday, Tuesday take us to Latvian club. Other three ladies get boyfriends first night. Boyfriends know they not want sex. Boyfriends respect. I get nothing. My English not good. In crowd, I not talk. Afraid. Not like laughing. Laughing at me. … And have you heard about Latvian ladies?” Rotten shook his head. “Latvian ladies tallest in world by one centimeter over Dutch. Average 170cm, about 5’7”. Stasya, Rota, and Irusya all that high. But to have average. Some women shorter. Some taller. Then some even taller.”
Zuzka stood up and looked down at Rotten who was still seated. “I 196cm. What you call six foot five inches. You five feet eight inches, maybe shorter. Big muscles, not tall. We not touch now, but if we go on date and dance slow dance. I put my chin on top you head. I circus freak! But I want husband to love me. I want family. I want little farm. If I have good job, I be good American. I be citizen. Not get deported. Look at me, Otto. I not promise anything. All just maybes. You and me broken. Maybe, just maybe, we like each other. We might love. I want someone. I not know if I can do it. Until now, only time being with man in bed, he force me do things I not want. I not know what love is, but I want love. I not want someone who hurt me.”
Rotten looked up and down the statuesque figure in front of him. She was well proportioned, but just everything a bit longer than what he had ever seen. He wanted to touch her, but he did not want to be tased. If he understood and agreed with anything being said, he believed that part about the taser to be true. But could he learn how to not be rotten?
While still seated, he looked toward her eyes and said, “I don’t want to hurt you either.” But he admitted to his father on the way home that what he was thinking was, ‘I am Otto. I am Otto.”
When working with steel workers in foreign countries, I learned that many countries like India and China have a requirement for technically trained workers, like engineers, to be taught English. The Chinese especially were well-trained, but they never spoke English, other than the translator, afraid to not say it properly. Sometimes when the translator would get stuck, another member of the class would suggest the right word, in Chinese, and the translator would then continue. I learned they could read English, but they had problems with speaking the language. I used that attribute for Zuzka. Odd, the reason that I could detect a word here or there in the class banter while the translator was stuck is that I had the same problem – knowing a few words of the technical words, but rarely trying to say them. Once or twice, I shocked the class by saying a few. Maybe they were shocked by my mispronunciation.
Waffle Houses have been known to hire former convicts, providing them with employment. They are also known for the Waffle House Factor. If a natural disaster is bad enough for Waffle House to close their doors or go to limited hours or limited menu, it is a really bad storm.
A study states that Latvian women average 170cm and the Dutch women, 169cm. Dutch men are the tallest on average. But as Zuzka said, to have that average, there are some taller and some shorter.
And since tomorrow, the day after this comes out, is St. Patrick’s Day.