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Story Starting Over ... and Over and Over
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  1. #81
    Thank you for the chapters! One of the things that I like about your stories is how well you "set the stage".

  2. #82
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Midwest
    Posts
    3,318
    I add my thanks to the rest of them.

    Now that I've had my "break with Kathy," I've got to get back to work. House to clean, cookies to bake, crocheting to do. Thanks for the fantastic break chapter!
    "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
    In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
    Proverbs 3:5-6

  3. #83
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Location
    Michiganistan
    Posts
    979
    Yahooo Kathy is back and not only that she is writing again.......
    Very glad to hear from you.
    "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet"

  4. #84
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    16,217

    Chapter 13

    Chapter 13

    I was sitting down in the shade of a tree that was just beginning to leaf out in the Cottage Garden on my last “free” day when I heard what I’d been waiting for. “Door is locked this time. We’ll need to bump it.”

    I waited and sure enough a few moments later a piercing siren let loose almost too loud to hear two young men cursing and trying to run down the stairs. I hit the remote control and the siren stopped. So did they. Slowly they crept back up and I hit the remote again and they nearly fell off the stairs. Back and forth until they were at the bottom of the stairs looking up and saying, “Some one is f@#king with us.”

    “That … that means someone is watching. $%&T, let’s get out of here. They ain’t paying us enough for this.”

    I was feeling pretty satisfied until I heard something behind me and a hand covered my mouth. I’m a city girl. My father was in the military and my big brother made sure I knew how to defend myself. Even Kirk insisted on me taking a couple of self-defense classes. I heard someone hiss in pain when I ran my thumbnail under one of the nails covering my mouth, but then start laughing.

    I turned to find Mr. Haines nearly rolling on the ground in the damp leaves. “No more damage. I know I deserve it but no more,” he chuckled. “Jesus woman I’m already fighting a hernia trying not to laugh at what you did to those two young idiots.”

    Extremely embarrassed to the point I could feel how hot my own face was I didn’t know whether to run, cry, or throw something. None of the above wound up being what I did because Mr. Haines finally stood up and said, “That has got to be the best damn show I’ve seen in a month Sundays. Please share how you did it.”

    Instead I said, “Mr. Haines, I thought you were going to be at a family cook out.”

    “Was. Did. Escaped after hearing some of the kids snickering about some prank or other and getting a bad feeling when I saw one of the cousins refuse to let Gary and Hirsch slink off like they normally do after giving their normal five minutes of attention to the Old Ladies. Wanna let me in on how you knew something was going down?”

    He pointed to a bench in a sunnier location and since he is my employer I felt I had no choice since it was a direct question. I started with finding the squirrel the morning that I went to Bryson City. He asked sharply, “Any damage to your belongings?”

    “No Sir. There was however a highly-panicked squirrel to try and resuscitate when he knocked himself out. I’m surprised you didn’t hear Stacy Crocker scream all the way up to the Big House when it temporarily took refuge in the front pocket of her hoodie.”

    While Mr. Haines wiped his mouth in effort to not start laughing again I continued on about coming back from Bryson City to the Cottage to find that someone had tried to get into the garage door and the garage window open instead and a couple of rather large snake skins draped on a rafter. Snakes don’t bother me so long as they aren’t moccasins or rattlers. And empty snake skins bother me not at all. Then yesterday how people kept coming by and telling stories about hauntings in the area that might have spooked a college kid working a summer job but which didn’t bother me. “As agent provocateurs those kids are sorry material. I’ve taught in some really rough schools … guns, knives, drugs, physical violence. These kids are nothing but babies in comparison and as a result they are predictable.”

    “You had to deal with that stuff directly?”

    “Yes Sir. Both when I was in school myself and when I started teaching. It isn’t that unusual.”

    “It sure as hell is around here,” he said in a bit of outrage.

