Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chapter 45

I have been having an absolute blast foraging.  I get nearly as much food for the pantry that way as I do from the fruit trees in the orchard and from my share of the canning that we do on canning days.  But I have to admit that occasionally the work could be monotonous and lonely when Sawyer was off working on one of the other family’s farms.  That’s where I was at when Linda and Jeannie just showed up out of the blue and it was so tempting just to run off with them. 

"C'mon Kay-Lee.  Sawyer won't care."

I shook my head.  "Linda I don't have any way of letting him know where I'll be if he needs me."

"Sure you do.  Jeannie can call Benedict.  Benedict can tell Sawyer."

"But he might need me and we'll already be gone and ..."

I felt a tap on my shoulder and when I turned around Jeannie handed me the phone.  I took it gingerly and said, "Hello?"

There was huffing and puffing on the other end.  "Go.  You know where the keys are and all the yada, yada to do to leave the house.  You know where the extry is too."

Extry is what Sawyer called the cash we found that we are using to fill in all the holes we have listed in our wants and needs lists.

"Oh I hadn't intended to ..."

Just a shade shy of sounding irritated Sawyer huffed, "Kay-Lee, no fuss.  Just take the list and go."

"Uh ... okay."

He hung up.

Jeannie looked at me with a shrug and said, "It was just easier to call him than it was to waste time with you acting guilty for wanting to have a little fun.  C'mon before your nerves give me the heaves."

I looked at them both and said, "I don't feel guilty ..."

Jeannie rolled her eyes but Linda gave me a one-armed hug and said, "Yes you do, you just don't know you do."

"Really.  It's commendable," Jeannie said dryly.  "But you're making the rest of us look bad.  So we're here to drag you off to prove you don't mean to."

"Huh?  Nothing I could do would make someone look bad.  I don't get it."  I looked at Linda and said again, "I don't get it."

"Nope.  Which just means you're nice and sweet and a little silly.  Now c'mon.  It's not like this is a purely for-fun outing.  We've got a long list of things to hunt up.  Have you got a list too?"

"Yeah.  Um … can we stop by the grocery store and the library?"

"Yep.  We also have to stop by the fabric store and the feed depot."  Jeannie was driving Uncle Ben's extended bed truck with the camper top and that told me we had quite a bit to pick up.

We wound up spending the longest time at the library where they were having a "Friends of the Library" sale and I got two big canvas totes of books for ten dollars.  I also turned in the books I had checked out and picked up some that I had put on reserve.  And I found out that my library card allowed me to check out movies and audio files.  I got a bunch of documentaries that I could have playing on the tv while I mended and folded clothes during the day.

At the fabric store we emptied their clearance bin of remnants and also picked up a couple of bolts of denim, muslin, and cheesecloth that had been ordered by someone in the family.  It was there we heard about a store on the other side of town that was closing and we zipped over there and picked up a bunch of quilt batting and a bunch of other odds and ends they had on deep discount as they only had two more days to clear out before the bankruptcy people came in for the shelving and stuff.

Next we went into this industrial complex.  "Jeannie?  Is this a short cut?" I asked.

"Nope," she answered as she beeped a horn and a door open and we drove in.

As soon as the door came down.  Jeannie got out and walked over to a man and they hugged each other tight.  Before I could be shocked she said, "Uncle Howard if Dad finds out ..."

"Let 'em.  I love your father honey but I don't agree with how he and your mother are handling this.  You and Benedict ... well ... you could have behaved better and you'll have to pay the piper on that one day ... but that doesn't mean that we gotta cut you out of our lives."  He sighed.  "Your dad's side of the family are all stiff necked.  Your dad is the best of the lot but this was a pretty big pill for him to swallow.  He'll come around.  Lindy - your momma - already is.  Now if we could just get Pamela Sue to ..."

"Stop being Pamela Sue?"

I looked over at Linda who whispered, "Her sister the stuck up snob."

"Uncle Howard ... are you sure about this?"

