The rest of that week passed uneventfully as we worked hard to meet the goals we had set for ourselves with the occasional stolen kiss between us. No, not stolen … freely given and taken kisses. Never more than kisses and some light teasing words that was both frustrating and enjoyable for both of us.
Jude even had to work Saturday. Then he worked Sunday when he was offered overtime to fix one of the big earth movers. Uncle Roe wasn’t happy but it had more to do with his pride than it did about Jude missing church; Uncle Roe was righteous but be he also had a practical streak which he exhibited by saying that the Sabbath could be any day so long as it was spent in honoring God. I’m still on the fence about that. All I know is God built us so He must know what is best for us, body and soul. He said we needed to take a day off out of every seven to recharge; physically, mentally, and spiritually. I reckon if He said it that is good enough for me … but the application of it seems to be a little harder and more complicated these days than it was in Bible times and that is the part I’m having a hard time figuring out.
I guess Jude might be too because he worked the same hours the following week, again including Saturday and Sunday. By the end of that week … his third working in town and the middle of December … Jude was nearly falling down with exhaustion at the end of each day. I made sure he had a thermos with rose hip tea full of Vitamin C with lots of honey to keep him warm on the ride in the morning but he was always nearly frozen by the time he got back in the evenings. He was usually home for supper each night and Paulie had taken to walking down to the main house to wait for him so he could take care of Grits while Jude talked to Uncle Roe or Butch … or sometimes Clewis who seemed to be making more of an effort not to be such a donkey’s behind.
That second Sunday, while I put a plate of after-church leftovers in front of him, I asked him how much longer he was going to work like he was doing.
“We gotta get it done by January 1 as that is when that peckerwood Carlsburg is going to be installed. That’s also when the taxes come due. The only good thing I can say about ol’ Jamison Deveraux “J.D.” Carlsburg is that he set it up that those of us who are using our pay to off-set property tax bills are being allowed to simply have the money transferred from the DHS payroll straight into the county’s coffers with no cost to us. There are some folks that aren’t happy about it though.”
A little rattled by how bad Jude was looking no matter what I did for him I blurted the first thing that came into my head without really thinking. “First off it isn’t anyone’s business what a man does with his paycheck but second off, why would anyone care?”
Jude explained, “There’s people that have started to make a living off those that don’t have a bank account … or who can’t get one for whatever reason. Check cashing is big business. So is selling them debit card things. First they sell you the card then they charge you for cashing your check and then they charge you for loading that cash onto the card.”
“Why don’t they just transfer the money right to the card?”
“’Cause then they wouldn’t be able to charge the extra fee,” he snorted as he sopped up bean juice with a piece of roll. “And get this, heard yesterday from one of the men that there’s stores now that charge a fee to take cash.”
“What? You mean like paper and change cash?”
“Yup. They call it a security fee since apparently having cash on the premises means having to hire extra security against robbery. And if it ain’t security then it’s because it costs more to process the physical cash, make physical deposits, check for counterfeit bills which is a big problem too, and I don’t know what all else. Apparently having a no-cash business means less overhead. Plus the government is offering them some kind of incentives as well.”
“But … but what about you know … fraud and junk? Just today I heard Butch saying that he’d heard a radio show about how some international organized crime groups have started to flood the market with fake debit and credit cards in order to disrupt our economy even more. If you don’t have the money in front of you then how do you know if the card has real money on it?”
“Good question. Suppose it depends on what someone says is real money. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of these days, and maybe right soon, the government says that the paper money we are used to isn’t worth anything anymore and we need to turn it in and get one of them cards instead and that’s how we are going to pay for things from now on.”
“But … ok … back up. First off how do they use them cards when the power goes out? We don’t have no electric at all back here but even in town where they have it, they don’t have it all the time. Do stores just open and close depending on when the power is on?”
