Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Chapter 56

That night Sawyer and I sat at the table while we went over the receipts.  I felt all pulled in different directions.  I was really proud of myself for not spending all the money from the extry envelope but I was upset at how much I did spend.  I knew we’d use the stuff I did get and what I’d gotten had been a good price … or at least a good price compared to other places … but I kept thinking that there should have been some way for me to save even more. 

I muttered angrily at myself, “I shouldn’t have bought those extra bottles of shampoo and tubes of toothpaste at the last stop.  It could have waited.  I shouldn’t have gotten that stuff from the clearance bin.  Next time I’ll just …” 

Sawyer interrupted my thoughts by saying, “Kay-Lee, don’t do that.” 

“Huh?  Oh.  Sorry.  I didn’t mean to disturb your counting.  I’ll go check …” 

“Kay-Lee, I meant don’t act like I’m going to holler at you because you had to use the money for groceries.” 

I shook my head.  “Sawyer …” 

“Don’t tell me that’s not what you’re doing.  And it makes me feel bad.  Especially when I expected you to spend all of it and you didn’t.” 

In disgust I said, “I spent enough of it.  I shouldn’t have gone with them.  I don’t know why I did.  I’ve got so much to do around here.  Went out and played while you were working and now I’m even more behind.  And I spent too much.” 

“You weren’t playing according to Jeannie.  She said you hardly smiled at all.  As for how much you spent … well that’s the thing, I’m wondering if you did spend enough.” 

“Wait … what?” 

“I saw that load that Linda and Jeannie came back with.  I honestly came home expecting to see more and … well …” 

“They’re shopping for a lot more people.  I’m shopping for just the two of us.  I still can’t believe … Sawyer I’m not being nosey, honest.  I know it’s none of my business.  But where does all that money come from that Jeannie and Linda spend?  Is Gramps rich or something like that?” 

Sawyer started with a small grin and then it grew until he was laughing and laying his head on the table.  I didn’t think it was that funny and let it show on my face. 

“Aw Kay-Lee, I’m not laughing at you, just the idea of anyone … not just you … but anyone saying the Hartfords are rich.  Most folks think we aren’t anything but a bunch of backwoods white trash.  You see how people look at Gramps.  I don’t think he has worn anything but bib overalls since he was a boy.  The only thing different is depending on where he’s going is what kind of shirt he wears … dress shirt and blazer for church, chambray shirt for field work, and t-shirt for just about everything else.  Some of the other uncles are nearly like him except they might give up the overalls for church, weddings, and funerals.  You’ve seen it.” 

I shook my head.  “That won’t wash.  The last thing your family is is white trash.  I should know, you meet enough of it in foster care.  Sure they might dress kind of … er … casual but that’s nothing.  Before you married me all I had to wear were pieces that doubled as my school uniform.  There’s a lot of foster families that try and give you more than a roof over your head but there’s just as many that take what the government gives them for our upkeep and uses it to pay their personal bills and a roof is about all we have secure; and that’s temporary no matter what family you are with.  I can’t see any of the Hartfords being like that - not even Uncle Mark who has a major attitude about the majority of the human race.  Not a single one of you are trashy.” 

Sawyer had stopped laughing and put a hand over one of mine.  “I’m real sorry you had to live like that Kay-Lee.  I guess it has made it hard for you to … to believe in things I guess.  Like how you get sometimes after we snuggle, like you’re not sure exactly what to make of it or for how long it’s gonna last.” 

I sighed.  “All I asked about was the money Sawyer, if it’s none of my business just say so.  We don’t need to go off down this road.” 

“See?  You’re afraid of even talking about it.  But I’ll let it go this time ‘cause I don’t want you to think I’m hiding anything from you.  The money is coming from a big tract of land that got taken away from us by imminent domain a couple of years ago.  Do you remember … well you were kinda young so it might not have even registered so let me just explain it.  Gramps’ dad had an older brother and that was a whole different branch of the Hartfords but they didn’t really have many kids and the ones they did have died young.  Their land was near some quarry and mining land in the next county over.  Gramps wound up inheriting it after the last of his brother’s grandkids died.  Gramps made decent money on it – enough to pay the taxes and such and it was good hunting ground – renting it out to the mining company and then the quarry that took over after that.  Then both companies went bust and the state came in and took the property by imminent domain to protect some stupid blind fish that had been discovered down in one of the mines that had filled with water.  There was something about a highway going through it too but that never happened.  So Gramps took that money – and he only got pennies on the dollar for what the land was potentially worth – and socked it away for a rainy day.  Well Gramps is expecting a gully washer and is trying to get ahead of it; like Noah before the Flood.  He’s taken care of us with some of the large group buys but some of the other cousins seem to need more taking care of than others.” 

