Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chapter 6

Chapter 6

“Del, start a pot of coffee … and none of that hybrid stuff you drink either … I want it black and high test. Then put on a good breakfast. I know you’re tired Baby Girl but I need you to pull hard today.”

“Was I complaining Daddy?” I asked, concerned he thought I was weakening.

“No and for that I’m grateful. But I also know that with you back to being the only female …” He let the rest of it hang because he knew that I’d been grateful, for however long it had lasted, to have had Dee to take some of the workload off of me.

“I’m fine Daddy. Don’t worry about it,” I told him despite the fact that he’d pretty much hit the nail on the head.

I tried not to feel like a mule that had been pointed to an overgrown field and been ordered to plow without a blade as I got the eggs that the hens had laid over the last couple of days. Scrambled eggs, busted down gravy, and a stack of corn meal flapjacks were soon being set on the dining room table with real butter and sorghum molasses for those that wanted it. Using the wood stove made the breakfast nook too hot to enjoy a meal in, even that early in the day. To save heating the kitchen up again I set a baking dish with some rice and beans to slow cook with enough food to last for both lunch and supper (I’d just add a salad and a dessert at the last meal), sighing with relief that I’d managed to knock more than a few things off my mental to do list before the men even sat down to breakfast.

Micah brought the newest basket of eggs in, handed them to me and then went to wash. Mark was putting Jessie in his highchair and said, “I filled the wood box on the back porch. Your dad back yet?”

“He’s changing the batteries out. Can you eat and feed Jessie at the same time or do you want me to take him?”

“No. I like to feed him, sometimes it is the only good time we get to spend with each other.”

Finally everyone was sitting. “Aren’t you going to eat Del?” Micah asked.

“I ate as I cooked. I want to be free to make notes while Daddy talks.” I turned to the man in question and asked, “Does this change what you want to get done today?”

“Well, to be honest I was hoping that the boys and I could run off to town and see what is going on but I don’t think we should spare the time now. Mark, I’m going to need your help if you will.” At Mark’s nod he continued. “I want to move the batteries and the charging station out of the shed and down into the basement. I’ve got the place all marked off where I want things put. When I originally set the system up I ran two sets of wiring. One out to the shed that is live and one down into the basement that would give me room to do more fine tuning. Well, there is no more time so I just want to go ahead and move the set up but we need to put the venting in first. That’s half way in but capped off. We’ll start by finishing the venting then make sure the lines are still run sound … check to make sure nothing has gotten to ‘em like mice … and then we’ll move the bank of batteries over and then enclose it with some scrap lumber we brought with us. Del, I know you were going to go back to the farm and try and do some more down there but I’d prefer you to stay out of it until Rudy and his brother are settled up with how they are going to work things. His brother is an all right fellow, went to school with him, but I hear his son is a bit of a persistent Romeo and knowing you there’d be trouble.”

“Daddy! I’d never fall for …”

“Not fall for him Darling … cut him off at the knees when he wouldn’t take no for an answer,” Daddy said with a wink to make me feel better.

“Oh. Well, if he’s a jerk I’d just as soon avoid him.”

Mark was making some kind of choking noise and Micah banged him on the back. He spluttered, “I’m all right. Just thinking of the look on poor Calvin’s face if he made the mistake of assuming you were a regular kind of girl and susceptible to his type of looks.”

I let the “regular kind of girl” remark pass. Ol’ Calvin had started to sound more and more like the kind of male that I avoided on principle if nothing else.

“Then if you don’t mind Daddy I want to go do a little more foraging and then I’ve got a ton of work I’ve put off here, most of it of the laundry variety. No, I’ll switch it around … laundry first and then foraging; I’ll save the mending for tonight. Have they put the forecast out yet?”

Mark nodded, “Rain late in the afternoon or early evening ... maybe ... very maybe ... they wouldn't swear to it one way or the other.”

I said to myself, “Laundry it is.”

