Monday, November 3, 2014

Chapter 60


I was sitting on the porch catching the cool breeze off the rain that was threatening and shelling one of the endless bushels of beans I’d been brought so I could keep feeling like I was contributing despite pretty much being stuck moving in slow motion for a few more days.  Today had been a canning day and the last of the women had left only an hour before. 

That's where Sawyer found me after he'd parked his truck around back as had become his habit.  He stopped and looked out over the property for a moment before coming towards where I was sitting.

“Phew, grass is getting a little tall out in the orchard again," he said.  "And stay away from those hives that Uncle Donnel put out there today; them bees are still wound up from being moved.  I can hear them all the way to barn. Don’t even try and go out there until I can get it mowed.  Could be snakes out in it too.” 

“Could be?  There are … or was at least one until an owl decided to come out for a meal.  I don’t know who was more freaked out by that owl.  The snake, the black birds, or me.  It just swooped down like some kind of ninja or something and grabbed that snake off the fence that I hadn’t even seen until the owl snatched it up.  I didn’t think owls hunt during the day or if they do it is some kind of bad omen.” 

“Oh Lord, don’t start sounding like Aunt Nel.”  That’s when the dogs finally came out of the barn and they headed straight for him.  “Get down Davey!  Harley!  You couple of hard heads, move!  You act like you haven’t seen me for a year.  Dang dogs … stop that!  You’re too old to pull on my pants legs and me think it’s funny!  Go on.  Behave already.”  The dogs finally left to go investigate the smell on his truck tires.  Looking at me Sawyer said, “That’s nothing but an old wives tale.  And while we’re at it I’m warning you to watch out for Uncle Junior, him and Aunt Nel both, they’ll try and scare the bejeebers out of you with their stories.  What color was it?” 

“The snake or the owl?” 

“The owl,” he said giving me a look like he knew I was playing dumb on purpose. 

“It was big and gray … mostly gray anyway.  Well it looked gray.  It was moving too fast for me to do much more than realize it was an owl and that it was bigger than I expected it to be.” 

“Probably a great horned owl.  They don’t normally hunt during the day but it is overcast and I guess an owl can want its dinner a little early just like me.” 

“Does that mean you’re hungry?” I asked him with a grin.

“Yep, but stay sitting down ‘cause I can get it.  Or do you need help getting up?  You were moving better this morning before I left but …” 

“I’m fine.  I need to get up.  If I sit still too long without a break I get stiff.  Just watch out as you go in the kitchen …” 

The screen door hadn't stopped moving before Sawyer yelped, “Holy mackerel!” 

“I warned you.” 

Still sounding surprised he responded, “I guess you did.  I knew there was going to be a herd of women here today but geez ... had to have been more than that to get all these jars done up.” 

I gave him a tired smile when he turned around to hold his arm out to me for balance so I could step over the threshold.  “The aunts, the new wives … all of them, even Jeannie and she had to do as much sitting as me.  Then Delly showed up with Mrs. Penny and her sister Mrs. Carmichael in tow.  Then Uncle Mark drove out with Cindy, Cindy’s mother and her sisters and aunts and they brought those outside tables you see folded and up on the porch so that we could get most of the work done out here and save the mess since we had so many batches of different things going.  I haven’t ever seen anything like this except maybe that time we had a cookie party between the H&C departments of all three high schools in the school district.  It was wild, wild, wild.  And hold on to your hat, they’re gonna be back tomorrow.” 

“That’s … uh …”  Sawyer shook his head and then frowned.  “Who’s cutting the wood?” 

“No one today but tomorrow Davis and Cindy’s brother Clay are bringing some downed trees from her dad’s property line and apparently Burt is going to talk to you about helping him, his cousin or something like that, and his uncle take down and haul a bunch of trees off the Penny and Carmichael places.  The trees will come in, some will get used for the canning fires, some will stay to barter for the use of the big splitter and the help.  Or so Aunt Pearl has declared.” 

