Thursday, January 15, 2015

Chapter LXV


      I had gone inside just long enough to bring out a bottle of the strongest horse lineament we had from the medicine chest and a fat black permanent marker.  I told Jude and Clewis, “I don’t guess I’ll ever see either of these things again so use them well and then bury them deep.”

      I went back inside without another word but Clewis’ voice carried to me as they were leaving.  “Dang Bro, what kind of Wheaties are you feeding Dovie?  She get any more like Uncle Alroy and that hair of hers is going to up and go as red as Paulie’s.”  Humph, since when does a person have to be red-headed to think red-headed?

      I quickly went down to the basement and gave the all-clear to Paulie who marshaled his troops with Tiff’s help and herded them upstairs to bed.  Most of them were three-quarters asleep anyway.  I would have wondered at their calm if I hadn’t heard Tiffany telling the younger ones, “See?  Told you it was just like when we were on the road only we got a better hiding spot than a bathroom at a rest stop or the car.  I bet if we asked we could put some toys down there so that next time we won’t get so bored.”

      “Aw,” Bobby said.  “There’s gonna be a next time?”

      Paulie told him, “There’s always a next time of some type.  Y’all get to bed and do what Tiff tells you.  I need to ask Dovie something.”

      I was beginning to wonder if it was me taking care of the kids or if Paulie and Tiff just used me as cover.  Paulie came to me in the kitchen and asked, “Where’s Jude?”

      I could have lied but I didn’t.  “He and Clewis are taking care of some … business.”

      “Oh.  Do I tell the rest of them it is something we don’t talk about?”

      “Not to anyone.  Not each other, not those at the main house … no one.  Got it?”

      “Yeah.”  He leaned against the counter and I nearly cried because it was the exact same way that Dad, Jack, and Jay had always stood.  “Hey Dovie?”

      “Hmmm?”

      “You and Jude gonna get married?”

      The swallow of water I had just taken went down the wrong pipe and I nearly drowned.  “Uh …”

      “’Cause if you want to that’s OK.  I like Jude and I guess Dad and Mom would like Jude now too.  I know Jack and Jay would though … in a way …”  He stopped looking a little worried.

      “In a way what?”

      “Sometimes Jude seems older than I remember Jack and Jay being.  But … but he can’t be … can he?”

      I sighed.  “Jack and Jay are always going to be the age they were when they had to leave us.  If they had lived to have the kind of … of life experiences that we’ve all had over this last year and some then they would seem older just like Jude … but they didn’t so eventually we’re all going to be older than they got to be.  Even you.”

      He sighed.  “I guess.”  He sighed again.  “Was I not supposed to ask you about Jude?  You haven’t said anything but I just figured … I mean Tiff says you like each other.”

      I wanted to growl what did she know but I didn’t ‘cause it was no one’s fault but my own that I’d waited so long to talk to my brother.  “Sit down Paulie.”

      “Uh oh.  I shouldn’t have said anything.”

      I shook my head as we both sat.  “No … I should have said something to you before you had to say something to find out.  I’ve just been nervous about it.”

      “Nervous?  Why?  He ain’t our blood cousin.”

      Shocked at his response I asked, “Who have you been listening to?”

      “I heard Clewis talking to Crystal … kinda fussing at her … and saying that she just didn’t understand how things are around here.  I don’t think I understand either.”

      Oh boy.  I blew air out through my lips and then said, “Well, people who are close blood relatives aren’t supposed to … uh … get married and have kids.”

      “The ancient Egyptians did it.  We studied it in school and brothers and sisters got married and had kids.  And Abram and Sarai were half brother and sister … I heard Brother Shirley say it.”

      “Ew Paulie … that was them old ancient Egyptians and Abraham and Sarah lived a great big long time ago too; that’s not what civilized people do anymore.  God pretty much nixed that after there grew to be enough of us on the planet that we didn’t have to go after close relations to … er … be fruitful and multiply.  We are cousins by marriage with Rochelle, Wendalene, Jude, and Faith … but we aren’t blood relations to them.”

      “Yeah, I know that.  They’re Aunt Frankie’s kids from her first marriage only Jude isn’t even …”

      “Whoa, that is not a fit topic of conversation.”

      “Aw Dovie.  How am I supposed to understand if you are forever telling me things aren’t fit topics?”