Daddy snorted, showing his opinion of weathermen in general and the perky fellow that was the local one in particular. “Fine, now that everyone knows what we are doing today I want to try and plan out a few other things. After we move the power system completely under the main house roof I want to see about running some plumbing down to the into the sub cellar. I’ve got a composting toilet set up in mind and the supplies to put it together. After that I want to put them gorilla shelves together and get them leveled out. Del, once that gets done I’m going to want most of the preserved food to get moved down there. After that we’ll move as much of the remaining storage down as we can and use the trunks for furniture if we have to if there isn't room after we put the cots together.”

Mark asked, “Is it big enough down there for all of that and us too? Won’t it be a tight squeeze?”

“You haven’t seen all of it. When we get the power run back that way … it will come on line once we move the bank of batteries … I’ll show you around. It will feel cramped at first but only until you get used to the shut in feeling; it isn’t too bad in the main room down there. Gonna have to rig a flue to do any cooking but I’ve got ideas for that too. Hopefully we won’t ever have to use it but I’d rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Which reminds me, you better fix you and Jessie a go-bag so that if we have to run fast all you’ll have to do is grab the bag and go down to the cellar.”

I could tell that Mark was thinking a mile a minute and had a ton of questions but I was done and had already had a list a mile long that I needed to do but Daddy wasn’t through.

“I’ve already told you China and Russia have mixed it up. I don’t think that is a good thing and might just be another distraction rather than the main attraction. I hope the US is smart enough to stay out of it as long as they can but my concern is that one or the other will try and force us to pick sides … or incapacitate us to the point that we don’t have the strength to pick sides. Could very well be the original purpose behind these waves of terrorism we’ve been experiencing, there really isn’t any way of knowing, at least not right now. It is all just speculation. But, if that is a correct assumption we could see even more than we already have. It is an even better assumption that things are going to get worse before they get better so what I’m saying is better safe than sorry. I want to use this time to harden our position and to increase our security. I also want to remind you three that while all of them down on the farm are family of some type I want to focus our efforts here … Rudy knows the risks and he’s taking charge down there. I’m not going to tell him what to do or ask him what he has and I want us to keep to ourselves the same way. We’ll work together sometimes but we don’t need to be in each other’s business all the time. Understand?”

Oh I understood all right. Rudy had a habit of taking over. If I was bossy he was a lot worse though we still managed to get on all right despite the difference in our ages and so long as we each had our own “territory.” Makes us sound like a couple of dogs which isn’t very flattering, especially to me, but there it is. I may have been a little pooch in the scheme of things but I felt the weight of my responsibilities even at the age I was and I allowed that to influence my behavior perhaps more than it should have. To Rudy’s credit ninety-nine percent of the time he did a good job of it but I’d seen his one percent and it really blew slimy chunks and I didn’t want to risk it. Daddy may have been sick but he was still top dog in our pack and I intended on keeping him that way as long as possible. Mark was just relieved because while he respected Daddy because Daddy had always treated him with respect despite our brangling, Rudy used to push Mark around a bit because of his brother in law. I guess a young man’s ego is easily bruised … and hard to mend.

Micah was still anxious and wanted to know, “But Dad, what’s going on? What do you think they’ll do next? What …”

Daddy tried to calm him down. “Son, I’ve told you all I know and right now what they’ll do next isn’t near as important as what we do next. I can’t control them. We can control ourselves. And the best way to deal with the anxiety of the what-could-be’s is to say a prayer and start taking control of the what-we-can-do’s.”

After everyone had cleaned their plates I cleaned up the mess, including Jessie, while they started their work. Leaving the dishes to dry in the drainer I started mine.

Everyone was pretty good about wearing their work jeans more than once but in this heat there just wasn’t any way to get out of wearing a clean shirt every day. Even still I’d been too busy to do the laundry and Dee hadn’t ever thought to do anyone’s but hers and Cici’s. I had already learned that Mark was the one that kept up with Jessie’s laundry but I just grabbed theirs too and all the sheets and stuff from all of the beds.

Micah, at my request, had already started a fire and put the big kettles on it to get water boiling. Jessie was not happy about having to stay in the play pen and was complaining loudly.

