Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Chapter 16



"'S'cuse me ma'am.  We're here to pick up ..."

I guess they have a lot of practice at that sort of thing because they were in and out in twenty minutes.  They took the bed and the medical monitoring equipment but said the rest of the stuff was supposed to be "disposable" and was not returnable as it had already been paid for by the insurance company.  They said if I wanted to get rid of it I'd have to make a special call for medical waste.  Well I wasn't interested in throwing it away but I didn't tell them that so while they dismantled and moved the big stuff out I started carting the boxes to the wrap around porch, ostensibly to give them more room to work.

After they left I went back upstairs and continued emptying each room.  Between loads down the stairs I would check the washing machine and when it was finished I would take whatever was in that load outside and hang it to dry on the clothes line.  I was lucky and a fresh late April breeze blew everything dry before the wet stuff could get backed up.  I didn't bring anything back inside however, I just folded it and left it on the porch to keep it from getting restinkified.

Then I had to stop as the gas man arrived and he wasn't the nicest human being on the block, complaining at how far "out in the god forsaken boonies" we lived and how he wasn't getting paid enough and how "the damned hillbillies" always seemed to want something for nothing.  I was surprised someone would feel so free to talk like that around someone they didn't know but when he started going on about the state of the yard and how hillbillies kept things so trashy I started seeing things from his perspective.  That didn't mean I agreed with him but I could see how someone might mistake the mess I was making for a permanent way of doing things.  I didn't enlighten him.  If he wanted to be a jerk I decided to let him go on ahead and make a fool of himself while he was at it.

He kept complaining until he got into his truck, slammed the door, and left.  I was glad to see the back end of him but was startled when he slammed back out of the truck and stomped to the other side and started taking off several propane tanks and setting them near the porch.  "You know I would have gotten in trouble.  You'd have just let me drive off.  I coulda lost my job."

"It was Mr. Hartford that placed the order.  I'm just signing for it.  I don't know what all he ordered."

"Then he shoulda told you.  I don't have time to babysit every damn customer."

He finally left in a cloud of dust and diesel fumes leaving me to wonder just what some people's personal problems were.  I didn't start cleaning again until after I ate some peanut butter crackers for lunch.  While I did that I thought about what I would need to fix for dinner and came to the conclusion that at some point real soon I needed to make a menu instead of just doing everything at the last minute.

I continued cleaning, making a few more discoveries here and there then worked on separating the laundry to give my hip some relief from the stairs.  Soon enough I realized it was time to stop thinking about supper and actually put my plan into action.

There was a small home canned jar of beef chunks and some potatoes in a mesh bag.  I put the potatoes on to boil and turned the beef chunks into a pot.  Then using the corn starch that I had found in the freezer I made a little thickener to turn the beef broth into gravy.  I was no sooner finishing the mashed potatoes when a truck pulled up.

A minute later I heard the front screen door open.  "Whoa, guess they came and got that stuff like they said."  I recognized that voice as Sawyer's and I almost answered him but then I heard a second set of boots in the room with him.

"Looks like."  This voice was male but older and gruffer.  I heard a sniff and then the man said, "You made it sound like the place needed fumigation.  Ain't too bad from what I can tell, less'n I got a cold I don't know about yet."

"It smells a whole lot better but I can still smell it some."  Sawyer called out, "Kay-Lee?"

"In the kitchen!"

I sensed and then heard them make their way back to where I was.  This time both of them were sniffing and they made me want to laugh as they reminded me of Mr. Mole from one of my favorite childhood stories.    Sawyer wiped his mouth on the back of his hand and said, "Man that smells good.  I was going to see if you wanted to go down to the pizza place but ..."

"If you'd rather ..."  I said turning.

"Actually I wouldn't.  Um, Kay-lee, this is my grandfather ... Gramps, this is Kay-Lee Baffa."

"What are you talking about Boy.  This here is Kay-Lee Hartford."  He stepped over and told me seriously, "Welcome to the family Honey."

I don't know what it is but Mr. Hartford made me blush as bad as Sawyer ever did.  But, it seemed to please him for some reason because he smiled really big for the first time.  "Well, you look like your daddy, except for your eyes."

"You knew them Sir?"