“Oh she has has she?  I wonder if she has run this by Gramps.  He’s got a chore list for us as long as my leg is already.” 

“My understanding is that she has but I’m staying out of it.   I have learned that it is smarter and safer not to get between Aunt Pearl and something she means to have.  Let me tell you.  She’s got these next two months mapped out like a campaign.  We’re doing battle with the veggies and Aunt Pearl is on record declaring that we’re gonna win.” 

Sawyer laughed but I could tell he was tired.  “Sounds about right.  She and Mom used to …”  He sighed.   

When Sawyer stopped talking I looked at him close and could see something in his eyes I'd never seen there before.  “What’s wrong?” 

“I wish Mom and Dad were here to see this.  I don’t want them here to have to live through the bad stuff that’s coming but I just wish they could see this … what we’re doing.  Not just the family but me and you.” 

Hesitantly I thought a moment and then said, “I’m pretty sure Preacher Don thinks they can, that they can see the good stuff anyway since there’s no tears in Heaven.  When he said it I started to wonder about my parents.  I know they went to church and stuff.” 

“How do you know that?” 

“Things that people have been telling me about them.  Did you know that my mother has relatives in Tennessee?  Or at least that is what Mrs. Carmichael said.  She seemed surprised I didn’t know.  Anyway if my parents can see me I’m really sure that your parents can see you.  I mean you and them had time to have a relationship and stuff and I’m sure they’d want to know how you are getting along.” 

“Aw Kay-Lee …” 

“Oh don’t start that.  I didn’t say anything to make you think I was having a pity-party.  I just wanted you to know I kinda understand and that you aren't alone.” 

“Girl, you are the last person I would think of as throwing a pity-party.”  He gave me a kiss.  “Let’s eat.  I’ve got stuff to bring in from the truck but I’m too hungry to do it.” 

Supper was the last of one of the casseroles that people had sent over the Sunday after the flea market riot.  It was a hash brown casserole with lots of cheese, ham, and garden peas.  I had cooked a pan of cornbread to go with it using the coals left over from one of the cook fires.  We had to eat on tv trays in the front room because there wasn’t any room in the kitchen what with all surfaces already filled with towel covered jars.  I told Sawyer, “Watch how you open the frig or something is liable to fall out.  We got a little out of sync today and got too much prepped for the number of jars we had.” 

Sawyer swallowed and then wiped his mouth.  “Are we out of jars?” 

“I’m trading prep for some of the …” 

“No, I mean are we out of jars, not what you’re trying to do about it if we are.” 

Ignoring his crankiness because I knew it was from being tired and worried I told answered, “I’m out of jars in the house.  There’s still all those jars out in the barn.” 

“I’ll get some out tonight.” 

“It is already covered.  Davis and Clay …” 

Grumpily he interrupted, “Ain’t going to go rummaging through our stuff.  Davis is all right but Clay … well I guess he is ok but …” 

“All right.  I’ve never met him but I’ll take your word for it.  What about Burt Jr.  He’s going to be here tomorrow.  We can always phrase it to Davis and Clay that Burt Jr. wants to earn some money – and he does and that’s why Delly is bringing him since I guess you all finished the warehouse today?” 

“Yeah we did," Sawyer said leaning his head back finally and letting me slide his dinner tray away so he could stretch his legs too.  "Dang Burt for being a pack rat anyway.  We cleaned out a bunch of the stuff by having a warehouse sale and on top of that Burt got a couple of deals going for cleaning out two estate sales that didn’t do too well … old folks dying with no heirs or no heirs that want their stuff.  I know the two places and they’re more than a little on the rough side but they’re over in a desirable area where people have vacation rentals.  New owner that bought them lock, stock, and barrel is going to rent the land out and then run the property like a time share or something close to it.  But with hunting season coming up fast the turnaround needs to be quick.  They’re already blocking out weeks starting the middle of September when archery season begins.” 

“That’s over a month away.” 

