“Any old particular reason you think that telling me what to do is ok?” I asked Crystal.
“I have more experience than you.”
“I won’t deny that you have some experience in some areas but I’m not a complete idiot.”
She started with, “I never said …”
I didn’t let her get any further than that. “You don’t have to; it’s the way you act. You and Clewis both sometimes. Now I’m telling you to stop. If I make a mistake then I make a mistake. You’ve warned me. You’ve tried to give me options. But I’m still choosing my way. Therefore, seeing as how you’ve done what you can, it is no longer your responsibility to save me from myself. Got it?”
She shook her head. “You simply don’t understand.”
“Oh I understand all right. You somehow think that because you want that life and that it is the right thing for you that you need to spread the word so that everyone can want that life. Well, news flash … I don’t. I never have. And nothing you can say will ever change that. So stop wasting time for both of us. You have your path to walk and I have mine. Why on earth you need me to walk the same path you do is beyond my understanding. If you are so independent and carefree just why do you need me to play follow to your leader?”
I made her mad. Apparently that wasn’t a good thing as everyone was looking at me like I was a few bricks shy of a full load. Rather than blow up I saw her mentally double down. I sighed and rolled my eyes and right as she opened her mouth to say something more I turned and walked away. Of course that more than a little irritated her as well.
“Uncle Roe? You got a sec?”
He snorted and said, “I ain’t getting’ in the middle of no female spat.”
I gurgled a laugh and said, “I’m not asking you to. Actually I was wondering what you thought of what Jude spoke to me about last night.”
“Hmmm,” he said before getting up and walking towards his workshop in the barn which was my signal to follow him. Once we’d gotten in the barn he said, “I take it Jude talked to you about the new man they are installing in the Commander’s chair.”
“Yes sir. But I’ve wracked my brains and the only thing I can connect to the Carlsburg name is that car dealership you had to pass by to get to the First Planter’s Bank.”
He nodded. “That’s the family alright, though they sold the dealership a few years back … or lost it; couple of different stories about that and none of them confirmed. That dealership wasn’t the only thing they owned … they either own outright or got a stake in a lot of real estate and businesses in town. Got hit real bad by the recession and the older generation dying out and the younger ones moving away. They’re still around but not in the number and power they used to be.”
“Well if they are as bad off as everyone else what do you think has set Jude off besides the rumors?”
“Baby Sister I didn’t say they were as bad off as everyone else just that they ain’t as well off as they used to be. They still got money and know how to use it like a club. I’ve heard they are buying up stuff left and right … bought a lot at the tax sale last year as a matter of fact, and not as much as they had wanted to from what I could tell at the auction.”
“And that’s a bad thing?”
He gave a small shake of his head. “Nope. If I had had the money I would have picked up some land myself. What the problem is is the Carlsburgs themselves. They’re come down from Carpetbaggers.”
Oh good gravy; people sure do have long memories around here … really long memories. I didn’t tell Uncle Roe I thought it was silly though. All I did was repeat, “Carpetbaggers.”
“Yes’m … carpetbaggers. You won’t hear me saying all such folks are bad ‘cause they ain’t but these ones never wanted to do much of anything but Lord it over the rest of us. They always thought they was better and still do to this day. Never really even married local but brought their women in from other places and sent their kids out to go to fancy schools once they got old enough for it. And don’t look at me like that, I know how it sounds and likely said the same thing to my own father until I had to do business with them people. They’s real one sided in their contracts Dovie. And I gotta say, none of what Jude heard surprises me a whit. It is more or less what I would expect from a Carlsburg.”
Trying to ignore some of the historical stuff without being disrespectful I asked Uncle Roe, “So bottom line you think Jude is right and we should … er … camouflage what we have as much as possible and do it sooner rather than later.”
“Like I told the boy last night I don’t have a problem with that idea a tall. But he’s some worried about you having to do so much by yourself. You feel the same?”
“I told Jude I’ll do what I have to and find a way. I just wanted to hear what you had to say. Jude can be a little … uh … over protective. He knows I’m capable but he still thinks he has to … I don’t know … do as much for me as he can. I wish people wouldn’t ride him so much about his past; he’s not like that anymore. I know he was a stinker but some seem like they just refuse to believe that he isn’t still one.”