I looked up at him on the porch and said, “Look Champ, I’m not having any fun either. I feel like a steamed clam, my hair is limp on one side and frizzing out on the other. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but it is hot. So, cut me some slack, play with your blocks, and then after lunch we’ll hit the woods for some foraging excitement.” I don’t know who looked at me with the stranger expression, Jessie or Mark when he overheard me talking to his son.

First came the sheets. I tossed them in the kettle and let them boil a bit. Daddy and Micah both had reactions to most store bought laundry detergent and softeners – I think it was the chemical scents or colorings that everything seemed to have in it – so I either boiled the whites clean and sun bleached them dry or I made my own detergent. The homemade stuff worked just as well, if not better, than the store-bought stuff and was way cheaper. For softener I just used vinegar in the rinse water, the same as I did for my hair. It was all we had when I lived with the Aunts and I never could seem to stand the slimy feeling of working the store-bought stuff into my hair. I don’t have a problem getting my hands dirty; it was the idea of putting something that felt so gross into my hair that was the problem.

I had enough bars of Fels Naptha, Zote, and Octagon soap to fill the Cumberland River with suds but I was worried about having enough Borax to do the job and keep it getting done. I pulled out my handy-dandy notebook and started a list of things that I needed more of than I had. Borax wasn’t one of those make or break items in the scheme of things but it was one I’d rather have than not. It was the same for more vinegar so that made it to my list as well.

After the sheets, that really weren’t that bad because we had finally convinced Micah how important washing his feet were before going to bed when Daddy assigned him laundry duty for two months straight, came the least dirty to most dirty loads. It was a toss up to which was dirtiest … socks or jeans … but socks lost the toss so they were the last load and I left them in there to boil for quite some time with a little extra detergent since I had been forced to smell them before they all went in.

After loads came out I dunked them in two separate rinses. The first was another boiling rinse to get the soap out and the second a clear rinse with the vinegar in it that was cooler. As I moved the loads between kettles I would run them through the mangler … basically a set of rollers that squeezed all of the water out. It wasn’t quite as good as the centrifugal force of a spin at the Laundromat but it was better than doing it by hand which I could personally attest to.

From there the laundry was hung on my newly restrung clothes line using the old-fashioned peg clips Daddy was fond of whittling when he couldn’t sleep. One of the few things that I missed when we moved to the cabin was a dryer to do the towels in. I did like the fluffy softness of towels dried at the Laundromat but I liked saving my quarters even more. I don’t think the Aunts had ever owned a drier though they enjoyed the automatic washer quite a bit, especially in winter; that let out going to the farm for the towels.

The problem was there wasn’t speck of breeze in the air. We’d lived in Florida one year and I have to say it reminded me a whole lot of our time there … including the bugs. After I’d dug the third mosquito out of my ear I had officially had it. I picked up Jessie and took us both inside. Sure enough I saw a line of mosquito bites around the neck of his little t-shirt. DEET and little kids don’t mix so I dug out the trusty Skin-So-Soft. I used to pick it up at the flea market all the time since I didn’t care whether a fragrance was retired or not, nor if the bottle was a little dusty. I rubbed the stuff all over both of us and even up into Jessie’s thin hair and inside the cup of his ears; the only place I didn’t swab down were his hands as he still sucked his fingers.

We came back outside smelling like the Avon Lady but who cared, the mosquitoes transferred their attention to another meal source. By the time I was done with the laundry I had sweated most of mine off and reapplied it after feeding the guys lunch. About half way through lunch I caught Mark sniffing Jessie and I had to laugh.

“It’s just Skin-So-Soft,” I chuckled.

“I thought so. What? You think Jessie has fleas?” he asked.

“Fleas? Oh, you mean … no, I know people use the stuff to keep fleas off of their pets but I was using it to keep the mosquitoes off. They were getting irritating and Jessie has a line of bites around the back of his collar.”

“Does it work?”

“For me it does but you have to put it on more often than commercial bug spray. I didn’t figure you’d want Jessie to have anything with DEET on him.”