    “I can’t say one way or the other having never taught around here but there are a lot of things that go on in schools that most parents don’t seem to be aware of. It might not be as prolific here as in a large, urban area but my guess is that it goes on more than most people would expect. Rural areas have had their share of school shootings making it into the news. Certainly most college campuses see their share of these types of things going on – not even including all of the protesting, and you’ve seen how violent that has become lately. The violent stuff isn’t on all campuses but almost all campuses that I know of have their share of protesting of one form or another. And no, I’m not twitting you about the survival stuff. Sylvia Crocker told me enough that I’m more than willing to watch my p’s and q’s. It just is what it is.”

    He was silent for a moment before nodding. “Won’t deny there’s some truth there. Now that we have the serious stuff out of the way, let me in on the rest of it.”

    “When Kirk … my ex-husband … moved out I had to … well … downsize. I went from an apartment complex that had built in security that came with the rent to a unit that …”

    “I saw.”

    “I didn’t move into that one until the divorce was finalized. As one final parting shot Kirk’s lawyer informed the complex where I was at in the interim that I had gotten the unit based on income I no longer had. They gave me a 15-day notice on the month-to-month I was in and … well you saw the last apartment. Anyway, when Kirk and I were … in the better days before things fell apart one of Kirk’s jobs was for a security company. One of the severance package items he received when his contract wasn’t renewed was a self-contained security system. It was outdated equipment even then, but it has served my purpose. You attach the sensors to openings so that if the opening is opened and contact is broken the siren alarm goes off. It has a key fob to arm and disarm it if you are close enough. Unlike most of the wifi capable security systems this one is radio signal operated.” Stopping I asked, “Am I in trouble?”

    “No,” he said like I had insulted him. “I should have thought of it myself. How are they powered?”

    “Lithium batteries.” I handed him the key fob and he played with it a bit before returning it to me.

    “Let me know if there are any further problems. I can’t get Gary and Hirsch for this one but I can get those two peckerwoods. I managed to get a couple of photos of them and Crocker will know who they are. I am finished putting up with this crap.” When I said nothing he called me on it.

    “Mr. Haines, I have zero standing or authority on the Estate. I don’t even officially start work until tomorrow. And to be quite honest it is none of my business and I don’t want trouble. You’re my employer. Mr. Crocker is my boss. My job isn’t to tell you how to do your job … only to do my own.”

    Mr. Haines gave me a considering look before standing. “Ms. Field?”

    “Yes Sir?”

    Then he shook his head before saying. “I still want to be kept informed if there are any other instances of possible hazing.”

    “Yes Sir.”

    Looking around he said, “You’ve gotten more done than I expected.”

    “The garden you mean?”

    “Yes.”

    “I didn’t need to do as much weeding as I thought because the leaves effectively suffocated the possibility of too much growing under them. Stacy Crocker told me that the trees along the back wall are apples and quince. There’s also a bramble hedge that hasn’t decided whether it is going to take over the world or not though it does like to reach out and put you in your place if you get too close.”

    I surprised a laugh out of him then he sighed when I stopped talking. “Ms. Field, please don’t treat me like I’m an ogre.”

    “I’m not.”

    “It sure seems like it.”

    “You aren’t the dangerous animal here. My mouth is. It keeps trying to slip its leash.”

    He gave a small smile and said, “That’s better. You don’t need to be a robot.”

    Trying to regain my professional footing I admitted, “I don’t need to be overly familiar either.”

    “Let’s just play it by ear. My grandfather always considered the housekeeper as a member of the family.”

    “Uh …”

    “Relax, I’m aware that might not be a ringing endorsement after meeting a few of the meatheads in my family but I promise I have no intentions of repeating their behavior … nor condoning it.”

    I didn’t know what to say to that so I said the first thing that popped into my head. “I picked up a couple of blocks of Velveeta and some Miracle Whip when I was in Bryson City.”

    It took him a moment to follow the change in subject. “Ms. Field you didn’t need to do that.”

