For the next two days Jude was feverish off and on so I didn’t go far from the house. Uncle Roe brought the promised supplies but was tight-lipped about it. He checked on Jude and told him to not be foolish about staying off the leg. “Unless you want to lose it son,” he said when Jude insisted that he could come help do something. “I’ve got Clewis mowing and he is learning that it is a lot harder to walk behind a team than drive a tractor.”
Butch came by later and I learned that Aunt Frankie had flipped a switch when she found out that Uncle Roe was giving us some of the supplies when she quote “had to beg and grovel just to get him to unlock them long enough for her to get a smidgen to feed the family.”
“Butch, tell Uncle Roe not to bring anything else; I don’t want trouble. Jude and I will figure it out.”
“You and Jude huh,” he said only half way teasing.
“Don’t get silly. Jude knows how to hunt meat. I know how to hunt plants. Between the two of us we should be able to piece things together.”
He shook his head. “It’s not me that is getting silly. Frankie is already …”
“She’s already what?”
He snorted. “She’s saying that you and Jude are living together here.”
“We are and … wait … now just hold on a cotton pickin’ minute … are you saying that she’s saying …”
Jude woke up from another feverish nap. “I knew it. I knew she’d … say …”
He stumbled and put weight on his leg that it wasn’t ready for and would have fallen if Butch and I hadn’t gotten to him first. “You’re burning up Jude,” Butch said, finally showing some real concern.
“Be fine,” he mumbled. “Have to help Dad. Have to prove … prove …”
“You don’t need to prove nothing,” Butch said, easing Jude back onto the sofa. He turned to me, “I’m going to go get Rochelle. Try and get him to drink some water … anything to keep him from drying out.”
It seemed to take forever for Butch to come back. Rochelle got very professional when she saw the condition Jude was in but not before saying, “I told him and told him to stay off that leg, but would he listen? Now look at him.”
A little over an hour later I had a porch full of people and Rochelle was telling everyone what was going on. “I took the sutures out and cleaned the wound again. Animal bites always seem to want to get infected and this one is trying the same thing. Jude had a tetanus booster when he got the T-vaccine so I’m not worried about that. But his fever is kicking his butt. He needs to stay hydrated and the kids need to stay away from him now that they all have the sniffles ‘cause his resistance to anything else is going to be compromised while his body fights the infection he already has.” I nodded my understanding. “The weather has turned so you’re going to have to keep him from getting chilled but you can’t let him get overheated either. And if you are going to have the fireplace going you need to put a pot of water near it to keep the air from getting too dry.”
“Life a humidifier?” I asked.
“Exactly like that. I’ll be back twice a day to check his leg but you are going to have to stay close to the house and send Paulie for me if it looks like he is getting any worse. And make my idiot brother stay off that leg before he loses it.”
They were going to leave but I said, “Wait! Butch can you help move Jude to a real bed. I’m gonna put him in the downstairs guest bedroom and get him off this couch.”
Jude groggily said, “You don’t have to do that Dovie.”
“I know. I want to. Plus you’ll get some privacy so you can have a real sleep after we’re done picking on you and making you miserable.”
“Ain’t … ain’t miserable.”
I gave him an evil Yoda grin and said, “Oh you will be … you will be.”
He rolled his eyes but didn’t have much more energy to put into foolishness. After he was settled in the bedroom everyone did leave and I was stuck trying to figure out what to do. “Jude, do you … do you trust me?”
“Mmmm,” he mumbled tiredly.
“Ok, then. I’m gonna take your shirt off and spritz you down with some room temp chamomile tea. I know it sounds silly but hopefully it will help you feel better.”
“Don’t care,” he mumbled then fell into a disturbed kind of sleep.
Walking out into the living room I spied a worried Paulie and Tiffany whispering to the other little kids. “Hey ho, don’t look like that … Jude is going to be fine.”
Bobby asked seriously, “He’s not gonna die?”
