Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chapter LXIX


            I didn’t know what to say so I just sat there feeling bad and not a little ashamed that he came home to find yet another mess of my creation.

            “Get that look off your face Dovie,” he said gruffly.  “I ain’t gonna act like Dad and chew your head off.”

            I sighed.  “You probably should.  Wait.  Why are you home from work so early and how do you know what happened?”

            “Work was shut down early ‘cause of some convoy that is coming through and we needed to get out of the way.  I was almost finished putting my tools up when rumor came flying through that they’d found the guys that had busted up three Contractors – and man were they a mess when they came in and there is talk all over town with people asking what does ‘JD’s Looters mean – and I nearly panicked thinking they’d picked up someone innocent.  Then I found out they were a couple of guys on the run from a work camp up in Cincinnati.  Then I really started to panic when I heard they’d been caught trying to steal some little girl and that the older girl taking care of her had pinned one of them to a tree with a pitchfork.  The story had Dovie Doherty written all over it.   I was on my way back home at a fast trot when I met Clewis coming to meet me and tell me the rest of the story.  Before we go any further I wanna know if it is all right if I go hug Tiff; I don’t want to scare her.”

            Those words were no sooner out of his mouth then he gets pegged in the back with a sheep who had latched on.  By the hands around his middle we could tell it was Tiffany.  It surprised the heck out of me because she’s not normally real demonstrative; she’ll let you hug her but she keeps herself to herself otherwise.  We finally get her loose so Jude can turn around and she latches on again. 

“Easy there.  Easy.  Let me look at you.”  I could literally feel Jude getting angry as he saw the bruises and scratches.  “They can’t hurt you any more Tiffany.”

“You promise?”

A little sorrowfully he said, “Yeah, I promise.  Those men were three time losers and … they were taken care of.”  Jude spied Paulie who was peeking around the doorframe.  “Whoa, look at you little man.  C’mere and let me see that shiner.”  When he’d given it a once over Jude said, “Mimi ain’t gonna have the record for the biggest shiner anymore.”

The girl in question did her own peeking and said, “He was saving Tiff just like in a fairy story.”

Paulie rolled his eyes and looked beseechingly at me and ask, “Can you tell her to stop saying that?  Travis and Trent will get a hold of it and they won’t ever leave me alone.  I was just doing what a man’s gotta do when his family needs him.”

Well there isn’t much that can be said about that when it comes from a ten year old boy so Jude and I just gave the rest of our little sheep what they were wanting and once they were satisfied they trailed back down to the play room to get warm again.  For my part I felt like crying.  Not just from reaction from what Paulie said but from all of it.  I was feeling overwhelmed.  It was just too much.  And everywhere I turned I seemed to be failing the kids, Jude, and now was at sixes and sevens with the rest of the family.  I gave a thought to maybe we had been better off to stay in Arkansas and take our lumps there … or maybe it would have been more fair to the kids to find homes for them, homes that could really take care of them because I was doing such a crappy job of it.

“I know that look Dovie.  Don’t go there.  None of this was your fault.”

“Are you kidding?!  Of course it is … from beginning to end.  I’m the one that encouraged you and Clewis.  I took the kids out and like an idiot didn’t take the Glock because I didn’t think anyone would be out after last night.  I’m the one that let the kids wander away and was paying too much attention to what I was doing.  I was the one that went berserk.  I was the one that had words with Uncle Roe.  Maybe he’s right.  Maybe I’m just … just not fit.”

“Now whoa right there.  Did Dad say you weren’t fit?  Did he use those words?”

“No.  But he might as well have.  He told me I was always getting into scrapes other people have to pull me out of … and it’s true.  It’s just been one thing after another since I brought the kids here.  I’m ruining their lives Jude.  I don’t know what I’m doing.  And now I’ve drug you into it.  You’re stuck ‘cause you’re too good of a man to …”

“When you gonna take them rose colored glasses off that you seem to put on every time you look at me?  I’m not stuck Dovie, I’m right where I want to be and right where I aim to stay.  As for the rest … you saved those men and Clewis and I too from murder ‘cause that is exactly what we were going to do to them.  The Glock thing … well, that wasn’t smart but you wouldn’t have been able to use it with the kids between you and those two men and it sounds like you scared ‘em worse doing it the way you did.  Had you just tried to threaten them they might have taken the kids hostage or taken the gun away from you instead.  You shouldn’t have to be so careful on your own land but these days apparently you do, ‘specially since we’re backed up to some vacant land.  You went berserk because you can’t help who you are.  Uncle Alroy told me one time that someone in the family always has it in ‘em.  Reckon that’s why him and Dad were always real careful in how they dealt with each other.”