“No I wouldn’t. Does it work when you are out in the woods?”

“It keeps most things away … sort of I guess … but for the ticks I spray my clothes with DEET and don’t get it on my skin. For Jessie I’ve just been putting him in his footie pj bottoms and a long sleeved t-shirt on top. It gets hot but I keep his cup full of water and a little sun cap on him. Do you know want me to …”

“No! Uh, no. No I was just wondering. Dee always acted like I didn’t know what I was doing when I took him with me places. I was just wondering is all.”

I snorted and then caught myself about to make a rude comment and then changed tactics. “I know she is your sister Mark but … how can I put this … you … you see how Cici is turning out. I’d put a little more faith in what is guiding you with Jessie than on what your sister told you was the best way to raise your kid.”

His fork stopped half-way to his mouth for a couple of seconds and then he kept going at double the pace. When he was finished he hopped up and said, “Instead of the sling you made, let me get you his frame carrier. It might be cooler for both of you.”

Daddy got up from the table too but gave me a pat on his way out telling me in his way that I had done a good thing. Of course Micah then had to add his contribution to the mix by teaching Jessie to blow raspberries while he had food in his mouth. They both thought it was funny and it took me twice as long to feed Jessie than I had anticipated as most of the food had to be put in his mouth at least twice. Honestly, I could have strangled my brother for his thoughtfulness.

Eventually we headed off into the woods where I thought it would be quieter than all the banging that was going on, in and around the cabin but I was mistaken. The birds weren’t just down in the orchard, it seemed like they were all over in the forest and fighting each other for room. The caws, trills, and whistles were deafening in comparison to the quiet I normally found on the trails. The barks and coughs of the squirrels added to the den as they tried to warn off the birds from “their” trees.

I had thought to pick more mulberries but when I got to the biggest tree I had found most of the fruit was gone making me angry that I hadn’t picked more when I had the chance. A smaller tree nearby wasn’t quite as denuded of fruit but I still had to shoo a mess of nasty blackbirds to get a share for my own family. And if that wasn’t enough I had to cover the container to keep the sneaky jays from perching on the bucket edge and eating them as fast as I picked them. Seeing how bad the birds were made me concerned for the rose hips.

Sure enough I had to fight the birds off there as well but instead of the blackbirds and jays it was the cardinals. Thankfully they weren’t nearly as aggressive as the other birds were. I was in a quandary what to do. I thought I’d be able to come back whenever I wanted and pick what I needed but with the birds acting so crazy hungry I needed to fill the five gallon bucket with as much as I could because there might not be any tomorrow.

I transferred the mulberries to a small picking bucket I had clipped to my belt and put the more durable rose hips in the bottom of the bucket and managed to get three quarters of the bucket filled before I had to give up the battle. The jays had found us and I’d already had two fly at Jessie scaring him to pieces. Nasty, mean little brutes.

I put a bandana over the hips and then carefully put the mulberries back in as another layer. As I was standing up I caught sight of some staghorn sumac … not the itchy kind but the ones with the red berries. I cut some drupes of ripe berries and laid them on top of the piece of cheese cloth I had laid on the mulberries, careful not to squish the softer berries underneath. I had seen lots of staghorn and smooth sumac in my walks but this small patch was the first ripe drupes I had seen. I hoped they survived the birds because in addition to a kind of lemonade that I made with the ripe berries I liked to dry the drupes out and grind them into a seasoning powder for when I wanted to add a lemony taste to dishes and sauces.

My arm was straining by the time I got back to the cabin. Micah, and Sam who had come up to escape the craziness at the farm for an hour or so, saw me first and came to take the bucket from me.

“Thank you. Ugh, that got heavier with every step,” I said wiping the sweat from my face and trying to ease my aching foot.

Sam noticed and asked, “How’s your foot Del?”

“Finer that I have any right for it to be; thank you for asking. If you boys will carry that bucket into the kitchen for me and wait for a minute I’ll make you some mulberry balls. I don’t think these berries will last long enough in this heat for me to be able to do anything with them.”