    I shrugged. “I miss my mom too. Sometimes memories just make you want what you want and … well, would you like to try my mom’s version of pimento cheese for lunch tomorrow instead of the tuna fish that was planned?”

    “Yes. Even if it isn’t like my mother made I’ve no doubt it will be good … and I’ll be back for lunch. The supply order should be in no later than midmorning. If you don’t mind waiting to put things away I’d like to go over what arrives to show you where inventory items are normally stored.”

    “Yes Sir.”

    He looked like he wanted to say something else but seemed unsure what it was. Feeling a little silly I asked, “Would it be all right if I spent some time each day …”

    When I stopped he insisted I continue. “I was looking through my mother’s and grandmothers’ recipes and … well … in conjunction with you wanting to start using some of the … er … naturally growing food items in this area …”

    “Foraging.”

    “Yes Sir. Foraging. And because you said that you hired me, at least in part, because I was familiar with food preservation … I found my grandmother’s recipe for making jelly out of flowers and I found nearly a field of violets and I’ve already made some only I found lots of other flowers that I … would … er …” I sputtered to a stop when I realized he was looking at me strangely.

    “Jelly. From flowers.” He blinked. “You can do that?”

    “Yes Sir. I’ll use my own sugar and other ingredients. It’s just that it would be less wasteful if I could do what needed doing at the same time that I was in the kitchen cooking your meals. I wouldn’t waste your time.”

    “Ms. Field … could … could I taste …?”

    “Oh. Of course. I had a little left that wasn’t worth using a jar up for and …”

    “You have jars? I mean that you can in?”

    I was jogging up the stairs eager to show him the violet jelly in order to convince him to agree to my request and was startled that he had followed me up. He noticed my hesitation and said, “I’ll wait out here if you are uncomfortable …”

    “I trust you. I just don’t think either one of us really wants to give Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum ammunition to … oh … mean … I mean I didn’t mean to call them …”

    Mr. Haines grinned. “Between the two of us you continue to be kinder to them than I am. But you’re right. I’ll wait here.”

    Rather than waste time making a fancy presentation I brought the small plastic container I had the excess, un-jarred jelly in and a small spoon. I told him, “When I was little my grandmother used to put on fancy engagement and wedding breakfasts and brunches, or other special occasions, as a caterer. She’d make all of these flower jellies to serve and she would also do things like put flowers in salads and use them to decorate cakes and things like that. I .. I just thought …”

    “Ms. Field, even if I didn’t just put something delicious in my mouth I wouldn’t have a problem if you want to experiment in the kitchen. You are allowed to have a life you know.”

    I could barely breathe; trying to find some way to respond to his statement. He didn’t seem to need me to. Instead he added, “And if you are willing to share your experiments then I don’t see why you need to foot the full bill.”

    “Excuse me?”

    “I’m not a complete idiot. I’ve done research on foraging and preserving and am well aware of the initial expense that is required. Keep me in the loop and we’ll discuss what can be ordered through the monthly inventory and what I will need to order in special.”

    “Oh … I …”

    But he just turned and left. I’m sitting here looking at recipes and I’m still … well I’m stunned. Kirk was tolerant mostly because we used what I canned, and it helped with the budget. He also didn’t want to get between my mom and I when we were having our “fun.” I remember him laughing when my parents gave us the canning equipment for a wedding gift. It hurt my feelings at the time and he apologized quickly when he realized how much it meant to me and how expensive the equipment and jars had actually been. Still it was something I saved up and remembered more than I should have rather than let it remain in the past as a mistake that came from lack of understanding rather than malice. Mr. Haines talks like he will actually be supportive. I think I’ll be cautious and see how things go.