"Jeannie Honey ... whatever is still here tomorrow is going to be taken by the IRS.  A friend has offered me a job working with him in Thailand as a contractor.  We'll see your aunt's family more and ... well ... a change in environment sounds good right now.  So let's get this stuff loaded.  I couldn't get your father to unbend enough to accept this but I don't want to hear any guff from you, you hear?"

The "stuff" wound up being a lot of paper goods and cleaning supplies.  Jeannie's uncle's business had been a Restaurant Supply Company.  He had a room going where he'd tried to have a sale earlier in the day and hadn't done too well.  I worried that I was going overboard putting all in a cart I wanted - metal tongs, giant salad bowls that I could use for marinating things before canning or that I could cut things into, lighters, a portable butane stove and a bunch of butane canisters, and that was before I saw the food items he had left.  The girls got a lot of junk food but I knew that Sawyer didn't like chips so I stuck to drink powders and mixes, seasonings, bread crumbs, condiments, vinegar, raw sugar, big bottles of seasonings, and I just about cleaned the last of his cooler out of frozen exotic fruits as well as stir fry vegetable mixes.

I was counting everything up in my head praying that Sawyer wasn't going to come unglued when Uncle Howard looked things over, and then said, "Quite a load you got there.  I'm sorry to say it is going to cost you a whole twenty bucks."

My mouth fell open and he shook his head.  "Play along girl."

"Uh .."  I looked at Jeannie who couldn't do anything but hide a laugh behind her hands.  "Hmmm ... uh ... you sure you added that up right?"

"'Course I did.  Don't think that I'll be cheated either.  Just because that food is a little out of date don't mean it can't be eaten."

I just blinked and could hear Linda and Jeannie snickering behind me.  I asked, "Is this a case of not looking a gift horse in the mouth?"

Uncle Howard laughed and said, "Now you're thinking with your head."

He did the same thing to Linda and Jeannie who really hammed up the pretend haggling.  I realized he'd been trying to play and I froze up.  Soon enough Jeannie and her uncle said an emotional goodbye and we went out a different bay door.

I told Jeannie, "I hope I didn't upset your uncle.  I ... I just didn't know what to make of him."

"Don't worry about it," Jeannie said on a sniffle.  "Uncle Howard got a kick out of it.  That old saying you used about the horse is one of his favorite ones."  She stopped at a red light and said, "I don't know about y'all but I'm done in."

Linda said, "We should get that frozen stuff home."

Jeannie said, “We do but we have one more stop to make.  Uncle Howard put me onto it but we need to go ourselves because the guys won’t want to have anything to do with it.” 

Linda grimaced and said, “You really mean to go there?  They don’t even speak English.” 

Jeannie looked at me and grinned.  “That’s not going to be a problem.” 

Starting to get a little worried I asked, “Jeannie?  What kind of trouble are you trying to get us into?” 

“Not into … out of.  Or around.  Or whatever you want to call it.  I saw you at the flea market.  You speak Spanish pretty good.” 

I shrugged.  “There’s a lot of migrant kids that get stuck in foster care.  Plus it was one of the few electives I could take since middle school that I didn’t fall behind on and could do in the hospital by listening to tapes and stuff.  But that don’t tell me where you want to go except to say yeah, the guys’ heads will probably pop when they find out.” 

“It’s no place bad and they don’t have to find out.” 

“I won’t lie to Sawyer,” I told them both when Linda started grinning. 

Linda rolled her eyes.  “You won’t have to.  We just won’t bring up where all we went.” 

“Sawyer keeps receipts.” 

Jeannie’s eyes narrowed and she said, “Well he won’t keep these receipts.  I’ll use the money we were given to get supplies and you can pay me for your share and just tell nosey ol’ Sawyer that we did a group buy on one ticket that I’m turning into Aunt Pearl.  Aunt Pearl won’t blink and in fact she told me not to blare off where all we go to anyone.  Anyone could just very well include our husbands.” 

