Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Chapter 30

"Boy, you look tired.  Didn't that new mattress agree with you?"

"Yes sir," Sawyer grinned.  "Yes sir it sure did.  Just catchin' up from where I was stuck on that air mattress in the truck for most of a week."

It was Monday and Gramps and a couple of Sawyer's uncles had come to look over the house to see what kind of repairs it needed.

"Road needs to be graded for one but I ain't wantin' to start that in this mud and until after we make sure we ain't gotta dig it up to make sure the yard drains proper.  What about that basement Son?  Did it stay dry?"

I stepped out onto the porch and asked, "Coffee?  I've also got muffins made.  Everything is on the kitchen ta ..."

I moved out from in front of the doorway just in time to keep from being trampled.  Gramps laughed after taking his first bite of muffin.  "Honey, did anyone get your toes in that stampede?"

I smiled.  "No sir."

Around mouthfuls of coffee and muffins the men found out that the basement itself didn't leak but the broken window down into the basement did which was why it was probably boarded over in the first place.  While a couple started on that, another uncle went to check out the roof and another one started checking the fire places.  Sawyer was everywhere at once while I stayed in the kitchen making stew and dumplings for lunch and pocket pies for dessert.  I was also reading the directions for the dehydrator and getting it set up.

About an hour before lunch Sawyer bellowed, "Kay-Lee!!"

I stopped what I was doing and "ran" to where he was hollering at which was the fireplace in the master bedroom.  I come in breathless to find him covered in soot ... and so was everything else in the room including all of the clean linens that I had so painstakingly ironed a few days before.

"What happened?!"

"That screwy uncle of yours that's what!" he groused.

"What now?" I asked calmly without telling him it was a kinship by blood and nothing else so to please not act like it was my fault by connection.

He tried to hand me a blackened box but I just backed up and wouldn't take it.  "Here," he said.

"It's dirty.  Everything in here is dirty ... especially you."

He opened his mouth to say something then really looked around for the first time.  Uncle Junior walked in and said, "I told you Boy not to drop them weighted scrubbers; that we had a little prepping to do first."

"Uh ..."  Trying to ignore the horrible mess he'd just caused he instead blamed it on Mr. Baffa.  "There was a blockage and we couldn't figure out if some of the bricks had fallen on the inside or what.  Turns out it was this."

I still wouldn't take it.  "Don't you want to know what's inside it?" he demanded.

"Whatever it is you can deal with it.  I need to get this stuff down, shaken off, and washed unless you want to go back to sleeping in the truck.  Oh, and I still need to fix dinner for all you Hartford men."

"But Kay-Lee ..."

"Sawyer, if it was something Mr. Baffa thought important enough to hide then I think it must be important enough that you can deal with it."

"Kay-Lee just guess."

I rolled my eyes.  "Pictures of naked women?"

"What the ...?  No smart aleck."  He flipped back the lid and showed me that it was rolls of fives, tens, and twenties just like the money we'd found in other places, only this time inside one of those smallish sized fire proof safes.

"Well at least it doesn't stink as much as the stuff we found in the toes of those boots.  Still ... you get to clean this bunch since apparently I'm going to be spending most of the rest of my day cleaning this room up."

I started stripping the bed.  Uncle Junior said, "C'mon Son ... sometimes a man needs to know when to make a strategic retreat.  This is one of those times."


The Hartford men had all left for home hours before, the kitchen was clean for the last time, I'd managed to put the bedroom back together, and the stars were out in force in the clear night sky.  I should have been exhausted after all the work I had done, and I was, but apparently not exhausted enough to get some sleep.

Sawyer had passed out as soon as his head hit the pillow, proof that he'd worked long and hard to keep up with all his uncles were doing; but, every time I tried to get comfortable I was afraid of joggling him and waking him up so I rolled out of bed and came down to sit at the kitchen table and chop celery to go on the dehydrator first thing in the morning.  While I washed and chopped I replayed the day.

Everyone had liked the stew and really liked being able to take a pocket pie and go outside for a bit of fresh air.  That's where they were at when a car with the words "Process Server" on the door showed up.

"Is Kay-Lee Baffa Hartford here?"

I stepped out onto the porch but the men had formed a pretty much kept me there rather than let me come down the steps.  It was Gramps who asked, "What business do you have with my granddaughter?"

I was so hung up with being called his granddaughter that I almost missed him saying, "I'm sorry to inform you of the passing of Jacob Baffa, her uncle.  I also have papers here for her to sign to release the body and a few other odds and ends.  He requested cremation and then burial at the National Cemetery without a graveside service."  He droned on for a bit longer but the bottom line was all I needed to do was sign the papers because everything else had already been take care of.  One of the papers even said the inheritance taxes had already been paid.

"Who paid them?" I asked.

Sawyer said, "The lawyer that handled the property transfer.  They got it filed before he died so the tax effect was smaller.  Property taxes are also paid.  All the legal stuff is taken care of.  I'll give that to Old Man Baffa, when he decided to do something he didn't do it in half measures."

Everyone else went on along like it was just an everyday occurrence.  I just sort of stood there with the papers in my hands.  That's how Uncle James found me.  "You ok Kay-Lee?"

"What?  Oh ... oh yes sir," I answered trying to hide how confused I felt.

"Don't seem ok."

"I am ... or will be.  As soon as I figure out how I'm supposed to feel about all of this."

And that's where I still was at; trying to figure out how I felt.  I had no connection to Mr. Baffa.  He said he was my uncle and that giant family Bible said I was he was my uncle ... and related to a lot of other people too yet had never known or seen.  And for the life of me I couldn't make myself feel anything for them.  And somehow that made me sad which was too strange to contemplate.  And then there was the house and land and the Hartfords seemed like I should be dancing nekked in the streets with joy that it came my way.  But somehow that didn't mean anything to me either.  I was just a conduit that transferred the land and house from a Baffa to a Hartford.  Then there was Gramps calling me his granddaughter like he didn't even have to think about it, that being married to Sawyer had somehow conferred that privilege to me.  I had more feelings about that than any of the other.

And then there was Sawyer who I really didn't know what to feel about.  We were married.  We were even acting married ... but somehow it felt like it was all on the surface and for show while at the same time there did feel like something more was going on.  The "more" also worried me.  In fact all of the connections I was developing with the Hartfords worried me.  I'd gotten attached to a couple of my foster families when I'd been little and I'd even made the mistake of falling into the fantasy that one of the nurses that had taken care of me when I was in the hospital was going to adopt me and take me home just as soon as I got well enough.  That had been the last straw because I had been old enough to realize I'd built something up that wasn't there and that it was my own fault that it hurt.

I remembered all too well what a broken heart feels like.  I didn't want to feel that way again ... ever again.