Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Chapter LXI


      “You’re gonna catch a cold Jude coming straight out of the shower with a wet head and sitting in here.  I lit the fire in your room and it’s warm in there.”

      “Uh uh.  You must think I’m crazy.  There is no way that we’re gonna be in my room together … at night … with the kids asleep.  Uh uh.  No way.  And before you start we ain’t going in your room either.  We can sit here in the kitchen where it is safe.”

      I rolled my eyes.  “You act like I’m some kind of disease or boogey man.”

      He sighed.  “You oughta be acting like I am … the girls are supposed to be leery of the guys.”

      “I told you …”

      “I know dang it … you trust me.  Don’t remind me.  I look at those big ol’ trustin’ brown eyes of yours and they make me feel not the least bit trustworthy.  But since you do I’m gonna try and live up to it and that means we sit here in the kitchen even if it’s cooled down so do me a favor and get to talkin’ so we can go to bed.”  He shook his head perplexed.  “Wait, that didn’t come out right.”

      I laughed gently at him.  Poor Jude.  “I know what you mean so don’t get a hernia.  There isn’t much to tell except that I started rearranging down in the rooms off the tunnel.  It isn’t going to be as bad as I thought though it is still going to be a really tight squeeze.  There is the fruit cellar and the root cellar … neither one is full like they would be in a normal year … so there is more room than there might otherwise be.  They built this house for a large family and for all the food it would need to feed them.  I’ll split the jars of preserved food between the two rooms and I guess will likely put the grains over in the fruit cellar side even if I have to store it in all the empty jars to get it in there right.  There’s another small room back in there that Dad never could figure out what it was originally used for but that Mom thinks is where the legend of the crazy wife or Underground Railroad got started.  We can put the meat in there if I can get some hooks or nails up.  It is just a matter of moving everything at this point and I’ve got plenty of willing hands to help since it is beginning to turn off too cold for them to be outside as much.”

      “What about your herbs and stuff that you were worried about up in the attic?”

      “Well, I’ve already talked to Paulie and as soon as we can finish rearranging in the basement we’re gonna start going through things in the attic.  I think we can arrange old boxes and chests to hide what I don’t decide to just bottle up and put downstairs.  I was hoping to leave the squash and stuff up there for a while longer but I’ll probably just go ahead and dry them or can them in some way.  The kids will enjoy the seeds out of them anyway now that most of the nuts are off the trees.  It’s like living with squirrels the way they snack and forage outside.”

      Jude nodded.  “Mom said the same thing when she found out that Paulie was teaching Travis and Trent how to do it.  I think she was happy though ‘cause she also mentioned they aren’t begging for snacks near as much.  Butch caught them hunting squirrels and roasting them on a miniature spit … I thought Dad was going to bust a gut because he said he did the same thing when he was a boy.”

      Asking a question I was almost afraid to ask while I was down at the main house I said, “How’s Reynolds?  I haven’t seen him.”

      “Up under Aunt Twilla and don’t ask me why Mom isn’t jealous ‘cause she would be normally.  Maybe she just needed a break from the constant attention he gives people … or maybe Aunt Twilla needs it and Mom set it up … don’t know and I ain’t gonna be the one to ask.  Reynolds is definitely better off than he was but he’s never going to be what you would call normal.  We just gotta accept him for who he is and find ways for him to go on in the family without creating a ruckus.”  He laid his head down on his arms for a moment before sitting back up.  “Oh, before I forget, Dad is making noise about sending Faith up here to visit with you to get her out of the house more.  He thinks it will help her since Mom can’t get her to give her mopping up.”

      I groaned then muttered, “Uncle Roe, take them blinders off.”  To Jude I said, “She is going to hate every moment and make me pay for it.  Why is it so hard for people to see that just because she and I never fought, that didn’t mean we wanted to spend all the time together they kept forcing on us?”

      “Now Dovie …”

      “Don’t you now Dovie me.  The only reason she put up with me being forced on her while we were growing up was because it gave her someone new to prove how smart she was to.  I didn’t mind and never made a fuss but right now is not the time for people to expect things to continue on that way.  I like books and learning too but not as much as Faith.  I’m more practical and I’m really not having that much of a problem with how things have changed because I … well … for the most part this is the life it seems I wanted anyway … kids and gardening and stuff.  All forcing her to be in my company will do is remind her that the life she wanted is gone, gone, gone while I’m getting along just fine.  That’s only gonna make her more depressed and mad.”

