Saturday, July 26, 2014

Chapter 4



"Girl, you can rinse your shoes off at the spigot and then come up here to the porch so I can get a look at you."

"Yes sir."

Uncle Mark Hartford walked over to the porch steps and said, "We got a deal Jacob?"

"How do I know this is the right girl?"

He answered, "She's got the bum leg and the skunk stripe just like we were told she would."

"Could be a fake."

I turned the spigot off and said, "I've got papers."

The old man turned suspicious eyes on me and said, "You a dog girl that you need papers?"

Used to ignoring people and their snarky comments I said, "No sir.  Legal papers that prove who I am.  Kay-Lee Baffa.  Seventeen years old.  I've got the name of all my social workers and their ID numbers and stuff like that if you need them."

"Huh.  Give 'em to Nurse Hatchet here and let her see 'em."

The big woman must have been used to his behavior because she just looked at him and rolled his eyes.  Her name tag read Rubine Harris so I guess the old man was picking at her when he called her Hatchet.  I pulled the huge file out of the back pack and walked it over to her.  She looked at it and started flipping pages then turned to the old man and said, "If she's a fake, she's been faking for almost eighteen years."

"Humph.  Come here girl so I can see you."

I walked over and he looked me over with what felt like sandpaper.  "You ain't afraid of me?"

"No sir."

"Well, you're polite enough.  S'pose you had to be."

"No sir."

"No sir what?"

"No sir I don't have to be polite.  I chose to be."

"Humph.  Well, what do you have to say for yourself?"

"I'm not sure what you mean."

"I'm leaving you this place."

I sighed.  "Mr. Baffa ..."

"You can call me Uncle Jacob.  Your daddy did."

It took me a minute to try and figure out what to say.  "I don't want to hurt your feelings but I'd be lying if I said that I ..."  I stopped again and wound up sighing.  "Sir, I just don't know you.  I mean I knew ... well kinda knew ... that I still had people I was kin to around some place but no one ever came for me or asked to see me.  Not since the laughing lady ..."

"The who?"

"Mr. Hartford said her name was Pet.  I just barely remember her and the big man that always came with her.  And then they didn't come anymore, no one did.  And now I'm supposed to just be ... something to someone and to be honest I'm just not sure what it means or how to feel about it.  You say you're my uncle and I don't have any reason not to believe you but I don't know how you expect me to feel about that."

"Fair enough," he said.  "I writ a bunch of stuff down and it is in my nightstand but you ain't to get it until after I die.  You can agree to that?"

The nurse tried to interrupt.  "Mr. Baffa ..."

He snapped, "Oh don't you start.  I ain't gonna go into a decline ... ain't got no decline left seeing as how I'm already at the bottom."  He turned to me and said bluntly.  "I'm dying girl.  And past time too.  And no, I don't expect you to shed no tears over it.  I'd throw a party if I was up to it if you want to know the truth.  Thing is, in my mind even if we don't know each other we're still blood.  I'm a Baffa.  You're a Baffa.  That means something.  And this land has been held by the Baffa family since we came over from Italy over a hundred and fifty years ago.  We were carpenters and we built this house and most of the furniture in it and that should mean something.  I was angry for a long time about how things have gone but I always had this place ... took care of it, gave me purpose, gave me a ... a haven I guess you'd say.  I owe this land something back ... and you're gonna be that something.  You're a Baffa and you are going to come take care of this place.  I ain't asking for your gratitude, don't expect it, don't want it, too late for it even if I did want it.  And you're just girl, a young one, and with the way the world's turning the only way you're gonna keep on being able to take care of this place is if you got a man to help you.  That's where them infernal Hartfords come in."

He turned to look at the man who had brought me.  "Which one you got picked out for her?  This one here?"

Tommy took two steps back but then looked at me sheepishly to see whether he'd hurt my feelings.  Mark Hartford said, "No.  Sawyer said he'd do it."

"Sawyer.  Hmmm.  Well, guess it'll do though it seems a strange match up.  Woulda though Cutter or Benedict would have been a better choice."

"Mebbe but Sawyer's the one that volunteered."

"Good enough."

The nurse broke in again.  "I'm still not sure I approve of this.  Young lady, do you agree to this?"

Here was my chance ... maybe my last chance.  Then I shrugged.  I only had two stipulations.  "No hitting and no addictions ... drugs or drinking."

Tommy broke in and said, "Aw Sawyer ain't that kind Kay-Lee.  He can get Hartford-mean when he gets angry but he don't hit girls."

"I don't remember you mentioning a brother named Sawyer."

"He's a cousin.  He's Uncle Ray's son."

"I don't remember an Uncle Ray either."

"You wouldn't.  He died a couple of years ago.  Had a heart attack.  Right after getting a clean bill of health too.  Sawyer's mom died a couple of years before that when she got stung by a bee.  She was bad allergic.  Sawyer's sister Delly got their house for her and her husband and Sawyer don't get along so well with her husband and his family."

"Which is why Sawyer volunteered to make the sacrifice."

"Huh?"

"Never mind Tommy."

The two other men just looked at me then the nurse said, "Honey, you don't have to do this."

"I know.  But really, where else am I going to go?  There's no room at the group home; they're putting kids in tents in the parking lot last I heard.  And being put out on the street ... I might as well sign my own death certificate.  There's no jobs; I've looked.  At least this way there might be a chance for me and if it blows up in my face it won't be because I didn't try."

The nurse just shook her head.  'Uh, uh, uh ... what this world is coming to I just don't know."

Mr. Hartford was losing patience.  "So do we have a deal or not?"

"If she agrees to it then I got the papers right here."

Mr. Hartford bored holes in me with his eyes but all I did was nod once.

Mr. Baffa said, "So be it.  And none too soon.  There comes the ambulance to haul me off.  Get me down off this porch and let's get this finished.  I'm done."

3 comments:

  1. somehow I think Sawyer might be just the one for her... LOL!

    Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the story and the chapters Kathy, I really enjoy your writing and am looking forward to more soon.
    Wayne

    ReplyDelete