Thursday, August 7, 2014

Chapter 12




"Holy mackeral!"

"No, tuna casserole."

He snorted but just kept looking around the kitchen.  "How did you get this cleaned up so fast?" he said referring to the kitchen.

"It wasn't as bad as it looked at first.  Mostly I got rid of the clutter ... I used a couple of laundry baskets and some boxes I found ... by putting it out on the porch until we can find a place for it ... and then just scrubbed stuff down.  The floor was really sticky around the sink and frig, and greasy around the stove, and the wall around the stove was just plain nasty but everything else was only dusty.  Tomorrow I'll take everything out of the cabinets, clean the insides and then wash stuff before putting it back in so that we don't have to be grossed out just to reach in and grab a glass to get a drink.  And you can take that to your grandfather tomorrow."

"Take what?  Huh?  What's this?" he asked picking up a couple of pieces of notebook paper that I'd scribbled on.

"You said your grandfather wanted an inventory and that's what I've got so far."

"Holy mackarel."

"No ... tuna casserole."

He looked up from the paper and gave me a strange look but then smiled when he saw I was trying to hold back a grin.  "Hey, no fair stirring my brains when I'm hungry."

"Then sit down and eat.  The table, chairs, and these dishes are clean.  The seat covers are soaking in hot water dosed with washing powder so that's why the chairs are bare.  Rugs are outside too; they're really gross and I don't know if they're salvageable or not. The floor needs a real scrub but that will have to wait.  I'm not going to get down on my hands and knees if it is just going to get scuffed up again when we clean the upstairs."

Looking down he said, "I wonder what is under this linoleum."

"More linoleum.  I counted five layers where it is peeling up in that little room over there.  I think that is supposed to be a pantry - what they used to call a butler's pantry because of all the glass fronted cabinets in the front half of the room.  But there's also shelves in there with cans and boxes.  There used to be weevils."

"Used to be?" he asked.

"Used to be.  At least until the hidden ones start hatching and growing.  But there's enough empty gallon jars from pickles and stuff like that in there that we can use them as canisters to keep the weevils from getting into anything else and eventually they'll die off.  I've written that stuff down too but tell your grandfather it might change as I open things to see if they are still good or not."

He reached across the table and took my hand and bowed his head.  I didn't know what was going on until he said a quick prayer over the food.  I almost didn't have time to close my eyes and bow my head before he finished, turned loose of my hand, and started shoveling the food in.  He was three bites in when he stopped.

"Uh oh.  You don't like it?"

He looked at me then looked at the plate and then looked at me again.  "Wow.  This don't taste like any tuna casserole I've ever had."

"That bad?"

"No!  That good!  Seriously.  I don't even mind the potato chips on top."

Then he started shoveling again.  I wasn't sure if he was fooling or not until he realized he'd eaten the last bite and then tried to look around without me seeing.    I smiled and said, "You want what's left?"

"Uh ... I'll split it with you."

"No, I'll be full when I finish this."

"You sure?"

"Yeah.  I've got it covered in the oven.  Both the oven and frig are clean."  I brought him the last of it and he raked it onto his plate. As I was taking the still warm pan to the sink I said, "There's another room on the other side of that pantry.  It isn't big but I think it might be part of the original kitchen."

"Let me finish eating and I'll look.  Why do you think it is the original kitchen?"

"The outside wall is exposed brick and there is a really old stove in there ... like one of the monster wood burning stoves from Little House on the Prairie times and then there is a fireplace, only it isn't a just a fireplace.  It also has what I think is a bread oven.  I'm not sure.  The little door on it is rusted shut.  There's also an antique frig ... the non-electric kind they used to have in the really olden days.  The whole thing looks kinda like one of those dioramas they set up every year at the fairgrounds for Pioneer Day."

The last bite disappeared and he wiped his mouth on the paper towel I'd given him for a napkin and stood up.  "Mind showing me?  Wait, you haven't finished.  You finish.  I'll look at these notes you made.  Then we'll look."

I tried to eat fast but Sawyer said, "Go ahead and slow down.  It'll give me a chance to look at this."

I obliged willingly because I hate eating fast as I always wind up with indigestion.  My mouth was full when he asked, "All this stuff is here?  Where?"

I swallowed, almost choked, and then took a swallow of unsweetened tea.  "Sorry, I didn't see any sugar.  Was the tea OK?'"

"Yeah, I guess I didn't really notice as I drink it unsweet about half the time anyway but I better add that to the list I've got started.  Uncle Donnel keeps bees and raises sorghum so we'll get shares of that if we help him out.  But shares of that only come after you ladies have used what you need to preserve the harvest."

I got the giggles as bad as I got them with Linda.  He looked up and asked, "What?"

"You ... you said ladies like ... I don't know ... like I'm one of 'em."

He gave me a grin and said, "You are now.  You're a Hartford lady."

That struck me funnier the second time as it did the first and I clapped my hand over my mouth to try and hold them in but I could still feel my face getting red hot.