Sam didn’t know what I was talking about but Micah remembered the treats I used to make for him when we lived here more often.

Slipping Jessie off my back and putting him down to sleep – he was three-quarters there by the time I got home and almost completely dead weight – I took the mulberries out of the bucket and crushed them with a potato masher. Then I pulled out some of last year’s walnut meats, a gift from the Aunts when we first arrived (Aunt Lilah loved cracking nuts even though the doctor had told her to lay off eating them), and ground them up very fine with my little hand crank food processor. I mixed equal portions of both together and then played with the resulting mess a little bit adding a little more nuts or berries as needed to get a soft dough that I could form into balls. The balls were then rolled in sugar.

The boys ate them just about as fast as I could make them and then Daddy and Mark came upstairs to find out what the laughing was all about and got their share as well. I told Mark that Jessie was down for a nap.

“You’ve had him all morning, you’re bound to need some time to yourself.”

“I don’t mind but … well … I want to try and dig some wild ginger. Would you mind if I …”

“Of course I don’t mind. I should have said something earlier. I managed to keep an eye on him and work for your aunts. I’ll set his intercom up and you go do what you need to do.”

Micah got an evil grin on his face and said, “I’ll help watch Jessie.”

I told him, “Oh no you won’t. Not if you’re going to teach him any more of your tricks.” Of course then I had to explain to Mark the new skill of Olympic food spitting that Micah had taught him. Of course Mark thought it was hilarious. Uh huh. I thought, “You just wait until you are the one he is spitting his food at then we’ll see how funny you think it is.” But I took the chance when it was offered and went off on my own.

I really liked kids and Jessie was a pretty easy baby compared to many I had taken care of over the years but still, wandering in the woods was a lot easier without carrying thirty pounds on your back which is what I estimated Jessie weighed.

My foraging luck held and I did manage to get some wild ginger, and some violets and wood sorrel too, but the best find was when I took a less beaten track and came upon quite a few wild plum bushes. There were two little glens of them … one of greengage and the others the yellow ones that Aunt Bel called Mirabelles. And wonder of wonders the birds weren’t too bad but I didn’t have much faith that that would last for long.

I hopped and skipped my way back to the cabin since my foot kept jogging out of the question. Daddy caught sight of me and thought something was wrong.

“No sir but I need to borrow Micah if you can spare him. I found a ton of ripe plums and want to beat the birds to them.”

Daddy straightened up, relieved that it wasn’t anything serious and said, “We’ll all come. We’ve finished moving and hooking up the bank of batteries and it is too late to start another big project. If this heat don’t break soon I might just start sleeping down in the cellar; it was a cool relief to work down there today.”

The plums were about a forty minute walk from the cabin down a really old wagon track, one of many that criss-crossed the whole area and that were fading more and more as the years passed. Everyone had two five gallon buckets and we filled them all. Carrying them back though was a bit of a challenge until Mark handed me Jessie to carry and he and Micah took a long thick limb and ran it through several of the bucket handles. Mark put one end on his shoulder and Micah put the other end on his shoulder. Daddy was left with one bucket that he hefted on his shoulder and I put the bucket I had left in Jessie’s back pack while I carried Jessie in my arms.

“I do believe that we over estimated our strength.” Daddy’s dry statement brought a tired chuckle from all of us. But looking at Daddy I could see it wasn’t quite the joke he meant it to be.

“Tell you what, if I could get you gentlemen to take those buckets down to the cellar,” Micah groaned a bit but only half-heartedly. “If you’ll take them down for me, I’ll bring in the laundry and then we’ll have a good dinner and I’ll have a surprise for dessert.”

“Mulberry balls?” Micah asked hopefully.

“Nope, but something just as good.”

Sure enough, they were licking their bowls like puppies to get the last drop of goodness. I’d made a plain yellow cake using a cheap box mix that I had brought from our last house and made up a good hot chocolate syrup to thickly dribble over it. Warm cake, warm sauce, full bellies, and sleepy eyes.