      A little frustrated I changed tactics and said, “OK, let’s just say it isn’t polite to bring that up ‘cause it hurts people.  You don’t want to make Jude feel bad do you?”

      “Heck no … not Aunt Frankie either as she is quick with that fly swatter when you get her upset.  I just mean … well that I know OK?  I know it ain’t Jude’s fault what happened to make him get born.”

      “OK then … honestly Paulie, you’re turning me on my head.  What is your question if you aren’t upset about it about … about Jude and I?”

      “I’m not upset.  I kinda like it.  I was just wondering is all.  I’d be careful with all the kissing though cause if Uncle Roe finds out he’s gonna be awful mad.”

      “And how do you know about …?  I mean …”

      “’Cause you get this real stupid look like you got hit in the face with a big smelly fish.  It ain’t attractive Dovie,” he said sounding suspiciously like Jack and even using a phrase he was prone to using when he was teasing me.

      Outraged I nearly sent him backwards out of his chair but then re-thought it since I hadn’t actually ever looked at my face after I’d been kissing Jude; I was usually thinking of other things.  A little worried I asked, “Do I really look that bad Paulie?”

      He looked at me and then repented.  “Aw I guess not that bad but you do look kinda like … I don’t know … like that cat that lived next door to us at the duplex when it would start meowing and rolling all over the place.”

      “Paulie!  That cat only did that when she was … when she was in heat!”

      Paulie nodded.  “Yeah.  That’s what Crystal was telling Clewis.  She said that teenage girls went into heat about your age and that Jude should know better than to take advantage of you.  And that …”

      Thoroughly riled up I said, “I don’t want to hear what Crystal had to say on the subject and you had just better go wash it out of your brain before I take a scrub brush to your head.”  He looked like a deer in the headlights.  “Now you listen to me Paulie Doherty.  Crystal doesn’t know near what she thinks she knows and neither do you if you believe her.  Jude and I are coming to an understanding but we … we certainly aren’t … I mean … geez Paulie.”

      He’d gone bright read in the lamp light.  “Aw jiminey crickets Dovie … I didn’t mean anything … I mean … ew … I mean … geez …”  He made these gagging and choking noises that really embarrassed boys tended to make when their words were getting all hung up in their throats.

      I let him off the hook.  “Well I just hope you weren’t thinking that I’d sink so low and do something to shame our parents.”  I looked away for a minute then said quietly, “Yeah.  I like kissing Jude and Jude likes kissing me.  It’s not … not casual between us but … but I want to make sure I’m making the right decision and Jude needs to do the same thing.  We’re not little kids Paulie.”

      “I know.  Crystal said …”

      “I told you I don’t want to hear what Crystal says.”

      “This ain’t so bad Dovie.  She told Clewis that you have a lot on your plate for someone your age and Jude still had some things to come to terms with – whatever that means – and that you at least needed to … uh … sample more boys before you settled on one.”

      I looked at him and said, “I thought you said it wasn’t bad.”

      “Well,” he shrugged.  “The first part wasn’t.  You do have a lot on your plate.  I’ve heard Uncle Roe and Aunt Frankie say it too.  What do they mean?”

      “Just that most girls my age don’t have the responsibilities that I do, or if they have them that they aren’t as serious about them as I am.”

      “Oh.  And … and you’re not mad about that?”

      “Let me guess, Crystal thinks I should be.”

      “Kinda I guess.  But if you’re not then I’m not.”  Getting back to the original question he asked, “So you and Jude might get married?”

      “He hasn’t asked me Goofus.”

      “But if he did ask you would you say yes?”

      “Probably.  But he hasn’t and we’ve got ground rules to keep us in line so you don’t need to worry about … that stuff.”

      “Good … ‘cause it’s really gross thinking about you and anyone doing you know … that stuff.  I mean Jude isn’t like those men on the road.  And he isn’t like those men that tried to hurt Tiff.  But … still … you’re my sister and all and … gag … you know?  I just figured I’m your brother so I’m supposed to … you know … look out for you … ‘cause Dad and Jack and Jay aren’t here.”

      “Oh Paulie.”  I hadn’t meant to but that teared me right up and I leaned over and gave him a hug which turned out to be the fastest and surest way to end the conversation and have him bolting for the stairs to go to bed.

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