“He better not,” I said, hands on my hips. “He promised to help me take care of you guys.” When I saw the joke fell flat as a pancake I told them, “Yes, he’s sick, but not like the people would get at the facility. He is fighting off an infection where that big ol’ hog got him on the leg. I know you haven’t known him Tiff but a couple of days but you’ll see; we’re gonna help him. Good thing we arrived when we did looks like. The thing is one of the ways we need to help him is so he won’t feel so useless. Tiff, you’ll find out that when grown men get to feeling useless or helpless they start feeling depressed and that isn’t good for their constitution. My mother explained it to me once when my dad got sent home from TDY with what they had thought was a heart attack only it turned out to be pericarditis … an infection in the sack around his heart … where a cold had gone screwy in his body. He got well as soon as they figured out what it was but for a little bit he was awful. Well I suspect that Jude is going to go the same way so we are going to have to think of things to help without making him feel helpless.”
Paulie and Tiff just barely grasped what I was trying to say and the younger kids not at all. I wasn’t sure that I completely knew what I was doing either but I had to do something. “Tiff, Paulie … look, I need you to keep a watch on Jude while he is sleeping and keep Lonnie, Mimi, and Corey out of trouble. I’ll give you some other stuff to do as soon as I can get it pulled together. Bobby, you’ll go with me to help tote and carry. One of the things we have to do for all our sakes is to get some food stored for winter.”
“Like squirrels,” Lonnie said.
“Exactly like that Shiner,” I told him using a silly name because his black inquisitive eyes sometimes looked just like a crow of that name that my big brothers had tried to tame one summer. “The Hawthorne bushes and juniper berries in the landscaping need to be picked as do the rose hips. That will mostly keep me in the yard. As long as Jude seems to be ok I’ll go get some kudzu greens to can up later this afternoon. Paulie, one thing you can do for me is look in the basement and check for any boxes labeled clothes or linens or something like that and then haul them up here and put them in the master bedroom for me to go through tonight. Ok, let’s get going.”
Picking the hawthorne berries … some folks call them haws or hawberries although there is also a wild black haw that is a different plant … was fairly easy. So were the juniper berries off of the eastern red cedars that seemed to like to grow all over the place like a hedge of wild Christmas trees. The rose hips not so much and it felt like I lost a pint of blood until I remembered that Mom kept her gardening gloves in a desk drawer in the stillroom.
Since Jude seemed to be doing better later in the day I ventured further afield and cut almost two bushels of new kudzu leaves before coming home to find that Reynolds was practically trying to put his head through the shed wall, scaring the other kids to pieces.
“Make it stop Dovie!” he moaned after nearly knocking himself out.
“Make what stop?!”
“My head hurts. Make my tea so my head will stop going boom, boom, BOOM!!” he begged.
He was more agitated than the first time he’d come over but at least he was semi-making sense so I hurriedly made the tea. He jerked it out of my hand and practically guzzled it down, shaking like he really was in pain. “Reynolds have you told Rochelle that your head hurts like this?”
All he did was collapse in my arms and start crying. I didn’t know what to do and the other kids just stood around and stared like Reynolds was some exotic species of weirdness they weren’t sure they wanted to come near. I got Reynolds up onto the porch and sat with him in the swing and got it to rocking. Big boy that he was he crawled up in my lap like a baby and all I could do was hold him until he calmed down.
“It don’t hurt now Dovie,” he said in an exhausted voice. “You made it go away with the tea.”
“You need to explain it to me Reynolds so I can understand. What is it you feel?”
“My head was hurting.”
“You said that. Where on your head does it hurt?”
“All over inside. It feels like my head is gonna ‘splode … just like that melon that fell off the wagon when we were taking it to the church. It feels like my head is gonna break open and all the guts and stuff is gonna come out. It’s all red and stuff ‘cause I can see it when my eyes are closed.”
“OK, you lay here and I’m going to get a rag for your head. Just sit in the swing and feel how nice it feels, like you are rocking on a boat and you’re safe and nothing can make your head hurt.”
I went inside and dampened a dishcloth with some of the chamomile tea that I had made to spritz Jude with and then was about to walk back out on the porch but Tiffany met me with eyes as big as saucers. “Dovie, he went in with Jude.”
