“The hell you say!”
Startled at Sawyer’s sudden yell I looked out the back window to see him and another man just about to come to blows. I grabbed the wrist rocket I kept on a nail hanging by the door and the bag of rocks and ball bearings that hung beside it and quietly stepped out onto the porch. That’s when I saw Cutter and some of the other cousins looking between the two like they didn’t know which side to pick.
I startled them all by calling, “Cutter?! What’s going on?!”
“Uh … maybe you better go inside Kay-Lee,” he answered.
“Not while that guy looks like he is going to fight Sawyer. And what are you bunch just standing around for?! Help him!”
Sawyer growled. “Kay-Lee … this is Jamison. He showed up not that long ago and has been settling in. However he seems to think – they all apparently seem to think – because you and I have busted our butts to save what propane we have left that because they didn’t they should all just be able to come over here and ‘borrow’ some.”
I sighed. This had to be at the top of my list of worst case scenarios that I had been imagining. That’s when Jamison took a swing at Sawyer. It was a sucker punch that none in the yard had been expecting, not even Sawyer. I did something they apparently expected even less. I put a stone in the wrist rocket and let fly, pegging Jamison in the knee. He screamed and dropped. Everyone stopped dead still trying to figure out what had just happened.
As close to being hissing mad as I have ever felt I said, “Boys, don’t take this the wrong way but I do believe Gramps has outlawed feuding in the family. Next one of you that tries to cheat and be a jackass will get the same. And Jamison?” I yelled towards the man on the ground holding his leg. “Next time you threaten my husband – who is the only thing that stands between me and being thrown to the wolves of this world – you better watch your back for the rest of your life. I will put you down the same way I put down the chicken killing dog that came into our yard and tried to kill my rooster. You better understand that.”
A voice from the side of the house said, “You’re a Baffa all right.” The men in the yard jumped but I didn’t.
I snapped at Uncle Mark. “And I married a Hartford. Which must make me even crazier. Whatever. Have you come to watch the circus or participate in it?”
Uncle Mark snorted. “Definitely a Baffa. God help any kid the two of you have. They’ll be crazy on both sides.”
Then something smacked the porch rail and this time even I jumped. There was a growl and I turned and saw what it was and said for all of us, “Uh oh.”
Sawyer for some reason chose that moment to snicker. Then to laugh.
“Sawyer Hartford! This is not a laughing matter. Uncle Forrester is angry. That’s the look he had on his face when he saved me from those guys at the flea market. I told you it wouldn’t be a good thing to get on his bad side and now I think I’ve gone and done it.”
Uncle Forrester “harrumphed” and smacked his cane against the porch rail again and then beckoned me forward. “I’m sorry. I just couldn’t stand by and let him …”
“Hush. Inside,” he said directing me back into the kitchen with his cane.
I looked at Sawyer and could see his fists getting balled up but he nodded and I stepped through the back door into the kitchen. Aunt Pearl and Aunt Suzanne stood there and I was ready to get really balled out but instead they said, “They’re liable to take a while but they’ll work it out. Gramps would have been here but Jeannie went into labor last night and he is at the hospital with Benedict and Ben. There’s been a complication and they are trying to get her family to come to the hospital.”
Sawyer called from outside, “Kay-Lee?”
I ran out ignoring everyone else and said, “Jeannie … the baby … some kind of complication. Sawyer …”
Next to Linda, Jeannie was the closest thing I had to a friend. She’d even said we were all sisters. I’d just talked to her the day before and she seemed fine, tired but also excited about the baby arriving and hoping it was soon. And now to hear there was trouble. Sawyer, as concerned by my reaction as he was the news came up onto the porch, saw the aunts and asked what was up.
Aunt Suzanne sighed. “The cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck. He came out blue and is taking a long time to get his numbers up.”
Knowing the answer because of stuff I’d heard about me my whole life I explained, “When you are born you get a number assigned to you based on how responsive you are and a couple of other things. It is called an Apgar score. My numbers were in the tank.” Turning from Sawyer I asked, “How bad?”
“Bad but he’s breathing on his own now. They just don’t know how long the cord was … was wound around …”
After that there was a real ruckus. Nothing was solved but everyone was willing to put away their differences, at least temporarily, in favor of supporting Benedict and Jeannie. I guess that is what family is all about though Jamison and I gave each other dirty looks. Uncle Mark saw and tried to push at me a little bit but I’d had enough of his brand of attitude and told him, “Call me whatever you want Uncle Mark but if that guy – Hartford or not – takes another cheater’s swing at Sawyer I mean it; I will peg him in the butt with steel ball bearings and make sure he won’t be able to sit for a long time while the rest of us work ours off. I don’t know what is running through everyone’s head but Gramps and all you uncles have been telling us to be careful and frugal because bad times are coming. Well they aren’t coming any more. They’re here. But that’s no excuse to make things worse by stealing from family because you were too stupid to heed the good advice you were being given all along.”
I turned and stumbled after Sawyer who helped me into the truck. He insisted on helping me with the seatbelt and while he was doing it said, “Ignore ‘em. Just focus on Jeannie and stuff for a while and let me handle this other.”