    But in all honesty, I have to say it is a different comment that is keeping me up and that I can’t get out of my head. It was Mr. Haines’ comment on having a life. The more I think about it the shakier it makes me feel. I left Florida, left everything behind … and everyone … so that I could start a new life. Starting a new life … having a life … doesn’t just mean leaving the old one behind. At least not if I’m being truthful. Well I took the first step. I left … physically left … my old life. Now I need to finish the break, I need to mentally leave the old life behind as well. That doesn’t mean forgetting everything, but it does mean I have to stop holding onto the old hurts and the old ways I dealt with them. My new life needs to more than just look like a new life. New life can’t happen if I keep doing things the old way. I may not know exactly what my “new life” is going to look like or where it is going to go, but I need to at least stop being afraid of trying the new.
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  5. #85
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    State WA
    Posts
    12,895
    Thank you, I got spoiled with having 2 chapters every day lol. Funny how fast that can happen.
    Last edited by sssarawolf; 04-28-2018 at 10:34 AM.

  6. #86
    Thank you for the new chapter. You do have a way with words!

  7. #87
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    nw mountains
    Posts
    3,732
    First of all good to see you back here with us. Secondly, thank you for your time and skill with words.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  8. #88
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    the boonies of Alaska
    Posts
    1,634
    Thank you for making our morning brighter. I look forward to your chapter or two each day, with eagerness. Many thanks also to your husband who encouraged you to share your talents with us again. Wise man!
    It's later than you think!
    (Fr. Seraphim Rose)

  9. #89
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    16,217
    For those interested, when I put a recipe in the story that isn't explained, I will add it to Granny's Kitchen. I already posted the "Violet Jelly" that Shanna made.
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  10. #90
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    State WA
    Posts
    12,895
    Great on the recipe.

  11. #91
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Location
    Where fog and sun meet.
    Posts
    3,907
    Than you for adding the recipe!

  12. #92
    Quote Originally Posted by Kathy in FL View Post
    For those interested, when I put a recipe in the story that isn't explained, I will add it to Granny's Kitchen. I already posted the "Violet Jelly" that Shanna made.
    where is this "Granny's Kitchen"? I couldn't find it. :/
    thanks
    Happily being a "Troll" for bible truths about Jehovah and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

  13. #93
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    State WA
    Posts
    12,895

  14. #94
    thanks!
    Happily being a "Troll" for bible truths about Jehovah and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

  15. #95
    Really glad to see you back Kathy

    esp glad to see more of your writing.

    Hope everything is well with you n yours.

    I just ran over and looked at the recipes. I need to go through a lot of em and get reminded about good eating.
    Last edited by Dosadi; 04-29-2018 at 04:15 PM.
    Dosadi

    III


    My family & clan are my country.

  16. #96
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    16,217

    Chapter 14

    Next chapter. Shanna's first full day at work. Trial by fire maybe. I've had a few days like this one and I'm sure you all have as well. The good, the bad, and the OMG my head is going to fall off and roll free-range around the house. LOL.

    Speaking of ... the month of May is going to be a real zinger for me. I will try to keep up with posting story daily but it might be a day or two after the chapter is posted that the recipes get posted over in Granny's kitchen. Depends on what computer I'm working on at any given time.

    Anyway ... Bon Appétit ........

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Chapter 14

    Today’s “work day” lasted longer than I thought. But ask me if I care. This has been a good day and I’ve needed a good day longer than I want to admit. I got up at 4:45 am … I could have probably slept until 5 am but my nerves woke me up before the alarm clock. I’m not the type of person that takes long to wake up and get dressed to get going. I like to lay out what I’m wearing and plan the day the previous night. It is the only way that I’ve found I can keep myself organized, on time, and on track to complete my to do list.

    It was foggy and chilly; I dealt with that with the black jacket and a flashlight. It took me a little longer to get to the Big House because the fog made me second guess the direction I was walking and because I was carrying two bags with my canning equipment and jars in them. Even with the delays I still managed to arrive before my 6 am start time. I debated waiting outside the kitchen door but the bags were heavy and I wanted to put them in my office … still feels funny saying that … and make sure I could start breakfast immediately. Not only did Mr. Haines need to be someplace by 8 am but I was getting almost nauseous hungry myself.

