Friday, July 25, 2014

Chapter 3

"Can I tell her Uncle Mark?"

"No.  Grow some patience Boy.  Let me get out of town and I'll tell her."  Tommy sighed but looked at me and I could tell he thought whatever was happening was a good thing.  I wanted to trust Tommy to be right but I couldn't be sure.  Tommy sometimes didn’t think like everyone else did.  

We turned off the county road right before it split off to go to highway, went about a hundred yards and then made a hard left that practically threw me out of my seat despite the seatbelt I was wearing.  The dog wound up in my lap and I almost forgot to breathe.

Tommy looked back and said, "Get down Mooch.  She ain't gonna hold you you big ol' baby.  I told you that it was gonna be bumpy and you wouldn't like it none."

Nope, the dog certainly wasn't enjoying the ride and tried to crawl under my t-shirt which would have been really creepy if he hadn't been whining and trying to hold on like some really little kid.

Tommy saw and said, "Can you hold him Kay-Lee?"

"I guess."

The dog was shaking worse than old Mrs. Brenser's chihuahua that had dog palsy.  Nasty, mean tempered little thing.  It was so ancient it didn't have any teeth but still tried to gum my ankles and fingers off every time I fed it just to prove to me who was top dog in his domain.

The bouncing and shifting was awful as we off-roaded up and down several sharp inclines eventually leveling out into a gravel road.  Tommy told me, "He'll be alright now.  You can put him down."

"I would if I could.  Uh ... Mooch ... has decided he likes it where he is at."

About that moment Mooch let us all know what he thought of the ride with a silent and deadly.

We were all gagging and rolling down windows.  Uncle Mark wiped his streaming eyes and said, "Dawg, you ain't ridin' in my truck no more and that's a fact."  Tommy was having a hard time controlling his laughter and all I could do was pray that gas was all the dog had 'cause he still wouldn't get off my lap.

Another mile and the truck was finally aired out enough we didn't need gas masks.  Uncle Mark slowed down some and pulled over and then turned around to look at me.  "Mooch, get off her lap.  Move dog."  When the dog had reluctantly returned to its assigned seat - and I could draw a full breath of fresh air for the first time in a while - the man said, "Look here.  How much you know about the Baffa family?"

Since the question came out of left field I carefully asked, "You mean my bio father's family?"

"Yeah.  You ever meet any of 'em?"

"A couple of times when I was real little.  I kinda remember a lady they told me was my aunt but not a whole lot.  I know she liked to laugh and would come get me and take me places with her before I started school.  There was a man that would come with her that I thought was a giant."

He nodded.  "That was Pet and Robert, your father's sister and brother in law.  I know they tried to get the courts to give you to them but Robert's brother had a couple of gun charges against him.  Anyone ever tell you why they stopped coming around?"

"The lady got sick with something she caught when she worked at the hospital.  Hepatitis I think."

He nodded and added, "She went fast when she had some kind of a reaction to the drug she had been taking for it.  Robert had a heart attack and took their two kids and moved out west.  He's still alive but neither him nor the kids are interested in anything going on around here.  You do know you got a great uncle still living on the ridge?"

"I know that's where I'm from but after the laughing lady ... my aunt I mean ... stopped coming around no one else did either so I don't know anything about them."

"Well ..." he said sounding sorry he'd asked.  "Well he knows you, or of you anyway and that's the whole crux of it."

Slowly I asked, "The whole crux of what?"

"We've been after that Baffa land for a while.  Bought everything around it expanding our holdings up here so we could keep the undesireables out of our business but Jacob Baffa just wouldn't sell.  Old fool kept expecting someone from the family to come back I reckon but the few left around here ain't really Baffa's anymore and they ain't interested in farming that little bit of ground and with the economy in the toilet ain't nobody interested in buying it ... and even if they were they ain't got the money for it.  But then old Jacob done got sick ... some kinda cancer from them chemicals he was around during the war ... and he gave us an ultimatum."

"U ... ultimatum?"

"Yep.  He said either one of the boys could marry you and he'd deed the land and buildings over to us or ..."  He stopped and I could tell he was angry.  "Or he'd deed it to the feds for a shootin' range which would mean that there'd always have to be access through our property to that land and we'd have all sorts of government fools running all over creatin' problems left and right."

My brain had stopped working at the word "marry."

"You understand now?"

I shook my head.  "Not really but I'll take your word for it."

He stopped and gave me a closer look.  "You might not turn out to be a big problem after all.  I'll ... I'll reserve judgment."  He looked me up and down and I could almost hear the silent but in there.  "... but you sure are ugly and none of our boys are going to want you."  He didn't say it but I could see him thinking it.

He sighed.  "Ain't got time for more. You'll just have to figure things out as you go along.  Gotta get over to the Baffa place before that nurse hauls Ol' Jacob off to the VA hospital.  He wants to see you before he goes."

My head was spinning.  And right at that moment Mooch decided his stomach had had all it was going to take and he dog puked on my feet.

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