I was laughing and wiping chocolate sauce off of Jessie’s nose when Daddy hushed us all and turned the radio up. There were widespread reports of Islamic attacks on Christians and Jews all across Europe and it was beginning to show up sporadically here in the US. Some kind of jihad had been declared by some extreme cleric living in Great Britain. He blamed the Christians for the bomb, specifically those in the US, refusing to accept that Iran was the author of its own fate. He said that the real truth was that the US military had done it to protect Israel and that all Muslims had a duty to Mohammed to … I don’t know … go out and kill all infidels regardless of age, sex, or what all. I stopped listening after a few minutes because it was nothing but hate-filled spew.

“Honestly, why on earth are they giving that lunatic air time?! Don’t they know they are just spreading trouble?!” I asked, indignant that anyone could be so stupid.

“I don’t know,” Micah said. “Would anyone believe that someone could be like that if they didn’t hear it with their own ears?”

My lips thinned as they tried to restrain the words that wanted to come out. Mark said, “One way or the other this isn’t going to help matters. The news already said that China and Russia have gone beyond rhetoric and are now throwing bombs as well as words.”

“Mostly small scale stuff but it makes me wonder more and more if the bomb was a misstep in someone’s grand scheme.”

“What do you mean Daddy?”

“What is this? Hypothesis number five hundred and six? For what it’s worth I’ve come up with another one. Someone … let’s assume it was the little madman in Iran … decided that now was the time to toss the bomb. Maybe it coincides with some anniversary of someone’s death or a prophet’s birthday or something. The terrorist attacks in this country were to keep us busy with our own troubles, if not outright incapacitated. The bomb was to take out Israel, the primary stumbling block for Islamic supremacy in that region of the world. The extremist … aw, this doesn’t get us anywhere. Tomorrow, one way or the other, I want that sub-cellar ready for us to move things into and then I want to give serious consideration to us moving our sleeping quarters down into the basement. There isn’t as much privacy but it is a sight cooler than what we are dealing with right now and I don’t know about you young un’s but I’m desiring to have a goodnight’s sleep without sweating through my sheets.”

The guys were so tired that they all went to bed right after that but I had to do the dishes and by the time I finished with that I was no longer tired. I took the lamp into the butler’s pantry and decided to work on the inventory and to try and design out how the storage should be put together down in the sub-cellar. It was hot and stuffy in the enclosed space and I didn’t have any choice but to open the window; it was still hot but not anywhere near as stuffy.

It was a moment before it caught my attention. I guess I lived in the city too long to really get caught by it immediately. It was the sound of motors and buried in it was the sound of “pops.” As soon as it registered I ran down the hall calling, “Daddy! Mark! Something’s going on down at the farm!”

Micah called down from the loft, “I hear it too Del!”

Daddy came out while throwing on his fatigue jacket and slinging a belt of ammo across his chest (the belt was too big for his waist anymore). Mark was wide awake too and was listening to the sounds as they were carried up on what little breeze there was.

I could see Daddy and Mark going, they were grown men but when Daddy told Micah which gun and ammo to bring I had to bite the inside of my mouth til it bled to keep from screaming out my objection. People didn’t realize that when Daddy said I was both sister and mother to Micah that it ran through my very veins.

He looked at me with huge eyes, scared and I didn’t know what to do or what to say. When Daddy clapped him on the shoulder and complimented him on his speed he seemed to shake himself and pull away from me in a way he never had before and something changed in that moment and our relationship was never quite the same again.

Mark drew my attention with a quiet, “Take care of Jessie for me?” All I could do was nod and nod again when Daddy told me to lock and bar the door and not to come down to the farm for any reason … and to get my pistol and my hunting rifle and not to hesitate to do what I had to if it came to it.

Right then and there I railed against God for making me a girl and then thanked Him at the same time for making me one and having more sense than all the men in the world seemed to. I guess it has been like that since Eve birthed Cain; females looking around and wondering what on God’s green earth has gotten into the males of the species. On the other hand, I was no flibberty-gibbet to sit wringing my hands and sniffing smelling salts waiting for the men to come marching home again.