      “Maybe, but maybe not.  Faith ain’t faking.  She’s in a real funk and not herself at all. Seeing how you are making your way might motivate her to find something new to want.”

      I shook my head.  “She’d be better off with Rochelle.  First off Faith is a pain in the rump but not with big sister Rochelle who she kinda idolizes and you know it.  She always did eat up any little bit of time Rochelle gave to her; she might like learning to be Rochelle’s assistant.  She wouldn’t be queen bee but she’d be the next best thing by being the queen bee’s confidential assistant.  Second off, Rochelle could probably use the help and might tolerate her more that way.  They always got on, why don’t they see how far they can take working together?”

      Jude just sat there looking at me for a moment before grinning.  “You …”  His grin suddenly split his whole face.  “You are brilliant Dovie Doherty.”

      “Well ignoring the fact that I like to think so, why have you suddenly started thinking so?”

       He snorted.  “Rochelle is fried, burnt, getting used up.  She needs help but is too proud to ask for it because she is right for the most part in thinking everyone else already has enough to do.  You know how she is.  But if it was put to her the right way I bet she’d take Faith on in a second’s worth of time.  I just don’t know how to get Faith to go for it.”

      I shrugged.  “Easy.  Tell her that there is simply, bar none, no one better or more qualified to do it.  Tell her like you told me; Rochelle is too proud to ask.  Faith is the only one with the smarts to help out, like Rochelle needs anyway; she can learn the quickest and is already ahead in the areas of science and math.”

      If possible Jude’s grin got even better.  “I take it back … you’re just plain sneaky.”

      “Oh go on with your flattery Jude Killarney.  It won’t get you anywhere but I like to hear it anyway.”  When he was done chuckling I said more seriously, “It isn’t being sneaky; I’m being diplomatic.  I told Clewis today you get more flies with honey than with vinegar.  Another way to look at it is to play to people’s strengths … or their vanity.  When you get an idea sometimes it isn’t always necessary to turn it into an order or command.  Maybe it is a little disingenuous in this case to manipulate Faith but it is also partly the truth and in the end will do some good.  Rochelle needs help.  Faith is smart in a bookish kind of way and likes learning.  If life isn’t going to go back to the way it was this might just be the direction that Faith needs … she’ll literally spend the rest of her life learning but she’ll also have something concrete and useful to do with it.  I see it as a win-win for everybody.”

      “I’ll see about mentioning it to Dad.  Or maybe Mom since Dad hates to get in the middle of what he calls a female problem.  Or better yet, maybe I’ll talk to Lorne and Boo about it.  They’ve got sisters so they’ll understand and the both of them seem to really want to make it work with Rochelle and Faith.”

      “You know, I haven’t heard a word about their families.  This is the first I’ve heard about them having sisters.”

      “’Cause they ain’t the kinda girls I would ever want you hanging out with.  Lorne’s ol’ man isn’t in the picture … think he left a long time ago.  Lorne went to go live with his grandparents but Lorne’s mom kept the girls with her.  Wound up being the wrong thing I guess.  The oldest still has a decent job but they all like to … er … play.  And play hard.  All of ‘em could drink me under the table.  And had so many notches in their headboard that it looked like a rabid beaver had gotten a hold of it.  Er … forget that last part.”

      Kinda having a good idea why he would know about the notches I told him, “Not a problem.”

      He cleared his throat and said, “Boo’s sisters ain’t really bad per se but their taste in men sucks.  They got hooked up with some real baddies.  One of ‘em gets pregnant every time her ol’ man gets out of prison … they’re actually married so she gives him a place to live while on probation and one thing always leads to another no matter what she intends in the beginning.  The other one … well, she’s got passed around a lot and she ain’t much older than you.”

      Unable to keep the disgust off my face I told him, “Geez, sounds like ‘As the Stomach Turns.’  But I thought that stuff only went on in the bigger cities.”

      Jude shook his head.  “You’d be surprised at how little difference there is between town and city and country these days.  The only real difference is how often things like that happen to how many people at the same time.  Bad choices is bad choices and the ground you are standing on doesn’t make the difference.  Heck, even your raisin’ doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make good choices … look at me.”