When Sawyer got in the truck I asked him, “What happened? All I saw was the start of a fight then super jerk take a pot shot at you. I mean I know you know what you are doing and would have put him down hard but …”
Sawyer sighed. “Maybe. Maybe not. I’ve known Jamison has been here for a few weeks but haven’t crossed paths with him. Been too busy and he hasn’t been to any of the work days. I ain’t fool enough to assume I’d win a match up against him. Jamison worked the oil fields and is not someone to be messed with but … geez … I didn’t think he would do what he did.”
“What started it?”
“They just showed up. They didn’t ask or nothing. If I hadn’t been home you wouldn’t have been able to stop them. They would have bled the tank dry.”
“Because they were out and we had some.”
“Huh? But … I mean … they had their tanks filled up after we did.”
He shook his head in aggravation and concern. “I know we talked about this happening but I didn’t figure it would be done by family.”
“I … I guess I didn’t make things any better. Now I’ve got Uncle Forrester mad at me and …”
“Whoa. No you don’t. Uncle Forrester heard about what was happening and made Uncle Mark drive him over to try and stop it while Uncle James and Tommy drove around to the other places to take a good look at what is going on.”
“But I hurt Jamison.”
“Jamison is lucky he didn’t get shot. And that’s the only thing that is making me glad I’ve put off teaching you to shoot. That changes tomorrow though. You’ve never met Jamison and don’t know who he is. If you hadn’t asked Cutter and just based your actions on the threat that Jamison was making of himself you could have gotten scared enough to shoot him.”
“And I’ll try and not have nightmares about that now that you’ve mentioned in. But what I don’t get is why the others were acting like they were acting. They know the score even if Jamison doesn’t.”
Sawyer sighed and it told me how sad he was. “I feel like I’ve come so far only to be thrown off the side mountain three-quarters of the way up.” He shook his head. “I don’t know why they thought they had the right to come in and do something like that. I might have been inclined to let some of them come over and share the hot water or whatever the problem is but for them to think they could just take it? We got some figuring to do Kay-Lee.”
“Yes we do. And it starts with me not wanting you to work for those that did this. I can’t believe Cutter of all people.”
“Cutter and Beth are having some problems. Beth is complaining that Cutter isn’t doing his share and Cutter thinks Beth doesn’t appreciate what he does and wants what she had with her parents … who have money in case you haven’t guessed. The stress is getting to them.”
Half understanding I told him, “The stress has been getting to all of us every so often. Even you and I have gotten snarky a few times. And I’ve heard the other wives complaining and comparing what they have with what we’ve worked for. It’s stupid. Wasting time with words when action is what is needed. The only ones that ever came with me foraging were Linda and Jeannie … well Beth has a couple of times but not far from the house; the others looked at me like I was crazy taking it so far. Even most of the aunts aren’t thinking about things getting that bad. Aunt Suzanne and Aunt Nel have given me lots of support but even Aunt Pearl considers it a funny quirk I have. I had to defend it so much I finally just had to make out like it was a hobby and that it was a culinary adventure for me.”
“Did it work?”
“You mean did they believe me? Some. It got most of the teasing to stop but the worst of them still have to make a comment every now and then. Mostly they dislike me because they think I am a suck up. And now they are going to think I am a Yoko Ono.”
“John Lennon – you know the Beatles guy, singer, whatever you call him – had this girlfriend named Yoko Ono that a lot of fans blamed for being what broke up the Beatles and made John go so weird and hippie. I don’t know if it is true or not but enough people believed it that the idea got turned into a stereotype or cliché. Now if a guy starts dating a girl, or marries her, and it breaks up a band or business or whatever he has with some other guys people say he got Yoko’d or say the girl is his Yoko Ono.”
“That’s got to be one of the damned stupidiest things I’ve ever heard. And how the hell does that apply here?”
“You must be mad, you’re losing your religion. I hope it isn’t at me.”
Sawyer was quiet for a moment and then said, “No, not at you. At this situation. At … at just all of it. But next time I don’t want to see you try on purpose to get hurt.”
Suddenly furious I said, “There better not be a next time or it won’t be me or you who gets hurt. If Jamison or any of those other meatheads think I was kidding they better unthink it. You’re everything I have in this world. If not for you I am pretty sure I would be dead … or wishing I was. I won’t go back there. I won’t. We are together and that’s just the way it is and if they can’t handle it they can suck wind and broken teeth when I let fly with my next rock.”
Sawyer saw how truly upset I was and pulled over and pulled me into his arms. “It’s OK Kay-Lee. Didn’t I promise you I wouldn’t let anyone put you on the street?”
I held on tight and told him, “It’s not the street I’m most scared of anymore Sawyer. It’s losing you. I can’t face what I am anymore without you. With you I am Kay-Lee Baffa Hartford, a little mechanically challenged but I find life still worth trying to make it through the day. Without you I’m just Igor Baffa all over again and life just wouldn’t be worth living.”