"Call me Gramps Honey ... all the kids do.  And yes I did know your parents.  Your father was a pistol and a half before he met and took up with your mother.  Lord that boy got into some mischief.  Not a bad 'un but he was half wild being there was no man in the house except for that older brother of his who was ten times as wild and more interested in anything other than a little brother that needed a role model.  Then he went and died just like his daddy.  Shame really, he had such potential.  Pet did what she could of course, being the oldest, but it didn't do much good.  Your grandmother was a sweet woman but busy trying to provide for three children by herself and it busted her down too early.  Your grandfather ... well ..."

"Did he run off?"

"Huh?  Naw ... he just drank and him and some friends got liquored up and then ran off the road into a ditch.  None of 'em were wearing a seat belt.  Not the first time such a thing has happened and probably not gonna be the last but it happened when your daddy was only eight and left a hole in his life that didn't get filled until your momma's daddy took him in hand."

I'd never heard the story before and though it interested me I had no connection to it.  I told Gramps as he insisted on being called, "Thank you.  I'd never heard that before."

He sighed.  "Reckon you probably don't know how to tell me it don't mean nothing to you."

I bit my lip but told him honestly, "It's not that I don't care or that it means nothing, I'm just not sure what it should mean.  It's part of the picture but there are still so many gaps that ... it's like a piece of a puzzle only I don't know which box it came from yet."

He gave me a kind grin and said, "Well don't tease yourself about it.  It'll come or it won't but it sure won't come overnight.  Now what you doing girl?  Sawyer is right about one thing, it smells good."

"Just open faced sandwiches."

Both men's stomachs growled at the same time and it was so loud it nearly made the dishes rattle.  It also made me laugh at a memory.  "Now I know where Tommy gets it from.  We always knew when he was hanging around outside the kitchen at school because his stomach would give him away.  Linda finally took pity on him and started slipping him a sample of whatever we were making.  She said if he was going to hang around we might as well let him taste test the experiments.  After a while I think she could have fed him concrete and he would have said it was good so long as he got to talk to her for a few minutes."

Sawyer laughed and said, "He's still like that."

I asked, "You want to eat now or ...?"

"Now," Sawyer said.

The older man said regretfully, "Well, I better run ..."

"You sure you wouldn't like a plate?" I asked Gramps.

"Well ... you sure I ain't puttin' you out?"

"No Sir."

I was suddenly glad that I'd made the extra potatoes even though I had meant to save them for fried potato patties in the morning.

I served them their food and then sat and ate when they expected me to eat as well.  Gramps said, "You get around pretty good all things considered.  Linda told me you had a rough start in life."

A little uncomfortably I told him, "Yes sir."  But then I warned him, "This is as good as it is going to get.  There are no more surgeries or therapies that can fix anything else."

"M' brother is to the same point.  Forrester ain't too comfortable in his own skin though lately he seems closer to finally accepting the way things are.  He's anxious to see that foot brace of yours as he heard about it today from Sawyer."

Sawyer explained, "Uh ... it wasn't anything bad Kay-Lee.  Just I wondered out loud if a brace like that would help Uncle Forrester not to drag his foot so much.  He turns his ankle at least once a week."

"It might," I said, struggling not to melt into the furniture.

We kept eating and they discussed their day and what all they had accomplished and which trailers would be moved and hooked up on the next work day, this one scheduled for Monday after they purchased some pipes and such over the weekend.  I pretty much just concentrated on not being noticed.  Then Sawyer leaned back in his chair and rubbed his belly.  "Man that was good.  I remember when Mom used to fix it.  Delly tried to make them but she only used those fake potatoes and it was never the same."

Gramps said, "Well now that you mention it so do I.  Them potato flakes do have their uses but some folks rely on 'em too much.  I sure do like your cooking Honey."  He turned to me and winked and for some reason I blushed again which just made him grin all the more.  I don't know what it is about Hartford men.  I was never like this before.

I stood up having finished my own supper and started to clear the table.  They got up and took the last few things over to the sink for me then Sawyer said, "I'm gonna take Gramps on a tour.  You mind?"

I shrugged a little perturbed and embarrassed I hadn't gotten more done.  "It doesn't smell as much upstairs but it is nowhere near clean yet.  I haven't even run a dust mop."

"Gramps isn't here to do a white glove inspection, just to see what we have to work with."

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