    Done and done … alarm turned off, stuff put in office, jacket hung up in same location, coffee maker started, biscuits made and in the oven, grits cooked and being kept warm on the back burner, and I was about to start the poached eggs. That’s about the time that Mr. Haines stuck his head in the kitchen, like he’d been following his nose the entire way. He was freshly shaven and his hair was damp so I knew he’d been up at least a bit. I was going to pour him a cup of coffee but he held up his hand and said, “My hands aren’t broke.”

    I took that to mean he could pour his own coffee which left me finishing the eggs and pulling the biscuits out of the oven just in time. I plated his food and turned to find him sitting at the small table that had obviously been used in times past as the “servants’ table.”

    He looked at me and asked, “Mind if I eat in here?”

    “Uh … this is your house. You can eat any place you want.”

    “Yes. And no. The previous housekeeper, my mother, and my mother’s predecessor … and probably all of those that came before her … all had ideas where people were supposed to do things in the house, including eating. You’re the housekeeper now.”

    “And you are still the owner of the house. You can do things your way. If you want to eat here and save the dining room, breakfast room, or wherever, for more formal occasions or when you have guests then that is the way it will be done.”

    He drew breath and then asked, “Then would you mind eating with me? Here?” I opened my mouth but nothing came out and he added, “Please.”

    I nodded and then put a plate together for myself of the leftovers and slowly approached the table. He stood up and pulled a chair out for me on the opposite side of the table. He seemed inordinately pleased and then said, “I noticed the other day you don’t drink coffee. What do you drink?”

    “Water mostly.”

    “Out of habit or economy?” he asked right before taking a bite of biscuit and then getting a really strange look on his face.

    “Uh … are they okay?”

    “Better than okay. Remind me of Mom’s only buttery-er.”

    “I brushed the top of the biscuits with butter to keep them from drying out since I hadn’t used the oven before. If you don’t …”

    “No. I like it. Actually either or is good. I just meant … look, do me a favor and don’t take everything as a criticism.” He was grinning a little too kindly when he said it which made me blush and want to leave the table but then he added, “Trust me. I can be a bear about having things my way but this isn’t the case this time. Okay?”

    I nodded and we both ate in silence until he said, “You didn’t say. Water a preference or something else?”

    Slowly I answered, “Both I suppose. I used to drink a lot of tea and soda but it became a luxury after … after the … the separation. Plus the sugar didn’t help the bottom line … or my weight … er … I mean my health. Now I drink mostly water and unsweetened teas out of preference. When I drink the sugary stuff it tastes … well, not as satisfying as I remember it.”

    “How about milk or juices.”

    “Sometimes,” I answered wondering why he asked.

    I think he was about to ask something else but a call came in on the house phone and I rose to answer it. “Mr. Haines’ residence. May I help you?”

    There was silence and then a young woman said, “I … er … was looking for Clint Haines.”

    “May I say who is calling and I will see if Mr. Haines is available.”

    “Er … Trisha … Trisha Harden. Geez, you must be the new housekeeper everyone is talking about. Sorry, kinda threw me off for a second. I’m a cousin and I was calling to ask if he could swing by and pick me up for the morning meeting.”

    “One moment please.”

    Mr. Haines was wiping his mouth … that looked suspiciously like he was grinning … and then came over to take the phone after I told him who was calling and why. I chose not to listen in and instead picked up the dirty dishes from the table, poured the remainder of the coffee into a thermos, and put the last two biscuits into a paper sack for him to take and then went over to get things cleaned up.

    “Did you get to finish your breakfast?”

    “Yes Sir. I put the coffee …”

    “I saw. Thank you. If you can push lunch to one o’clock I should be back by then.”

    “Of course.”

