Thursday, October 9, 2014

Chapter XL


“Corn pones, greens, ham and red eye gravy, and fried apples.  That sound ok?”  Everyone nodded their head so hard I could hear their marbles rattling.  “OK, then help Jude get everything into the house.  After that Paulie you and Bobby do whatever Jude tells you to do next.  Lonnie, you help Tiff set the table and corral the terrible duo.  What’s with the crankies?”

      Tiffany said quietly, “They’re hungry.  Paulie wasn’t kidding about the grits tasting nasty.”

      “You didn’t get anything at Uncle Roe’s?”

      She nodded, “Apples, but we had a lot of chores to do too.”

      I sighed.  “OK, I’ll get everything going as quick as I can.  Jude?”

      “Huh?” he answered from where he was dropping the back end on the wagon.

      “It might be dark before I can get everything finished.  Will that give you time to get Grits and the wagon back to Uncle Roe and then come back for supper?”

      “I’ll be back before it’s dark but whenever you finish is fine.   My cooking isn’t much better than River’s is so you won’t hear me complaining.”

 

      Dinner was over and clean up finished.  The kids washed up and off to bed, albeit reluctantly.  The stuff from the Exchange taken down to the basement but it wasn’t put away yet as I as waiting for daylight to come through the basement windows so I wouldn’t have to use the lamp.  I was taking a last swipe at the table when there was a knock on the door.  “Jude, it’s me.”  Clewis.

      Pulling his hand back from the rifle he’d been reaching for Jude stepped out onto the porch.  I heard them talking.  “No church tomorrow.  Military is out and about in force.”

      “Where’d you hear this?”

      “Preacher sent runners out and it’s been spreading that way.  There’s a curfew of dusk to dawn that stretches outside town.  Everybody is to stay home and off the roads.  There was some kind of riot that started in Clarksville and it’s been sending sparks out in every direction.  Mr. Schnell was here earlier telling Dad he’d heard things on the radio; that it had gone into Hopkinsville too.  Dover’s mess is small compared to Hoptown and Clarksville but that’s where some of the Protection Zone’s administrative offices are so they are going to come down just as hard in this area as in the bigger cities.”

      “Dad mentioned it.  OK, thanks for letting us know.”

      “Dovie around?”

      He knew good and well I was, he could see me through the screen door.  Jude shrugged and called inside, “Dovie?”

      As I came out he went in, but he didn’t go far.  Clewis scratched his nose and said, “You know I didn’t mean it.  About you buying any of us.  I … I didn’t mean to make you grieve for your folks.”

      “OK.”

      “You sure?”

      “Yeah.”

      “Well … Ok then.  And Crystal said thank you … for thinking of us.”

      I asked, “How is she?  Butch said she isn’t feeling good.”

      He seemed to wilt in relief.  “She isn’t and I was wondering … that tea you give to Reynolds is like a miracle drug … you got anything like that for Crystal?”

      “I don’t know.  What’s wrong with her?”

      “Real run down … tired … get’s a cold real easy ... gets depressed for no reason … loses her appetite … she’ll sleep for a couple of days and then get up tired but almost all better.”

      “Has Aunt Frankie made her any rose hip tea?  It has a lot of Vitamin C in it. And she should eat a lot of greens.”

      “She don’t like greens very much.”

      “Too bad,” I told him ruthlessly.  “They’re high in iron and calcium as well as vitamins A and C.  If she is run down she needs all that.  If she absolutely will not eat greens you need to get her to drink green broth soup made from dandelion greens, collards, and things like that … it would be better though if she would eat the greens too.  Hang on, I’ll give you the rose hips but you need to get her to eat the other too.  If this doesn’t work – the rose hips and greens – we’ll try some of Granny Cherry’s other receipts.”

      After I gave him a handful of hips to put in his pocket he lit off the porch and rushed back the way he came.

      I watched him as far as I could in the moonlight in case he tripped at the gully.  Jude said from where he was sitting, “You make it too easy for people Dovie.”

      I turned to look at him.  “Huh?”

      “To … to … aw forget it, I’m the last person to talk about taking advantage.  I’m as bad as Clewis.  Now come sit down, I don’t know about you but my butt is dragging and I can’t sit comfortable until you get off your feet too.”