I rushed in there expecting I don’t know what but all I found was Reynolds crawling up on the bed and lying beside Jude. Jude for his part was awake but surprised rather than upset. Reynolds didn’t say a word, just closed his eyes and went to sleep.
“Dovie?” Jude asked quietly.
“Don’t ask me. Does he ever complain of his head hurting?”
“Headaches? Yeah, sometimes. He come down here with one?”
“I’m surprised you didn’t hear him. He was banging his head on the shed so hard I didn’t know which was gonna … going to … break first; his skull or the concrete wall. I made him some more tea and he was shaking like a leaf and then crawled up in my lap so that all I could do was rock him. Now here he is crawling in bed with you. Does Rochelle know about this?”
“Yeah but there isn’t a lot that can be done for him from what I understand. He’s going through something called … geez … uh … I think they call it post-acute-withdrawal syndrome or something like that. Happened to a lot of folks when the pharmacies ran out of people’s medications. It’s like he has these panic attacks and then it brings on a migraine. If it is the same as the other times he’s going to be out of it for a while.”
“Is it ok then if he lays here or do you want me to move him?”
“Move him? Why? If he is still no sense in upsetting him. He used to crawl in bed with me when he was little sometimes. I’d come home and find him awake like he was waiting on me. I was too drunk to know any better so I just left him wherever he decided to sleep which was usually by or on my bed. Only time I regretted it was one time I woke up to find he’d gotten into Faith’s bookbag and used stuff to ‘paint me up like an Indian.’ I don’t know which was worse, getting the nail polish out of my eyebrows and lashes or the permanent marker out of my ears.”
I put a hand over my own mouth to keep the whoop of laughter from escaping at the picture his words painted. Jude for his part had a small smile as well. I asked, “Can you eat something?”
He shook his head. “My stomach feels sour. But I wouldn’t mind some water.”
I brought him some ginger tea with honey instead of water and he quickly fell back to sleep. Since there was no way I was going to leave Reynolds unattended after the way he had acted, and because it was time to start supper anyway, I put the kudzu leaves to soak in some clean water and then put a pot of rice on to cook.
I took a large handful of kudzu leaves and chopped them fine and dumped them in with the rice to cook together and then put the rest of the leaves in a big kettle to cook down so I could pressure can them like spinach.
I had the kids wash up and sit down to a supper of rice and kudzu and then for dessert I let them boil a little honey into taffy. By this time the bugs were coming out and the kids were getting tired so I had them wash up and then let them sit in the screened porch, under quilts and listen to the frogs that were out despite the cool weather. While they were doing all of that I boiled the hawberries down and made hawberry ketchup to bottle up and store down in the basement along with the kudzu in jars that were cooling on the counters. ( http://www.youtube.com/all_comments?v=CgouvWrAVZA )
I also kept checking on Reynolds and Jude but neither one seemed in the mood to move very much. Reynolds had refused to eat but I had at least got him to drink some very thinned out lemonade which he seemed to like well enough. All he really wanted to do was hold onto Jude’s arm which I imagined couldn’t be a very comfortable way for either one of them to sleep.
I was cleaning up the kitchen and scooting the kids off to bed upstairs when I heard the wagon in the yard. I stepped outside and it was Uncle Roe, Rochelle, and this time Clewis was with them. I immediately felt my back go up but Clewis shook his head. “Ain’t here to cause trouble … looking for Reynolds. He didn’t come home for supper.”
“He’s been here most of the afternoon and is sleeping with Jude right now.” I ignored their surprise and relief and turned to Rochelle. “’Chellie, I gave him some more of that tea. His head hurt so bad he was crying and shaking. Crawled up in my lap and wouldn’t move for almost forty minutes while I rocked him. He’s slept off and on since then but refuses to leave Jude’s side.”
She nodded, “I figured he was due for another spell since it had been a while since he’d had one. Did he break anything?”
“Are you kidding? He just about broke his head banging it into the concrete blocks over there. Jude said he was diagnosed with some kind of withdrawal syndrome.”