    He hurried out taking the thermos and bag with him and then as I was drying the last dish I heard him leave by another door. Before doing anything else on my list I made the promised pimento cheese and put it in the cooler to chill. Having a walk-in cooler was going to take some getting used to, it was also going to require weekly cleaning which I added to my mental to do list. I continued creating a list of chores as I took a quick look around the house, picked up the bathroom he’d used and made his bed. I debated attacking his office next but declined until I could determine whether he wanted me in there or not. At that point I decided to take Mr. Haines at his word and started prepping to do some canning in the afternoon. The reason? I’d spotted some flowers out in the kitchen garden area.

    First, I picked three lightly packed cups of violets and poured over them the requisite amount of very hot water. The violets were so plentiful I even had enough that I could make a small batch of violet marmalade by taking a half pound of violets that I crushed with an old mortar and pestle I found in the butler’s pantry, adding that to one and a half pounds of sugar, and setting it aside so that later I could add a half cup of water and bring it to a boil six times before sealing it.

    Also on the grounds I found wisteria, lilac, and black locust in bloom. I was glad that I had taken pictures of a few “flower recipes” and proceeded to prep for making jelly out of those flowers as well. And since I had a banquet of flowers to work with I decided that in for a penny, in for a pound.

    From the violets I made violet syrup, violet vinegar, violet sugar, I added some violet leaf to the salad I was making and put some violet leaf on the dehydrator I found in the small room used to keep the small appliances off the counter tops when not in use. Just to make myself happy and as a surprise for some other time I made sugared violets by dipping a bunch of violets in egg whites and then dipping them in sugar and then putting them on the dehydrator with the matching violet leaves.

    With no sign of Mr. Haines I continued on with the project and did much the same thing with wisteria, lilac, and black locust flowers. I was trying to decide what to do next when there was a loud knocking on the side door that I had dropped Mr. Haines off the first night. I ran to answer it and found Reggie and Bernie pulling boxes and bags out of the back end of a large truck and stacking them under the covered patio. All I could do was stay out of their way.

    “Sorry Ms. Field. Can’t stop to chat this time. Running late and this order is bigger than Mr. Haines normally orders. Need a warning if the order is going to be large so we can make allowances for it in the delivery schedule. Gotta get this off the truck and then get going.”

    “Do you gentleman need something to drink?”

    “Yes ma’am, if you have it.”

    “Will tea do? Water?”

    “Just water if you don’t mind. Too much sugar and Bernie gets the fidgets and I have the sugar problem.”

    “Well, then how about unsweet tea? That’s the way I normally drink mine as well.”

    “Let’s give that a try huh Reggie?”

    Reggie looked thoughtful and then said, “Don’t have much time for it.”

    “Do you have a thermos?”

    That did it. I filled them after they declared the tea “more than just drinkable” and then they were off in a puff of diesel fumes. I was half way finished bringing everything in when Mr. Haines showed up and asked, “What in the …? Did those two just …?”

    “Something to do with their help, at the last possible minute, being transferred to another job.”

    “Er … that must have been the two boys from the other day then.” I nodded and bent to pick up another box when he said, “Hey, I’ll get this mess.”

    “I wasn’t just a cashier at my last job. I helped with stocking as well.”

    “Well you aren’t there anymore, you’re here; and I’m not going to watch you haul fifty-pound bags of flour and sugar around and just stand here.”

    I wasn’t going to fight about it and soon enough we had everything in and he even helped me to put it away.

    “Tell me you’re hungry.”

    His stomach answered me and I giggled before I could stop myself. “Oh … I … I am sorry.”

    Instead of being angry or embarrassed he said, “In case that needs translating it means I’m starving. Mind eating out on the patio? I’ve had about all of being cooped up inside that I can handle for the moment.”

    He went to wash up and change out of his family meeting clothes while I put everything on a rolling tea trolley I had found. I had most everything ready and stepped into the cooler to bring out the salad and when I came back I caught him snitching a taste of the pimento cheese. I didn’t make a sound and then watched him do this nearly insane dance like he was spiking a football. The giggles caught me again and I nearly dropped the salad. He got a sheepish look on his face that morphed into just pure silliness. “I’m thinking of extending your contract. Either that or you’re not allowed to leave without passing on that recipe. This tastes exactly like what my mother fixed.”