“It is but when I say these places are in rough shape, let’s just say they are a whole lot worse than this place was. Not stink-wise but they’re crammed jammed full with generations of junk.  And we’ll have to get it done while getting all of our other work done too.  It’s gonna be harder because Burt wants to salvage everything that can be but at the same time have it move in ready.  Pretty much a turn key operation.” 

“Turn key?” 

“Means when we are through all the new owners – or renters – have to do is walk up and turn the key and walk in.” 

“Oh.  I guess that makes sense.  Is that another one you are going to drop on Gramps?” 

“I’ve already run it by him and he’s excited.  There’s good field stone on the land that is going to have to be moved to take down a couple of dilapidated out buildings and Uncle Junior has been asking us to be on the lookout for some so he can finish the fireplaces at all the new houses.  I think the ones that opted for a trailer are getting sorry.  The trailers might have looked nice at first but long term upkeep and maintenance on them ain’t so easy as they thought it would be.  The frame houses are small but they are turning out real nice and you can always add on to a house or change the siding to brick later on; a trailer pretty much is what it is.” 

“Sorry enough to be jealous?” 

“Why?  Someone say something today?” 

“Cindy and one of her sisters got into it a little bit until their mother put the kibosh on it and told them since they were old enough to be married and making babies they could act like grown-ups.  Cindy didn’t like that but she straightened up not too much later.  I think Cindy would be half way all right if she’d just stop … stop …” 

Sawyer must have read my mind.  “Trying to turn everything into a competition?” 

“Hey, how did you know?” 

Sawyer snorted.  “Don’t forget, I went to school with her and Clay and their older sister too.  They’re all stair steps.  Lynnie is preggers too in case you didn’t know.  Don’t know the younger one all that well.  She’s still in school I think.  Younger than you … and don’t get me started.  I get heartburn enough when someone brings it up.” 

Ignoring his silliness about my age I told him, “Yeah, got all the gory details while they were bickering.  Cindy isn’t as far along as I thought she was and Lynnie is actually further along but doesn’t look it ‘cause she’s so tall.” 

“Cindy is probably just playing it up.  And about that … look, I’m gonna sound like an ass but the reason … aw hell.  Look Clay is … I mean …” 

Already having been warned about Clay by Jeannie I played it up for Sawyer's benefit.  “Oh brother.  You mean he is going to flirt with all the wives and cause trouble?” 

“Uh … not … not all the wives.  He tends to … well … go after ones that … well … will appreciate the attention.” 

“To make them feel good or to make himself feel good?  Either way it sounds like he’s got a big ego.  He better not fool around too much or one of your cousins is going to catch on and left fly with a nine-pound hammer whether he’s the son of Uncle Mark’s friend or not.  That kind of trouble we can all do without.” 

“Uh …” 

“And by the way, you better not even be half-way thinking that I’m someone that would appreciate that kind of attention.” 

“Er …” 

“Because one, it is insulting to think that I’d break my word to you.  Two, that I’d get a charge out of getting someone’s pity.  And three that I’d find something like that the least attractive even if I hadn’t promised all that stuff when we got married.  Tell me I don’t have to tell explain to you four, five, and six.” 

He stood up and grabbed my tv tray to take the dishes to the kitchen and said real quick, “Of course not.  I’ve got more sense than that.” 

“I thought so.  But I also thought it might be better to show you that I have more sense than that.”  I grabbed his arm before he could walk away and pulled him down and gave him a kiss on the cheek.  “I really have you know.” 

“I know,” he said with some embarrassment.  “But it sure is nice to hear you say it.  You aren’t mad?” 

“No.  If you can put up with my insecurities I can put up with your insecurities.  ‘Nuff said?” 

“For now.  I wanna give you a little more appreciation though when we go to bed.  You feel up to being appreciated?” 

I smiled, “So long as you’re willing to move slow.” 

With a grin I recognized he said, “Oh yeah, I can do that.”

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