“They both just loved Mom,” I explained.  “They didn’t want to hurt her so they did what they could to get on together.  Uncle Roe just couldn’t seem to … I don’t know.  You know how protective he was with Mom.  It was like two dogs fighting over the same bone but for different reasons.  They just never came right out and let loose with their fight ‘cause they were both afraid of damaging the bone.  Used to drive Mom crazy.  But I’m not Mom.  He wants me to be then seems upset when I’m not.  Wishing for me to grow into her isn’t going to make it happen.  I’m still my father’s daughter too.”

“Yeah, you’ve got the problem down all right.  But that is Dad’s issue, not mine.  I like you how you are just fine.  It means that when I’m not around I know that you aren’t afraid to do whatever has gotta be done even if it means trouble.  I was a little uncomfortable with it at first, I admit it, but it’s actually been good to know it so that I can go work in town and not have to worry so much.  Doesn’t mean I don’t worry but not as much as I might.”

“You’re just being nice Jude.  I’ve created a horrible mess.”

“So we got a mess.  Let’s find us a broom and dustpan and clean it up.”

I looked at him like he was crazy … cause he was … crazy that is.  “How can you be taking this so lightly?  You should be tearing into me and hollering and everything else.”

“Says who?  That’s not my way Dovie.  I never have liked yelling and screaming to win an argument.  Doesn’t seem like a win if you got to shout down the other person to make them give in.  I ain’t crazy that you lied to Dad.  I wish you would have just let things ride instead of making up a story to take the heat off me.  You’re so darn sensitive about people being people … too sensitive; they’ll either believe in me or won’t and that’s just the way it is.”

“We aren’t talking people, we’re talking family and your dad in particular.  We can’t tell him about the other so I had to do something. You and Clewis took care of those men to protect the family.  Someone in the family needed to step up and protect the two of you.”

“Can I hold you now or are you still needing to walk the polish off this floor?”

I huffed, “This floor doesn’t have any polish on it, this is the attic and it hasn’t seen a good cleaning since Methuselah wore training pants.”

He snorted.  “OK, so come here so I can hug on you.”

“Why should you want to?”

“Because you’ve turned into my security blanket woman now get over here.”

I was caught up in the fact that he has called me a woman and just barely stumbled over.  I was enveloped in a hug that seemed to draw off all the cold that had been building up inside me.  “Oh Jude, I’m so sorry.”

“Save your sorry.  The way I hear it from Clewis, Dad and Butch didn’t have any reason to tear into like that beyond the fact that they’d gotten a bad scare.  Those soldiers had come to the house to ask questions and then demanded access to the backside of the property so that they could do some tracking. Having the kids running all over probably saved us in more ways than one.  They had you all in sight when Tiff screamed and that’s when they realized the two men didn’t belong … Clewis said they seemed to pop up out of the shrubs cause not even he saw them and Clewis is a fair tracker himself.  They started running almost as soon as you did … you scared the horses with that doggone banshee yell of yours and the men had to fight ‘em which is why Butch and Clewis got to you before you could figure out a way to skewer the other one.”

“I couldn’t have skewered him, the pitchfork was in the tree.”

“Guess you don’t remember Clewis taking a broken branch out of your hand.  You were holding it like a knife.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah.  Oh.  Now you look at me … things played out like they did.  The world hasn’t come to an end.  I didn’t even get the sweats smelling that liquor on my coat all day.  Figured Ronald Darcy would get word to Dad when I met him on the road and he got all prune-faced, just didn’t know he was going to do it so quickly.  I thought I would have time to come up with something myself.  Although …”

“You were hoping that Uncle Roe would have some faith in you and you not have to come up with a story.”

He winced then sighed in disappointment.  “Yeah.  Yeah I guess I was.”  He shook it off and said, “But it didn’t happen that way so we’ll deal with the way things did happen.  Can’t live in shoulda-coulda-woulda land all our lives.  Now you tell me the truth Dovie, we’ve talked about the kids, about Dad and about me … but are you OK?”

“You’re asking if I have the sweats ‘cause of the way I was talking.”

“Yeah, yeah I am.”

“I was holding it off but when you showed up it was like the dam burst.  I’m better now but … but everything … no matter what you say … it still feels like it is my fault.  And it still hurts that Uncle Roe thinks what he does.”