He shook his head. “It goes back to the way things used to be before either one of us were born. Used to be someone just handed their credit card to a clerk and they put it in this little machine that made a carbon copy of it and then you signed the receipt. They generally didn’t question a purchase unless it was over a certain amount and then they would just call and get approval or something. I’m not sure how they handled it when things went wrong, that was before my time. But anyway, that’s what they do when the power is down. They make a copy of the card, get the numbers off of several types of ID, then the person has to sign for the purchase.”
“But … but people can easy get around something like that. They’ll wait until a store’s power goes down and then make their purchase.”
“Two things. First off is that all purchase amounts are regulated by the feds … almost all of ‘em anyway. They say it is to prevent price gouging and to prevent people from hoarding more than their fair share of any available resource. Second. Them debit cards are regulated under federal law too … like if the IRS says you owe them money they’ll close your card off. Or say you are on the hook for some unpaid bills in some other area like to the doctor or maybe even child support.”
“But if they take away cash … but then turn off someone’s card …”
Jude sighed sounding tired right down to his bones. “Exactly. The government has way too much power these days. They say it is to prevent tax evasion and all that other stuff I mentioned before … but mostly it is just about power and control. But I don’t want to hear you discussing this with anyone but me; you never know who might be listening and willing to tattle. Even at church. Understand?”
Irritated that he’d even thought he had to mention it I told him, “I’m not stupid Jude.”
“I know you’re not and I don’t mean to sound like I think you are … it’s just a little warning and reminder is always good for all of us. I keep having to tell that to Dad. He trusts some folks way more than he should in my opinion.”
“I don’t want to get into it … least said the better, especially if it turns out I’m wrong. But while maybe his friends are ok … their kids and grandkids might not be. All it takes is one carried tale and there could be some serious trouble. At work I’ve learned to talk about nothing to everyone and some things to some people but only when I absolutely have to.”
I looked at him askance. “OK, I get it … but … and be honest … are you in any kind of danger working in town?”
He shook his head. “Naw. I know how to work what I got to work and keep the rest of it out of commission. Lots of people still think I’m a drunk and only good for fixing stuff and for little else. That’s fine.”
“No it’s not,” I grouched.
“What? Afraid of folks finding out you’re spending time with a drunk?”
I flipped the tea towel at him that I had been drying dishes with. “I might be if you were still a drunk but you aren’t. It just irritates me that people can’t or won’t see that. Seems people will preach and preach and preach about people needing to change but when it comes right down to it they’ll do everything they can to make sure those same people can’t change because it would then mean they would have to as well.”
The kids were all in the other room so didn’t see Jude come up behind me real fast and push me a little hard against the counter top in front of the sink. I was facing the sink and trying not to drop the dish I’d been washing. Jude’s palms were flat on the counter top on either side of me and he whispered in my hair, “Let’s go take a walk in the woods so I can explain how much I appreciate how well you think of me.”
I snickered a quiet laugh. “You promised the kids a story before bed time.”
He gave a mock groan. “It’ll be dark by then and a daren’t take you walking in the dark. I’ll be too tempted to do more than … er … express my appreciation.” He pressed against me a little harder and started to breathe in my ear and I started to get nervous that one of the kids would walk in. Coming back up from dipping down to my neck he said into my ear, “When are you going to let me say something to Dad. I’m already tired of hiding how I feel from everyone.”
A little breathlessly I told him, “When I’m sure that he won’t get a wild hair and decide that you need to move out to keep things proper, or decide to send someone up here to live with us for the same reason. We’ll never have any time to … um … talk if that happens.”
That was like a splash of cold water. He kissed my neck one more time and then stepped back though he seemed in pain doing it. He went to stand by the door and look out the glass inset. “That’s exactly what he would do. It’s what I should want him to do … but I can’t. I don’t want to give up what little bit of private time I do have with you.”
From my place at the sink I told him, “I don’t want to give it up either … ever.”
He turned to look at me and I must have looked scared or something because he stepped into the living room and said something to Paulie before coming back and leading me down to the basement.
“What did you say to Paulie?” I asked hesitantly.