“So we really are better off than some of the others?” 

“Yeah, we are but the way you say it you didn’t think so.” 

“No, it’s not that, like I’ve tried to explain to Linda I’m not measuring us against anyone else, only against the plans we’ve made and what we’ve determined that we need.” 

“Why would Linda think we’re … uh …” 

He acted like he was trying not to be angry and I worried that explaining was going to tip the scale so I did it carefully.  He surprised me though and actually relaxed.  “I bet Gramps set this up.  He’s been after me to tell him what we need and I keep telling him I’ll let him know if we can’t handle things.  Well we haven’t needed any help after that first little bit where he filled the propane up and the uncles came out and helped fix some stuff around here so there hasn’t been anything to tell him.  I guess he is kinda getting itchy about it and decided to check up and make sure I’m not being too prideful.” 

“Well, Linda did say that Gramps had given them money to get drinks while we were out as a treat for running the errands for him and everyone else.” 

Sawyer grinned and said, “Yep, that sounds like something Gramps would do.  He’s worried about us you know.  I mean he’s worried about all of us but you and me in particular I guess.  He’s got Tommy and Linda pretty well tied up and taken care of.  I figure one of these days Tommy will inherit his house so long as Tommy promises to take care of Aunt Pearl and the other aunts and uncles as everyone gets older.  Someone in our family has always been the go to for that sort of thing … to organize work crews and stuff like that. It used to be my dad and Uncle James were in charge of it.  After Dad died Uncle James still did it but it got kinda haphazard.  I’m getting the feeling that he’s setting me and Tommy up to take Uncle James’ and his place when the time comes.” 

“Are you ok with that?” 

“Heck yeah.  That’s not a problem now that I’ve got my head on straight.” 

“OK, then why is he checking up on us?  I was really worried about saying the wrong thing and telling your business.  Linda and Jeannie can be … uh …” 

“Yeah, lately their tongues have been hung in the middle and running at both ends carrying tales to keep Gramps and Aunt Pearl up on what’s going on at everyone’s place.  That’s gonna bite ‘em in the butt though if they aren’t more careful.  I tried to talk to Tommy about it but he thinks Linda can do no wrong and Gramps and his dad must walk on water.  And Benedict thinks it’s just a phase or something for Jeannie and he thinks once the baby gets here she’ll snap right back to the way she was before.  Well Delly was never the same so I’m pretty sure Benedict is smoking dope thinking Jeannie will.” 

I wasn’t going to say anything about it one way or the other so let Sawyer keep his opinion.  I’m learning fast that the only way I’m going to get along with the Hartford women – and men – is to keep my nose out of other people’s business and to keep my opinions to myself unless outright asked for them. 

“So we aren’t in trouble or anything?” 

“No, you can stop worrying about that if you were.  I guess Gramps just expected us to need more help than we have.” 

“Well the work crews are here just about every canning day.  That’s help isn’t it?” 

“Yeah it is but that help swings both ways.  The more felled trees they take out the more wood there is to share around for everyone.  And the trees aren’t just coming from our piece.  Everyone has some downed trees that need cleaning up and cutting up for the winter to come; especially if Gramps is right about propane and electric being iffy. And Benedict and Uncle Ben converting over the tractor keeps the second log splitter going and it can do the bigger trees better and faster than Gramps’ old machine can.  See?  It’s a win-win for everyone.  What I meant is I think he thought we’d need more help financially with food and clothes and just about everything else but I’ve yet to miss a meal unless it was my own fault, I’ve got more clothes than I know what to do with lately, and we haven’t even used a quarter of that tank of propane he bought for us because you women use the wood stove for the canning and after that is a mystery.  Cutter keeps asking me how we can possibly still have almost a tank full and I can’t even tell him.  Either the meter is busted or we’ve got propane fairies around here.” 

I rolled my eyes.  “Don’t be silly, we’re just careful.  I don’t waste hot water.  I wash the clothes in cold unless the whites are really disgusting, I wash the dishes by hand, and …” 

“And since we shower together …” he said with a wicked grin. 

Despite myself I had to smile and say, “You’re in a good mood.” 

“Sure am.  We’ll talk about the groceries later.  I want you to give me a for real list of things you want, not just need but want.  And before you get that line between your eyebrows you get when you are about to tune up and fuss I’m telling you I’m serious and it is for a serious reason.  But right now I want to tell you about the lucky break I caught and how it is all due to Buttface … er … Burt.” 

“You know one of these days you are going to accidentally call him that to his face.” 

“If I call it to his face it won’t be no accident.  He still ain’t my most favorite person on the planet but … I suppose he ain’t my least favorite either.  Especially not after today.” 

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