I carefully carried a sleeping Jessie down to the basement and put him in the playpen we had moved down there to keep it out from underfoot. Then I set the intercom up and went back upstairs. After checking all of the windows to make sure the shutters were closed and barred I crept to the front of the house that faced the farm.

I’ve described the front doors and how thick they were but not that they were ornamental too. One of the decorative effects – for security as well – was the small square door set where a peep hole would be. Covering this door on the outside was a cast iron grill just big enough to put the barrel of a rifle through.

Being five foot three on a good day has some advantages. On the other hand there were distinct disadvantages and one of them was the fact that my best friend was a step stool. That night I cracked the little door-in-a-door open and stood on a stool trying to see what was going on.

I couldn’t of course, the tree line worked both ways. No one from the farm could see the cabin, but the cabin didn’t have a good vantage of the farm either. The only thing I could see was the silvery outline of the trees in the moonlight. Being at the front of the house did allow me to tell that there were different kinds of motors … larger ones that were probably cars or trucks, and small whiny ones that sounded like the crotch rockets certain types of young men seemed to underestimate. And the gun shots. There weren’t any automatic weapons but there were semi-autos mixed in with single shots from what sounded like large gauge shot guns. I got down and leaned my head against the door and said a prayer of protection for those out in the night.

Then I heard some kind of crescendo occurring … and screams. My nails dug into the wood of the door as I got back on the stool desperately trying to see what was going on. And then one of the smaller motors seemed to break away; it sounded like it was getting progressively closer. A moment later I could tell it was two small motors and then they broke out of the road and into the clearing around the cabin.

They hadn’t expected it. I guess they thought it was just a road to the backside of the property and took it hoping to get over the ridge and away from what was happening down at the farm. They laid both bikes down hard and came up armed … and I had no doubt dangerous.

I won’t blame Daddy for my own actions. I won’t make excuses. I take full responsibility for what I did and come Judgment Day I’ll answer for it. They were running for the house, weapons at the ready. I can still hear the coarse language they used, cursing their bad luck at finally running into a farmhouse “full of rednecks that did more that scream and holler for mercy.”

They were almost on the porch before I accepted that I was going to do what I did. The door was in shadow. They hadn’t even bothered to check their surroundings, their arrogance making them sure of their own victory over any possible resistance. I don’t think they ever saw my rifle barrel pointed at them.

The first shot was a clean miss. No excuses. I’d never fired at a human before … a paper target of one yes, but never the flesh and blood version. The two men stopped, stunned. That gave me enough time to get a clean hit with the next shot. The other man turned to look at his suddenly prone companion and my next shot caught that man in the throat. I won’t describe the resulting mess, I still don’t like to think of it.

The noise of the gun had scared Jessie into wakefulness and I ran down to the basement to calm him. It gave me something to focus on besides the man that was dying in a hard way at the bottom of my front porch steps. I rocked Jessie until he calmed and in turn that calmed me. He went back to sleep and I crept back upstairs to listen and heard … nothing. No more motors, no more gun shots, no more screams.


  1. While I love your stories, the beginning of this chapter is a bit of a shock.

    When her father says that she is the only female and she just accepts what that implies, it is really sort of a disappointment. What? Three guys get to sit around or do "manly" stuff while she works into the night because it's "female work".

    Like I said, I love your stories and appreciate how much you work to provide them, but it seems highly unlikely that a girl with that good of a head on her shoulders in so many ways would simply accept that she is a servant.

    Pulling together is what families do, not sacrifice one to stick to an outdated dogma of inequality. And her father is turning out to be a little bit of a scary dude to me. He may be a sympathetic character due to illness, but he frankly uses his own daughter as a slave in order to favor a boy with no more sense than a banty rooster after his first hen or gumption of a third generation welfare hag.

  2. Just continue reading and you'll see some of what is going on. Some of the male v. female stuff is cultural. Some is simply the roles that the characters accepted in their "life." Families aren't perfect and things can get scrambled despite the best of intentions. Like I said, just keep reading.