“Hmmm,” he said noncommittally. “It’s gonna be that way for a while Dovie. You’ve forgiven him real fast but other folks take things slower.”
“Mom always said forgiveness isn’t a suggestion but a commandment. And just on Sunday Brother Shirley said we have to follow that commandment if we want any forgiveness for ourselves. I understand that forgiveness doesn’t mean that we don’t use commonsense and set some boundaries but we aren’t supposed to be acting like the other person can’t ever be anything but what they used to be either.”
Uncle Roe nodded sagely, “That’s right Sister and I’m glad to see you were listening to the preacher … but it’s them boundaries that Jude still needs to accept.”
“For how many years? He’s been sober a whole year and sometimes folks still act like he just crawled in drunk again last night.”
Uncle Roe started to say something but then Travis ran in and said, “Rider coming up Poppa and he’s in a car.” The awe in his voice told the tale of how rare that was these days out in the country.
I followed Uncle Roe out and expected – and was correct – that if it was a stranger that my kids would start huddling together and looking for me. The man was nailing something to the fence post. I heard Butch growl – not something he did often – and walked over and read the bulletin.
I snorted. “Hey, Mr. Tax Collector … one, you got the wrong address and two I’ve got papers to prove this isn’t accurate. They even have the raised seal on them and everything. So, you might just want to rethink leaving this paper.”
The man turned to me looking for a fight but when all he got was a smile from me it flummoxed him. “According to …”
I shook my head sympathetically. “You’d think they’d treat you all better by making sure of the information they are giving you before they send you on a fool’s errand.” His mouth was hanging open. “It’s nasty weather and you are far from city hall and the annex. No telling what might happen out here and with the things they are making you all do so that you can feed your families you could run into trouble. Did they even give you anything to drink?”
“Well … no.”
“The pipes haven’t frozen on the pump yet and it runs clear and clean. Would you care for some water?”
“Well … I … uh …”
Paulie bounded up and said, “I’ll do it. Do you have a thermos sir? I’ll rinse it out and fill it full of fresh for you.”
That’s my brother, following my lead like he was born to it. The man was suddenly considerably less surly than he had started out. “Well I thank you Son.” He turned to Uncle Roe who had stepped up. In the middle of the greeting the man took off his hat. “How do you do?” He stuck out his hand and they greeted each other like gentleman and in the end the man used his radio and called back his office and when they looked it up the found their error.
“I’m awful sorry about this Mr. Killarney. We’re dealing with layoffs and having to go back to entering everything by hand since the electric isn’t always reliable.”
“None of us have it easy these days,” Uncle Roe said in agreement.
“Now that new fella, that Mr. Carlsburg that is being installed the beginning of the year, he’s come into the office and said he is going to fix things all around. He’s local you know.”
“Hmmm. Must be kin to them folks that owned the car dealership.”
“That’s what I hear,” the man nodded. They politely said good bye and the man was off.
Clewis could hardly wait until the man was off the property before laying into me. “I can’t believe that you were sucking up to that government leech.”
Refusing to rise to his bait I calmly said, “Excuse me? All I was doing was being polite.”
“Is that what you call it? Wait until Jude hears about it. One of the few things he and I agree on regularly is that those people …”
“Those people are still people Clewis. And just like anyone else, if you treat them like you expect to be treated they’ll either rise to the occasion or sink … but you should give them a chance to rise before you slam them because it might halve the trouble you have to go to. You do realize you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar?”
He snorted derisively. “I don’t see you putting that into practice around here. You’re always on my case.”
Deciding to slap him verbally for getting in my face yet again I told him, “That’s because you haven’t grown to the fly stage yet … you’re still just a maggot and if you aren’t careful I’m gonna squish you. Next time you take umbrage with the way I do things, speak to me in private instead of trying to embarrass me in front of the family. I’m getting tired of you acting like I’m a little kid that you can push around. I’m a grown woman and it is about time you accepted that fact.”
I turned on my heel and left him with his mouth hanging open and walked over to Uncle Roe who was giving me the hairy eyeball. “Grown are you?”
“Grown enough,” I told him. “The kids and I are gonna go back to the house. Since you don’t object I’m going to spend the rest of the day figuring on what we talked about. There’s a lot of work to do.”
He nodded. “Hmm. I’ll talk to Jude if I can catch him before he heads back to the house.”