“It likely does hurt I’m sure; it’s the same for me.  Change and Dad just don’t get along real well. It took him a good long time to accept that Reynolds was always going to be different but after he did he was super supportive and treats him like he’s as normal as the rest of us.  Always took him forever to change things on the farm … the bean were grown here, the tobacco there, the melons in that patch and the kitchen garden was always where it was.  He would rotate crops but even the cycle never changed from what he deemed it was supposed to be.  I swear he still does things the way Poppa and Mawmaw Killy did like it is sacrilegious to do it any other way.  It is going to take him at least as long to believe that I’m gonna stay sober.  You know that I know I absolutely want to stay sober yet there are a lot of days when I still struggle with the wanting.”

“And you’d think that would make Uncle Roe even more proud, that even though you want it so bad you refuse to do it.  I know it makes me proud of you.”

“Aw Dovie, don’t start.  We’ll get off track.  We’re talking about you right now.”

“Yeah well, that’s not much worth talking about so let’s drop it.”

“No, not going to.  And stop saying things like that.  You’ll give yourself a complex.  Dad and Butch hurt your feelings right after you’d been through something traumatic, it just reinforced it and made you feel even worse.”

“Oh good gravy, I hate it when you go all Mr. Psychology on me.  I can’t understand why you do it.”

“Because if I don’t get to the root of things they’ll build up and I don’t have anyone to be able to depend on helping me through.  No AA meetings out here and can’t get to town to go to them even if they did get a permit to meet.”

I know he didn’t mean to but it hurt to hear him say he didn’t have anyone to depend on.  I sighed dejectedly.  No matter what he tried to tell me I know that Uncle Roe was in part correct; his delivery sucked but he was still stating a fact.  People had been digging me out of scrapes ever since I got home.  They had to share food and resources. Sure I provided some of my own but not near enough to take care of the kids.  I’d been bickering with Clewis and Crystal, maybe not bad-horrible but bad enough.  Then there were the things where my inner divining rod seemed to find trouble way too often.

“Are you listening to me Dovie?”

I told him, “Of course I am.  You’re a good man Jude.  I expected you to yell and everything else and instead you are trying to make me feel better and I just don’t … I just can’t right now.”

“You’re overtired and upset.  Why don’t you lay down and I’ll take the kids down to the …”

“No!” I snapped not meaning to.  “I am not taking nothing from them anymore.”

“Dovie don’t be like that.”

“Well I am going to be like that.  I’m tired of being a burden, being seen as a burden.  I’m done with it.  I’m not stupid enough to think I can just give them back everything that’s been given to me up to this point but I’m not taking anything else.  Any scrapes I get in I’ll figure a way out on my own.  If we need food I’ll get it myself.  I’m not helpless and if they are so fed up with us being around …”

“Nobody said thing Dovie.”

“They didn’t have to.  I’m tired of being at the bottom of the pecking order around here.  Just plain tired of it.  I may not be perfect but I’m not a child … and they sure as heck ain’t perfect either.  So since I’m such a problem for them I’ll just remove the problem.”

“You’re making me choose between you and them.”

“I am not.  They’re your family and I expect you to abide by what all that means.”

“They’re your family too.”

“Jude just stop.”

“No.  You’re mad and I can understand that.  I’m mad too.  But for once I’m more than glad not to be a Killarney or Doherty by blood.  I ain’t never seen nobody as hard headed as you bunch can be.”

That just made me mad.  “You ARE a Killarney!”

“I never said I wasn’t though you gotta admit there is room for debate there,” he said carefully.  “I just said I wasn’t one by blood.  Now cool down.  I don’t think you got your mad all out.  Maybe they should have let you work off some of it on those men.  If they were going to put ‘em in front of a firing squad anyway …”

I went still and asked quietly, “What did you say?”

“Your eyes are as big around as silver dollars,” he told me putting a piece of my hair behind my ear where it had come loose from my clips.  “They were both three time losers Dovie.  They’d been brought up and convicted three times on serious breaches of the law. Fourth time was the charm and they were executed.  The way I heard it first time was one guy was just into some serious looting … twice of a government facility.  The other guy was a real sicko though … rape, kidnapping, drug running.  Then there was the charge for breaking out of prison.  Them attacking the kids was actually number five that I know of.  They were going down one way or the other.  You just helped catch them before they did more damage.”

Shakily I told him, “You’re trying to make me feel better again.”

“I’m trying to get you to see reality.”

Shrugging I said, “I’m not liking reality too much right now.”

“Then how about we fix that ‘cause I wouldn’t mind shifting my reality a bit either.”

“Huh?”

We didn’t come up for air for a long while.  We each needed the comfort for our own reasons.

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