"You sure do smile a lot.  Tommy said you were real serious."

I finally swallowed the food and the giggles and said, "I am serious.  It's just ..."

"What?"

I shrugged.  "I'm ... I don't know.  I don't normally smile or laugh like this except with Linda and Tommy, mostly Linda.  If I have a best friend she'd be it."  He smiled but I'm not sure why so I got back to answering his original question.

"I've been finding stuff here and there all over the place, especially in that front room where Mr. Baffa slept.  There's boxes of medical stuff in there but it's all still sealed.  Most of the boxes aren't even opened.  It looks like they just come in the mail and then someone stacks them where ever they can find a place; closet, under the bathroom sinks, in corners, you name it.  Just for the heck of it I looked under a couple of beds upstairs and there's stuff under there too but I didn't pull it out to see what all it was.  I'll try and start that tomorrow."

"But you gotta be kidding me ... fifty bottles of alcohol and another fifty ... fifty-six of peroxide?  A gross of face masks?  And how many what?  Needles?!"

"There's a bunch of tape, gauze, bandages, band aids, and stuff like that that I haven't even counted yet.  I'm just dumping them into their own boxes for now.  There's a bunch of unopened sheets and stuff like that too but I'm not going to bother with them until I see what those medical rental people take away with them.  And there's cases of these garbage can liners, both the big kind and the ones like for a bathroom trashcan.  They're real thin but they can probably be used for something.  What do we do with the trash around here anyway?  There's probably going to be a pile of it.  Is there mandatory recycling out here in the county?"

"Yeah, if you take it to the dump there is but we burn most of what we can ‘cause they're charging by the quarter pound now.  I wonder why there's so much bleach and hardly any other kind of cleaning stuff?"

"Mr. Baffa used to have a cleaning lady but he fired her because he thought she was stealing from him."

"How do you know that?"

"I found some of those papers you said to keep a look out for.  When I found anything I thought might be important I put it on the big dining table next to that stack of papers that the Justice of the Peace gave you.  Let me put our plates in the sink to soak and I'll show you that room if you're ready."

-------------

I showed him the old kitchen and he agreed that it was probably the original kitchen and if it wasn't the original it was close.  By that time I was starting to hurt.

"Sawyer?"

"Yeah."

"I think I better sit down for a little while."

He turned sharply and asked, "You ok?"

"Yeah but ..."

"Sure.  Actually I'm beat too and we better look at those papers.  You mind?"

"No."

"You really are limping."

"I always limp."

"I mean more than you normally do.  That's just 'cause of your leg.  Now you're limping."

I looked at him.  "Most people can't tell the difference."

"Well I can.  Was it the stairs?"

"No.  I wasn't watching what I was doing and wrapped my braced foot around the wheel of that hospital bed and caught the shoe lace and tiiiimmmmbberrrrr."

"You fell?!  Why didn't you say something?!"

"'Cause I felt stupid enough and didn't want to interrupt.  You were giving some window some serious what for."

"Oh.  Well ... next time holler.  You could have gotten hurt."

"Only thing hurt was my pride.  I hate it when I do stupid stuff like that."

"You need some help?"

"No.  I could use a naproxin."

"A what?"

"It's like ibuprofen or aspirin except you only take it every twelve hours if you need to.  There's an unopened bottle in the medicine cabinet in the downstairs bathroom.  Is it ok if I open it?"

"Why you asking me?"

"'Cause I am.  Don't act like all of this is only mine."  I was getting cranky and I guess from the look on his face it was starting to show.  I shook my head.  "Sorry.  It's just been ... this day ... I started out ... and then ... and then you ... and we ... only now ..."  I was suddenly near tears and I didn't know why.

"Yeah.  It has been kinda crazy huh.  Do the windows work in the dining room?"

"They open and close but I had to stick a candle holder in there to make them stay open.  I took the drapes down in there too.  They smelled like old, stale cigarette smoke.  There's blinds on the windows that really need to come down too and be washed and the rug needs to be rolled up and taken outside but I just couldn't move the table."

"You shouldn't have even tried," he grumped.

We walked into the large room and he saw where I'd stripped everything I could, including the fake flower arrangement that had been sitting in the middle of the table.  I told him, "That thing had a colony of spiders living in it."

He grabbed my hand and started looking them over and asked, "They didn't bite you did they?!"

I took one hand away and laid it over the top of his.  "I'm not allergic.  I don't even break out from poison ivy or poison oak.  I'm lucky that way."

"You ... you don't?"

"Nope. I've been bit and stung by just about everything.  I've even been stung by a scorpion and bitten by a garter snake ... nothing fazes me.  I guess it's kinda payback for having such rotten luck with everything else."

"You sure?  And how'd you get stung by a scorpion and bit by a snake?"

"Not all foster kids are what you would call mentally balanced.  Because I was usually put in homes for at risk or problem kids ... or those with serious health issues ... I've seen it all.  But ... but thanks."

"For what?"

I whispered, "For caring even though ... you know ...  Just ... just thanks."

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