Monday, August 25, 2014

Chapter 25

After the scratch-n-dent Sawyer took us through a fast food drive since it was going to be late when we got finished with everything.  While we ate we finished up the game plan for the rest of our time in town.  We decided that instead of going several different places we'd save the gas and head over to the big box store and pick up everything in one place.

Apparently it was a paycheck weekend so the place was busy.  To keep from bringing too much notice to ourselves we took separate carts and checked out in different lanes.  We didn't even act like we knew each other until we got to the truck and Sawyer said, "Need a lift pretty lady?"

"You're crazy," I told him but he just laughed and started unloading the carts as quick as he could to keep people from gazing over into the camper top to see what all is in there.

Last place we went was the dollar store and the manager turned out to be the mother of one of the girls I knew from school.

"Kay-Lee! How you doing Sugar?"

"Fine Mrs. Blaine.  Um ... I'd like to introduce you to Sawyer Hartford.  My ... my husband."

That stopped her cold.  She looked up and then gave Sawyer the evil eye.  I squeaked, "It's not like that!"

Sawyer looked at me and asked, "Like what?"

I gave him a look and he still didn't get it.  I hissed, "She thinks we haaaaad to get married."

"She thinks ...?"  Then he made this funny kind of yelp.  "Gramps would kill us both."

I admit Sawyer looked kind of funny but Mrs. Blaine thought he looked hilarious and nearly couldn't stop laughing.  She finally gasped.  "Oh my goodness.  Yeah, Mr. Hiram would have something to say about it I guess.  I still remember that time he found my sister and her soon-to-be behind the bushes on Pioneer Day.  He marched them both over to our mother and Priscilla still won't talk about it to this day."  She laughed some more and then had to go take care of something going wrong on a register.

"Your grandfather sure has a reputation."

Sawyer laughed.  "And he deserves it too.  Gramps has what some people call a velvet fist.  We get away with a lot but he'll be the first in line to knock our heads together once we get too far over the line.  But there isn't anyone better to have in your corner.  You have to pay consequences if you've done something to deserve it but he will also be there when you’re finished paying to help you get back on your feet."

I looked around and decided to use Sawyer's strategy and waited until Mrs. Blaine had a moment.  "Mrs. Blaine?  I don't want to make you have to restock stuff.  Is there any way for us to get cases before they've been opened?  We've got a list for the family and ..."

"Oh sure Sugar.  If I've got it in a closed case we'll just pull it from the back room.  I might not though.  They aren't letting us keep our inventory as high as we used to."

Lucky for us most of what I'd wanted Mrs. Blaine still had in cases and by buying in bulk we were able to knock a few pennies off here and there.  Sawyer wound up pulling the truck around back and Mrs. Blaine herself checked us out and rolled the handcart out to the truck and set it down.  "I'd help you load but store rules say we can't.  I tell you though that I'm glad to see this sell.  We're supposed to make so many bulk sales a month and I've only gotten about half what we normally do.  I'm not looking forward to having the regional manager come around again and tell me I need to work harder.  I can't make people buy more than they have money to spend."

She didn't need me to respond but just listen which is what I did.  When she added that it didn't help that everyone was running out to that new discount place on Rt. 2 I filed the information and then went out to see that Sawyer was putting the last of it in the back like a jigsaw puzzle.

I asked, "Have you heard of some new discount store out on Rt. 2?"

"Someone mentioned it today.  Where'd you hear about it?"

"Mrs. Blaine was complaining it was starting to take some of her sales volume away."

"Maybe we should check it out."

"Maybe we should.  Do you know where it is at?"

"Only place it could be is that old strip center where the Food Mart used to be.  I think there is a feed store on one end unless it’s closed."

I nodded but still didn't remember ever seeing anything like that.  I'd lived in foster homes all over town but rarely got outside the city limits.

We got there and the parking lot was about half full.  When we got inside about two-thirds of the store was clothes, cheap toys, and housewares with a small corner for furniture and the rest was groceries, cleaning supplies, and garden stuff.  Sawyer mentally counted what cash he had left, telling me to keep what he'd given me back for reserves, and we carefully filled another cart with odds and ends for ourselves.

There was a lady in there doing what we were doing and she tapped my shoulder and said, "You drink coffee?"

"He does."

"Go around the other side of this aisle here and get your man a couple of those containers.  I haven't seen prices like that in a couple of years and I bet when it’s gone I ain't gonna see them again for another long time if ever.  My husband is barely human without his morning coffee and I hate to think what we'll have to give up so I can keep buying it."

She told me about a couple of more things she had seen and I thanked her before she had to go back to listening to her daughter complain about the fact she was out of data on her phone again and the mother basically telling her tough that she'd have to wait until roll over to get more.  I pushed the cart over to the coffee only to find Sawyer already there with a cart of his own.  "There's a limit of three so you take these and I'll put three more in this cart."

I did as he said and told him, "There's limits on almost everything but it doesn't seem to stop people from shopping."

"No it don't.  Glad we could get what we got from the dollar store though.  I'll have to tell Aunt Pearl about this place."

"What is that other stuff in your cart?"

He answered, "Back in the clearance section they had a bunch of lids and rings and I decided just to get them all.  Aunt Pearl told me to be on the look-out for some for you.  They've put an order in with the Mennonites but until they come in she's afraid they might run short.  And that might be the last they get to order.  The store owner was telling Gramps that the government is looking at coming down real hard on people that do their own home canning."

"What business is it of the government?"

Sawyer gave me a look that said "not so loud" so I lowered my voice and added.  "That doesn't make any sense.  Next they'll be telling people what to cook and how."

