Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chapter XXXIII

“You did what?!!”

      “I said I flat out asked him if he had been the one to tell Caleb that you were back in town because he had used the exact same words when he and Jinx tried to attack you.”

      “Oh my Lord Jude!  Did you get dropped on your head as a baby or were you born this way?!”

      “Depends on who you talk to,” he smarted back at me.

      “Jude!  This isn’t anything to fool around about,” I snapped, worried now that I knew Hennisey was somehow at the root of it.

      Jude shook his head.  “I swear you sound just like Granny.  And no, I refuse to be sorry.  Especially not after ol’ Buttface started with ‘you going to have a hard time proving that’ and that as a so-called duly deputized blah-blah-blah that he was thinking about checking into certain rumors.”

      Alarmed I asked, “What rumors?!”

      “That’s what I asked him.  He said that we were rumored to be protecting possible illegals and that it would be a shame if word got to his superiors and that the hypothetical illegals got thrown into the work camp until someone had time to verify the paperwork that might accidentally get lost along the way.”

      “He … did … not!  I’ll die before I let them put my kids in some kind of camp Jude.  I’ll …”

      “Ease up Dovie.  Ease up,” he said after he realized I was border line panicking.  “I told you I wasn’t going to let him get away with what I was beginning to suspect.  He’s been looking for a way to get at Dad for a while now because Dad don’t think squat of him and sure as hell … uh, heck … ain’t afraid of him.”

      “I will not …”

      “Listen to me Dovie.  I didn’t mean to send you into a tail spin … just hear me out.”  I wasn’t all that calm but I shut up to hear the rest of the bad news.  “Ol’ Buttface messed up this time.  They might allow as how he was a big man and could shake a few folks down for some perks but some folks started understanding he was talking about something that went way beyond a shake down.  Those work camps … they are no place for a female of any age or type; especially not for children.  They might be segregated by gender at night but they ain’t separated by much and riots are almost a weekly thing and what happens during those riots from what I hear …” 

      He petered off and I said, “I’m sure I can guess.  That’s why I’ll do everything in my power to keep the kids from it … even if it means dying.  And I’m not just playing Jude”

      Jude looked at me and said quietly, “I know you’re not.”  He reached out to do something but drew his hand back thinking better of it.  “That’s when maybe I got stupid.  I saw red and after what happened with Caleb and Jinx I was still on edge and would have taken him out by his throat but a bunch of men got between us.  We still made a little bit of a mess in the store and somebody must have gone to tattle to the local commander’s office … who just happens to be Buttface’s boss.  The man himself came over because he’d just been across the street at the fuel depot.  We got escorted to his office and we had to give statements.  They took statements at the store too because of the position Buttface has … and people were allowed to give them anonymously.”

      “Oh Jude …”

      “It’ll be all right Dovie.”  He sighed then swallowed.  “Thing is Commander Blankenship is a fair man … but more than a little hard too.  We were there a couple of hours and enough evidence came against Buttface that he’s been relieved of duty.  He’s also got about two hundred community service hours he is going to have to serve at the commander’s pleasure for abusing his power.  He may face criminal charges if some of the statements that were given are proven to be true.  He didn’t let me go scott-free either because I was going to fight Buttface while he was still carrying his badge … causing a public ruckus basically with a side of don’t-embarrass-this-office-again-boy.”

      “Oh Jude.”

      “You keep saying that like it’s going to change the way I am,” he said in a huff.

      “I don’t want you to be anyone other than yourself.  What I don’t want is for yourself to get into so much trouble over me.  It’s not fair.  It’s not right.”

      His ruff went back down.  “Wellll … if it was just me I wouldn’t feel so bad.  But they want you …”

      “Me what?” I asked in alarm all over again.

      “I have to go give the commander five hours community service at the fuel depot; I’ll probably be working on fixin’ pumps.  But you gotta come with me.”

      “What do I know about pumps?  I … I suppose I could hand you tools and stuff.”

      “Not for that.  You … uh …”  He stopped and sighed.  “Dad has done tore a strip off of me so if you are going to do it be gentle if you please ‘cause I’m tender in spots.”  My heart was beating so hard it hurt.  “You gotta bring your papers and any papers you have for the kids.  The Commander wants to see them personally and hear your story.  I’m … I’m sorry Dovie.  I didn’t mean to … to …”

      “This man have a lot of power Jude?”

      “He’s appointed by the governor’s office but also has the seal of approval from the military and DHS.  So yeah, he’s got power.  And he ain’t sloppy about wielding it either.  Like I said, I suppose he is fair for a man in his position when he doesn’t really have to be … but he’s not someone you cross either.”

      I swallowed.  “When?”


      “Well, I guess that gives me a day to get all the papers together.  Do … do you think someone would … would look after the kids?”

      “Of course … wait … you ain’t meaning permanently?”

      “I have to plan for that Jude,” I said starting to really get agitated.  “I didn’t let myself on the road, at least not much, because there wasn’t anything I could do about it.  But … but …”

      “Now you listen here, I’m not going to let …”

      I put a hand over his mouth to stop him.  He jumped like he’d been stung.  Quietly I told him, “We don’t always get what we want in life.  Things … things happen.  To … to people.  We …”

      I was crying without really meaning to.  I suppose I was scared but it was also the idea that Jude and all of them would try and protect me and if it was bad I couldn’t let them.  Jude always melted when Aunt Frankie or his sisters started up the waterworks and he did the same thing with me.  He was patting my back and saying, “Nothing bad is going to happen Dovie.  I won’t let it.  Dad won’t let it.  Butch won’t let it.  Not even Clewis would just stand by and let you disappear like that.”

      I swiped at the offending tears that didn’t seem to understand that I had vowed not to let anyone see me cry ever again.  “Don’t make promises like that Jude.  I know you’d … you’d try; all of you would.  But … but I’m sure Dad and Jack and Jay didn’t mean to die and leave Mom and us alone.  I’m sure Mom didn’t mean to … to let go the way she did.  I know she didn’t mean to die and leave us even more alone.  But they did; they all did.  And I don’t blame them for it, but it makes me understand that there are some promises or intentions you just don’t get allowed to keep no matter how much you want to.  I can’t let you all put everyone else at risk like that.  If … if it looks like it is going bad, just the only promise I want is that someone will be there for the kids and keep them all together.”

      Jude refused to even entertain the thought.  “It’s gonna be all right Dovie.  You’ll see.”


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