She nodded again and then said, “Nothing we can do for him.”
“Says who?” She gave me a pinched look and I backtracked. “Look, I’m not trying to tell you your business but maybe those doctors don’t know theirs. Both times I gave him that tea that Grandmother Cherry used to make … the one she said was for anxiety … he’s calmed right down and then behaved pretty well all things considered.”
“Same tea both times?”
“Yeah, with him reacting to it the same way.”
She bit her lip but didn’t ask anything else. You could not rush Rochelle to believe in anything. She either did or didn’t and if she was going to change her mind it had to be on her on terms and in her own time. She’d gotten in trouble with men that way … believing one thing about them and then taking forever to change how she believed. “Let me take a look at Jude. Bet he’s up in arms about Reynolds.”
“Actually no. He said just to leave him there because Reynolds used to climb in his bed when he was real little. Said the only time there was trouble was when Reynolds painted him up with some of Faith’s make up.”
All three immediately fought to hold in their laughter. I said, “So it was as bad as I was imagining it had to look?”
Clewis wheezed and answered, “I’d forgot all about that. Reynolds wasn’t all that little though, maybe six … seven … something like that. Dad you still got the pictures?”
Uncle Roe chuckled, “Some place I reckon.” He shook his head smiling. “Jude always did have more patience for Reynolds than you would expect. Always surprised me for some reason, he was so wild in every other way.” He sighed and then said, “I’m gonna go see ‘em. Come along Rochelle.”
That didn’t bode well. I looked at Clewis who sighed. “Dad thinks I was outta line and should say I’m sorry.”
“You were but don’t apologize just because he said to. We’re both grown and it won’t mean anything to do things just because we’ve been told to.”
“You ain’t grown.”
“I’m grown enough to know what is proper and what isn’t. And speaking of proper, I don’t know why Aunt Frankie would say something so nasty about Jude staying here but it isn’t nice to repeat it when it isn’t the least bit true.”
“If you knew the things about Jude that I did …”
“I know how Jude used to be and I know how he treated me then and how he treats me now. Dad was never worried about Jude … but about some of the friends he hung with. And as I recall some of those boys were also friends of yours so I’d be careful with the words you throw around.”
He looked at me then grimaced. “Oh fine. Why you are taking up for him I don’t understand.”
“I’m only doing what is right Clewis. If Jude is trying to improve himself then he should be allowed to do it until it is more than trying. You keep pushing him down that’s eventually where he is going to stay. He’s been real kind to me and the kids. And I told you he didn’t fuss at Reynolds at all. I’ll tell you something else and you better keep this under your hat because you know what it was like for you and Butch when your mom and Uncle Roe were being nasty to each other … Jude is hurting. What Aunt Frankie has said has cut him deeper than he will admit to and I only got some of it out of him because I poked at him a bit when he was feeling low. At least you and Butch only had to go through it once … Jude is having to go through it again and wonder about things you never had to wonder about with your mother.”
“Aw stop being such a granny.”
“Fine. But you just think about what I said Clewis. I’m not saying you and Jude have to sit around singing kum-ba-yah together but you could get off his case when he doesn’t deserve it anymore.”
I turned away and went into the bedroom to find Reynolds whimpering. “Enough of that,” I told him brusquely. “If you are hurting somewhere then use words to tell Rochelle, she can’t read your mind. If you’re scared do the same thing. You are too old for us to try and figure out what a whimper means.”
His bottom lip wanted to poke out but then he said, “They say I can’t stay with Jude and Jude says I have to go home with Daddy.”
“And that’s such an end of the world problem why?”
He blinked a couple of times like he was surprised I had asked him why he felt like he did. “Because I want to stay here,” he finally answered.
“Well it’s not like we are about to be swept into the abyss. You can come back tomorrow.”
“I … I can?”
“Yeah. That’s if you do your chores and mind your manners and your daddy says so.”
Reynolds turned to Uncle Roe and said, “I can come back tomorrow?”
“Like Dovie said, do your chores and mind your manners and I don’t see why not.”