I wasn’t liking Jeannie’s logic but had to admit that it turned out all right in the end.  She drove us over to another warehouse and right away I could see the two of them were beginning to rethink their idea.  On the other hand the more uncomfortable they go the less unsure I became.  Right as Jeannie looked like she was going to turn the truck around I rolled down the window and asked an obviously very Spanish gentlemen, “Excuse me but we were told you were having a going out of business sale.”  Of course I said it in Spanish and added Jeannie’s uncles name for good measure. 

“Si, si … Senor Howard.”  The man pointed further down the alley and we saw some women going through boxes but none of them looked like they were buy much.  Jeannie and Linda were hesitant to get out of the truck so I told them to wait there and went over and started asking questions.  In Spanish. 

Then a girl came out and laughed.  “Kay-Lee!” 

I looked up and saw a girl that was almost as crippled up as I was.  She’d had polio as a little kid and he had left her legs twisted and in braces. 


We were hugging hello when Linda rushes over and takes her turn.  I looked back and found Jeannie standing there too.  Blanca had gone to school with all of us.  She was a year older than Linda and a year younger than Jeannie.  She was a happy, smiling girl and was popular on both sides of the school. 

“What are you doing here?” she asked after she’d introduced us to her family and some of the others there. 

Jeannie explained and Blanca shrugged.  “Things are bad all over.  Papa said we are going to move to Florida to be closer to Abuela and Abuelo who are getting too old to run their store alone since my uncle decided to take work building the big pipeline like so many others  have done.  If you have cash Papa will cut you some good deals.  We have way too much to take with us when we leave and we can’t leave until we get sell it.  Bad for us but maybe good for you?” 

Boy was it good for us.  Personally I think Jeannie and Linda bought a little too much but who am I to tell them how to spend what was given to them.  I was a little pickier but still managed to pick up a lot of things I never thought to even put on the lists and some that were. 

Strong Mexican coffee went into my box by the pound.  I got almost three cases of tropical fruit that included mango, papaya, and guava.  I got several canisters of dried milk – the real stuff, not just evaporated instant – as well as some breakfast cereals that were kind of like cream of wheat.  High quality Mexican chocolate went into my box next to the several bags of cornstarch.  I got a case of canned table cream and was really happy to have it and would have bought more if they’d had it.  I got a bunch of canned beans but steered clear of the canned menudo because while I like to eat plain the same way I like to cook plain, tripe stew had just never been something I could force myself to eat.  Blanca called me over and I almost squealed like a little kid and she had a hard time not laughing at me.  That’s ok.  I bought a fifty pound bag of dried pinto beans and a twenty-five pound bag of dried black beans.  I left the rest for Linda and Jeannie to get though it wasn’t easy as the price was really good.  And I also got an almost fifty pound bag of parboiled rice, something that wasn’t easy to find in the grocery store in much quantity. 

There were other odds and ends like the flour you can use to make tortillas with and the corn flour you can make corn tortillas with, some hot sauces that I warned need to be used sparingly until you figured out just how much fire you wanted, and some unique spices and flavorings … and a gallon jug of vanilla that made Jeannie blink and wonder what I planned to use it for.  I shrugged and told them that for the money I liked real Mexican and Honduran vanilla over the cheap artificial stuff that I usually had to use. 

After that it was a real push to find room for everything and we really did need to hurry home.  Blanca insisted on giving us some tamales to take with us and I didn’t say no.  We hugged and wished each other the best of luck but didn’t pretend that we’d keep in touch.  I knew that when Blanca and her family left they’d cut all ties to this area.  They just had a different mindset; I’d seen the same thing with some of the foster kids I’d been housed with.  It was hard to explain but obvious when you saw it. 

We ate the delicious tamales on our way back home, discussing the day’s purchases and what we’d missed on our lists and what we’d gotten good deals on.  We full and happy and were pulling down the drive when we surprised to see two sheriff's cars.


1 comment:

  1. Cliff. you naughty thing, get out of my way I want to read moooaaarrrr of the story......

    Thanks Kathy.