      “Hang on,” I told him and then slipped into my bedroom, reached under my bed and pulled up the loose floorboard and pulled out what I had hidden there.  I walked back in, dropped the bag in his lap and then flopped on the other end of the sofa from him.

      Holding the heavy bag in his hand he asked cautiously, “What’s this?”

      “What you said we’d talk about later.”

      He opened the bag – it was really an old shaving kit – like a snake was going to jump out of it.  The bag was filled with other bags.  Some of them held stones, some cold globs of cold metal, a few held really expensive looking pieces of jewelry.  “What in the Sam Hill?”

      I sighed.  “Remember I told you about them guys … the ones that … where I … “

      “The men that tried to talk you into giving it up without a fight,” he said so I wouldn’t have to.

      “Yeah, them.  Anyway … spoils of battle or whatever you want to call it.  I didn’t touch the drugs they had but I took this and hid it under the spare tire in case I needed it to bribe my way out of another situation like that.”

      Grumbling he said, “This would more than likely get you into a worse one you knuckle head.”  Scooting down closer to me he added, “This is dangerous stuff Dovie … men … men would kill for this.”

      “Yeah, well I got news for you Jude … men will kill for any reason and for no reason at all, it’s the way some of them seem to be born.”

      He looked at me and said, “You’re too young to be that cynical.”

      I asked, “You telling me it isn’t true?”

      “I didn’t say it isn’t true.  I said you are too young to have to know it.”  He sighed and shook his head.  “You really expect me to just waltz up to Dad and say ‘Here … use this to pay the taxes.’?”

      “I don’t know what I expect Jude, that’s why I’m asking.”

      He shook his head.  “Maybe last year this would have paid a king’s ransom but the price of gold and silver is in the toilet right now.  You can’t eat gold, you can’t eat silver, and there’s nothing to really spend this on.  And the government point blank won’t accept it for payment of taxes or anything because the exchange rate is too volatile right now and most of it down.  If no one is taking it in trade, not even the government, the average man ain’t interested in it.  If the average man ain’t interested in it, it’s just a pretty toy to play with.  I can take these dollar bills … they look like they’re out of someone’s coin collection and won’t raise too many questions … and use it to pay some of it but the rest of it …”  He thought before saying, “You’re better off hiding this stuff again and maybe some place down the road, if gold and silver are worth something again, you can trade them for something then.”

      “So it won’t help?” I said dejectedly.

      “Hey, get rid of the long face.  You helped today … everyone has to pitch in around here, not just one person.  Since I’ve got work, Butch and Clewis, Rick and Lorn, can help Dad around the farm.  Boo has got another job – he’s really getting good at smithing and one of the Mennonite elders is more than happy to have the help and teach him more at the same time – River can’t cook but she has the green touch and is helping Mom with the tail end of the garden down there.  Crystal gives the kids lessons; at least when she feels better she does.”

      “And I get to come late to the game and benefit from all their hard work.”

      He caught me off guard and swatted me with a little, poofy sofa cushion.  “Stop being a hard head.  You are doing stuff up here for these kids and reminding everyone that groceries don’t have to come on shelves or out of the kitchen garden.  You know that kudzu dish has already spread far and wide by word of mouth and there’s a lot of people with full bellies that were going hungry before because of it.  The stuff just hangs everywhere and people look at it every day … but hardly anyone remembered you could eat the stuff.  Now that’s something right there,” he said, popping me again with the pillow.  “And deerberries and hawberries … people have forgotten the old ways; even the old folks have forgotten them because they didn’t need ‘em anymore.  You’re reminding people of them.  And that’s your contribution … so stop your fidgeting over it.”

      I sighed.  “But that’s nothing. That’s … that’s just stuff I learned from Mom.”

      “Maybe it’s nothing to you but I can guarantee that a lot of people think it is something.  And I’m wondering what else you have rattling around up there.”

      He popped me again … or tried to.  I grabbed the pillow from him and scowled.  Yeah, like that was going to make him repentant.

      “Look Dovie, don’t worry it so much.  It’ll come.   But right now I want to lock down the house and get to bed.  I don’t know if Dad is going to want to break the Sabbath tomorrow with work or not but either way I’m tired and we need to rest.”

      He was bossing me again … but he was right, so that’s what we did.


 

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