Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Chapter XII


Chapter XII

 

      “I’d a been back sooner but I didn’t want to push the horses in the dark.  Rochelle didn’t come but Butch did.  He’s tying off.”

      Uncle Roe called out the door, “Get in here boy and greet your cousin!”

      “I’m coming Dad.  You shouldn’t say it so loud.  Someone might hear.”

      A large man walked in with hair nearly the same color as Mom’s had been.  Uncle Roe said, “I want ‘em to hear.  Want the whole county to hear.  Might chirk ‘em up to know that miracles are still happening.”

      Paulie stuck his head out the bedroom door and waved carefully then said, “Dovie, they’re scared.  It’s … I think it’s all the strange men.”

      I stood up.  “Hi Butch.  I’ll say it properly when I get back.  Just give me a second.”

      I heard Butch ask who “they” were and Uncle Roe and Jude start to explain.  It took a few minutes for me to get the kids settled down but finally they did and they were all asleep except Tiffany and Paulie both of whom agreed to come out for a minute.

      Uncle Roe, despite being rough, loved little kids and asked right away, “And I guess this princess must be Miss Tiffany.  I’ve heard what a help you and Paul were on the long trip home.”

      I let Uncle Roe charm Tiff and turned to look at Butch who leaned against the wall.  I said, “I guess you expect a hug or something.”

      I could see his smile even in the dark.  “And a kiss on the cheek just to make sure to ruffle your feathers properly.”  After said hug and peck he set me back and looked at me.  “Jude told us about those men.”

      “Oh.”

      “We don’t need to say any more about it.  Bad things happen to bad people when they get what’s coming to ‘em.”

      I relaxed.  Out of all my cousins on both sides Butch could be a bit of a stiff.  It is why he and Jude had trouble getting along when Jude would get wild.  Butch and Clewis’ mom – a woman named Jennifer that I never really had much to do with – is even stiffer so that’s where he picked it up from.  If Butch wasn’t going to give me a hard time about it I doubted anyone would; but it still wasn’t something I wanted to advertise.  “Can we … not … not tell everyone else?”

      “You won’t catch me carrying tales,” he said.

      Jude added, “I only told Butch and Dad because I figured they needed to know what you’d been through.  That is the only time that …?”

      “We avoided people when we could,” I said hurriedly by way of an answer.  “It was just safer that way.”

      Uncle Roe broke in and said, “Reckon these two need to be hitting the hay Dovie.  And I don’t want to leave either but they’ll be going crazy up at the house and Clewis ain’t gonna be able to handle them all by hisself.”

      I hugged him and said, “And the sun comes up early on a farm.”

      He chuckled at the family saying and said, “Earlier every day.  Jude seems to think he’s got enough groceries to fix breakfast with but tomorrow we’ll get you outfitted so you can take care of yourselves better than you have been.  We’ll give it a couple of days for the kids to settle down and then on Sunday we’ll have a big meal all together after church.”

      “Yes sir,” I told him knowing he was taking it as a given that we’d all be attending if the doors were open.  “But I don’t know if I have enough gas left to go but once or twice.”

      “Don’t take that car girl; it will stand out like sore thumb.  You walk up to the house and we’ll all fit in the wagon.  Jude’ll explain it.”

      He was waiting for me to say something.  “Yes sir.”

      That wasn’t it so Uncle Roe just asked outright, “You all right with Jude staying here?”

      “Jude already asked me that first thing and I said sure.  So long as you think it is OK I don’t have a problem with it.”

      All three men must have been tense because I could tell they all relaxed at my reply which I thought a little strange.  “That’s good then,” Uncle Roe said clapping Jude on the shoulder.  “Jude’ll catch you up on how things stand and I won’t have to worry more than I already will.”

      After Uncle Roe and Butch left I turned to Jude.  “OK, something is up.  What is it?”

      Jude shook his head and said, “I told them you weren’t a little kid anymore and would catch on just like you had when your Ma was so bad off.  It’ll take time for them to see it though so be prepared.”

      “I figured that,” I told him.  “But it’s more than just they still think I’m a little kid that needs looking after.  Have I brought us half way across the country only to wind up standing in an ant pile?”

      “It ain’t that bad but as a girl you’re gonna need to be careful.”

      “What’s that supposed to mean?”

      “It means what it means.  The military and the cops are around but they don’t get involved unless they absolutely have to … and you don’t want them to get involved ‘cause when they do it just causes different trouble.  And you stay away from town.  Ol’ Buttface is Santy Claus compared to some that are hanging around there.  You’ll get propositioned to get safe passage to cross the road and don’t act so dumb you don’t know what I mean.”

      I nodded carefully.  “Of course I know what you mean.  I hadn’t intended … to be honest all I’ve been thinking about is getting here in one piece.  I didn’t … I mean …”  I sat down and started shaking a little.  “At least on the road we could run.  Now we’re here and there’s no place to run to.  I guess we’re really in trouble now.”

      “Hey.  Hey don’t.  I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

      “I don’t cry … at least not much.”

      “Well … be that as it may I didn’t mean to scare you but you need to know.  As for trouble, yeah there’s trouble … but that doesn’t mean you’re in trouble.  We just gotta work out how we’re gonna feed everybody this winter and still have seed for the spring.  The one thing is … you don’t tell no one what you have, not even folks at church.”

      “Huh?”

      “There’s … there’s things going on.  Anyone that looks like they have anything has been hit … sometimes by gangs from town though that’s tapered off now that gas is hard to come by … sometimes folks just disappear and their place looks like it’s been ransacked.  The worst is when there is an order of confiscation from the courts.”

      “What’s an order of confiscation?”

      “It’s a legal way of saying that you’ve got something the government needs or wants and they redistribute it to other people who need it or want it.  It is supposed to be so things will be fair but mostly they do it to keep the riots to a minimum or to …er … put the screws to anyone that they consider might be getting too big for their britches.  I say block them rioters in and let ‘em go for it and kill each other off so’s there’s fewer of ‘em … but I ain’t no one that anybody listens to.”

      “Jude …”

      “I think that’s about all you are up to hearing for now.  You’re about as shook up as you need to be.  I ain’t doing too good either.”

      “Yeah, you look like you are getting the sweats … is it bad?”

      “The wanting a drink?”  At my nod he said, “Not as bad as it was.  I worked some of it off running back to the house and bringing Butch over.  I’m just beat.”

      I thought it would take forever to get to sleep but surprisingly my exhausted side won out over the side that wanted to come crawling out of my skin.  It was a little hard to believe but I was actually sleeping in a bed I’d called my own since I was old enough to sleep in something besides a cradle.

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