Sawyer said, "They're already trying to do that in some places."


"Harley!  Davey!  Down!!  Get back!!"  Tommy was pulling on the two dogs' collars and Sawyer was bending over to help me where I was trying to get up off the gravel driveway.

"Are you ok?!  Damn dogs," he growled.

"I'm fine.  I just didn't expect them to be so ... er ... friendly.  That was friendly right?  'Cause they weren't growling."

"They know better than to jump on people.  Did they sit on you?  They weigh a hundred pounds each and it’s all muscle.  Dang mutts."

"Sawyer I'm fine.  Just ask 'em not to jump."

Tommy snorted and so did a couple of other people in the yard where we'd pulled to deliver the stuff that's we'd found in town.  Tommy said, "Dogs aren't like people Kay-Lee.  You can ask 'em but they might or might not do it.  Usually not."

"That sounds exactly like people to me," I said as one of the huge dogs tried to get me to ride it like a pony.

"Ok, that's enough," I snapped trying to regain my very lost dignity.  "I'm head of the kitchen where you're going to live so if you want to eat you'll mind or else."

While some people snickered the dogs actually looked like they were listening and began to calm down after Sawyer paid some attention to them.  Watching I told Tommy, "They're as bad as the little kids when they get all sugared up.  They want attention and they'll get it anyway they can."

Linda walked up and said, "Dogs are like that.  Smart half the time and the other half acting like little kids with ADD.  These two though are smarter and because of that can get up to mischief if they don't have enough to keep them occupied.  Don't leave your brace where they can get it or one of them might wind up wearing it or eating it."

I was familiar with having to keep everything put away because of the other foster kids I lived with so already had the habit.  I just reminded myself not to get lax.  As soon as the dogs got enough greetings and people stopped laughing at the fact they'd run over me the guys started shifting stuff around in the back of the truck.  Some things came out and some stuff went in.  I followed Linda over to a bunch of picnic tables put end to end where things were being divided up.

"Aunt Pearl is there something I can help with?"

"Sure Honey.  First thing, Linda says you can make your own bread."

"Yes ma'am."

"Well that'll take some pressure off.  I'll give you flour and baking fixings and give the other girls the store-bought stuff.  What all can you do?"

"If I have a recipe just about anything.  But I already have some favorite recipes that I use that are real easy."

"That's good, real good.  And Linda also tells me you know how to dry things for storage."

"Yes ma'am.  Linda taught me last year.  Her parents do all of that stuff 'cause they're real health conscious."

She gave me a grin then said, "Even better.  I've got a dehydrator I picked up at the flea market for you.  Take it home and I'm going to give you some of the fresh stuff we bought too.  You'll need to be careful of the ziploc bags though, they're getting precious."

"There's a lot of big jars that I can use for storage if you need to keep those baggies.  Sawyer was going to pick up some at the scratch-n-dent store but I told him to wait because they were the cheap kind that were real thin."

"Bless you.  I know just the kind you are talking about and you're lucky to get one use out of them before the zipper goes or it gets a hole.  Money wasters is all they are.  Jars will be better anyway, just make sure to store them out of direct light and to keep an eye out for moisture.  You have any questions just ask Honey.  More of us that can do what needs doing, less problems all around.  And what was that boy thinking?"  That last was said with a laugh when she saw all the bottles of mustard that Sawyer had picked up.

Each family group had a table where things were being set after being bagged up or separated.  Aunt Pearl explained that Sawyer and I were considered part of Gramps' family group and that Linda was bagging things up for our group in smaller containers since we would be taking our share with us to the house.

"And Honey, when you get a chance I need you to look around your place and make a list of what you've got in the yard."

"Excuse me?"

"Like the kind of trees and bushes.  Sawyer will help with that but I hope your handwriting is better than his.  His isn't much more than chicken scratch."

Having already noticed that I tried to hide a grin.

"You laughing at me?"

I turned at hearing Sawyer's mock snit and I told him, "If you're the guy who can't read his own writing then sure seems like it."

He grinned and said, "And yours looks like it come off a typewriter so I guess that means you can do all the writing from here on out."

I rolled my eyes before turning back to what I was doing while Sawyer grabbed a box that Aunt Pearl told him to move out of her way.  When he walked off several of the girls and aunts made comments amongst each other then one said, "Been a long time since I've seen Sawyer not be so flaming touchy about everything."

I looked up and she added, "I'm Beth ... Cutter's wife."

I almost told her she had my sympathies and something must have showed on my face because she giggled.  "Yeah, he has that effect on people but we get along.  I don't know if you remember me or not.  I was a senior your freshman year."

"I'm sorry, I don't.  My freshman year was a little crazy."

"I can imagine.  That was the year you had those rods in your leg."

"Yeah.  I guess you remember me because I stood out."

"No.  I remember you because you petitioned Coach Edgars to use the football team as Culinary's guinea pigs.  Some of the teachers were a little bent about that when they found out."

"How was I supposed to know that the teacher's thought they were entitled to all of that going to the teacher's lounge?  They always left stuff to spoil and I hate to waste food and the cleaning ladies were always complaining.  I thought I was helping."

"You were," she laughed.  "Some of the teachers were just brats and probably still are."  I didn't disagree but wasn't going to gossip about it.  You never knew where things like that might end up.

Soon after that Sawyer said it was time to go or it would be dark before he could get the mattress out of the truck.  Gramps said, "Don't move so fast boy.  A couple of us are coming over so we can grab them boxes off the back porch."

"Well then meet us over there.  We'll unload the truck and somebody can help me haul that mattress upstairs when you get there.  It ain't exactly light."