      “Yeah, look at you.  I don’t see a problem with who you are.”

      He snorted.  “When you gonna take them funny glasses off so you can see with good sense?”  He shook his head.  “For whatever reason, I hit bottom hard enough to knock some sense into me and had someone still willing to take one more chance at giving me a hand up.  I’m also just plain blessed to have lived through the years I was nothing but a fool.  Can’t tell you the number of times that I could have died … and should have.  That alcohol poisoning and that week in detox was a wake up call but it took people to help me to stay away from the bottle because I hated what I saw when I was sober.”

      “Have you tried to help some of your friends from back then?”

      “Tried … and failed.  Part of it was that I was nowhere ready to help somebody when I was barely helping myself; the other thing is everyone has to find their bottom before they can start trying to climb up.  No one can do it for you no matter how much you or that other person wants them to.  Looking back I understand why a few of my old friends would suddenly just up and disappear only for me to see them clean and sober a few months later … and uncomfortable about talking to me about it.  I know it might sound wrong but once you start cleaning up you learn fast you gotta give up not just your old life but a lot of times the friends from your old life.  A lot of the times it is the only way to stay clean.  The best way a drunk or addict has to avoid the guilt is to make sure they are around a lot of other people that do the same thing they do … makes it seem less wrong when everyone is doing it.”

      I reached out and put my hand over his.  “I’m sorry then if it upset you for me to call those guys Caleb and Jinx your friends.  I didn’t mean to make you mad.”

      He placed his other hand over the top of mine.  “You didn’t make me mad.  They made me mad.  And I was embarrassed by the fact that I used to hang out with people that would do the things they were doing.  I got into some trouble as a Juvie but nothing beyond some vandalizing of vacant buildings.  I swear Dovie, I was an idiot but smart enough to not go beyond that … Dad would have disowned me.  And I never hurt a female, not even if she was looking for it.”

      “What’s ‘looking for it’ mean?”

      Momentarily uncomfortable he gave me a half answer by explaining, “There are people in this world that would rather feel bad than feel nothing.  In fact they are so worried about feeling nothing that they go looking for what makes them feel bad … and that covers a lot more ground than I’m willing to explain right now.  Let’s just leave it that a lot of those types of people are females and that I’ve met more than a few of them and feel more sorry for them than I would an addict with the bad DTs.”

      “Oh.”

      We were quiet again then he groaned and said, “Wish I could just sit with you here forever but I’ve gotta get some sleep.  And … look … I appreciate the lunch bag of food but do me a favor and not make it so good from now on.”

      I looked at him like that was as crazy as his request had sounded.  “There’s a reason to that kind of nonsense but for the life of me I don’t know what it is.”

      He nodded.  “I got some funny looks, like folks wanted to know where I was getting all the goodies.  Ain’t good to stand out too much when everyone else is having to accept the food from the lunch truck or go hungry … and have the cost of it taken out of their pay accordingly.  It makes people jealous and I don’t want any trouble.”

      I said, “Well then tell them tomorrow you sure are tired of eating kudzu and beans at every flaming meal and that the only reason you got fed so well yesterday is because I was trying to bribe you to get something I wanted.  A dress or a ride to town or something along those lines after you telling me no a bunch of times.”

      He looked at me with renewed suspicion.  “I’m back to thinking sneaky is the right word for you.”

      “People think what they want to think.”  Then I reached over and gave him a kiss right on the lips and sashayed away with a little more swing in a certain body part than might have been strictly necessary.

      Jude growled, “Dat burn it Dovie, now how I’m supposed to sleep?”

      I turned around at my bedroom door and gave him a sweet smile and told him, “About like I’m going to … and you can think what you want about that too.”  Then I shut the door quickly when he got up from his chair like he was ready for another discussion.

      I couldn’t help it and had to put my hand over his mouth so he wouldn’t hear me giggling after he passed by my door and I heard him muttering darkly, “Ground rules … we got to have us some ground rules …”

2 comments:

  1. Great chapters Kathy, Thanks
    Wayne

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  2. Small typo last paragraph, "...had to put my hand over MY mouth so he wouldn't hear me giggling"

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