    All I could do was say, “I’m glad. Hopefully it will make up for experimenting on you with this salad.”

    That gave him something to think about but he was game and carried the pitcher of iced tea and showed me the shortest way to the patio while I pushed the cart. Lunch was a success and Mr. Crocker and another gentleman showed up while I was clearing the table. They had some papers with them and had the look of people that were ready to dig into another meeting. I prettied up the pile of pimento cheese that remained, added some crackers that had come in with the supplies, and then added the pitcher of mint iced tea that I had originally meant for to accompany dinner. I made a note to myself that I needed to be prepared for Mr. Haines to have business guests and to have something I could put out like appetizers or canapes or a relish tray like my grandmother would do.

    As unobtrusively as possible I placed everything within arms-reach and then headed back to the kitchen where I started canning the jellies that I had already prepped. I made five jelly jars of violet jelly, then eight jelly jars of lilac jelly and the same of wisteria jelly, and lastly five of black locust jelly. As each batch went into the canner for boiling and sealing I started building the inventory database that Mr. Haines considered a necessary task. My laptop had 1T of memory so I decided to start the storage there and then transfer it to an external hard drive when the ordered equipment arrived. I started with the small appliances just so I could get a feel for how tedious the process was going to be.

    It was about like I remembered it with each item requiring five to ten minutes in addition to loading the pictures. What was going to require some thought and effort was how to organize the items so that I could streamline entering the description and then attaching the picture to each item description. I was still thinking about that part of it while I took the last batch of jars out of the canner when Mr. Haines came into the kitchen pushing the trolley.

    “Oh … did I not hear the bell?” I asked terribly embarrassed.

    “No. I didn’t ring it. There’s an intercom system for that, but I’m not going to do either when we can bring our own dishes in.”

    When he said “our” I realized all three men had something in their hands. I ran to take them but Mr. Haines shook his head and they put the stuff on the sink top for me. Then a little apologetically he said, “This is Reaves Dunlop. He is one of the trustees and he’s going to be here overnight.”

    Thinking quickly and trying to be a real housekeeper in a fine southern home I said, “Of course Sir. The blue room? And salmon for dinner at six o’clock?”

    “Make it 5:30? Some of the family will be coming over for drinks afterwards.”

    Mr. Haines grinned as I nodded and the three men soon left. I wanted to panic but decided it would be a waste of what time I had left to me. It was three o’clock and the first thing I did was quickly go up the back stairs and put fresh sheets on the bed in the blue room and make sure to dust and air the room, give the hall bathroom a quick and efficient cleaning with fresh toilet paper and towels on the rack. I’d found a supply of cellophane wrapped toothbrushes, disposable razors, and travel size toothpastes and other toiletries in one of the pantries and now I understood why; unexpected guests. I made sure one of everything was sitting in a decorative basket that I lined with a face towel embroidered with the Haines coat of arms.

    By the time I made it back downstairs to the kitchen it was a little after four thirty and it was time to prep the dinner. This was one of my mother’s go to quick dinners for unexpected guests and was also what my father liked when he could find salmon at the base commissary for a reasonable price. I took sheets of parchment paper, thinly sliced two potatoes and put them on the two pieces of parchment paper. I melted some butter and mixed into it some garlic and parsley. I spooned a little over the potatoes then place a salmon steak on each pile of potatoes and then drizzled the remaining butter mixture over the top of the salmon steaks. Then I sealed the parchment by folding it all the way around. I popped them in the oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. While that was baking I made a simple drop biscuit dough, popped a sheet pan of biscuits in so that both would come out at the same time. A little more melted butter and garlic and when the biscuits came out I topped them off and let them soak up the garlic-flavored butter.

    I grabbed dishes … slid the parchment packets onto the plates, the biscuits into a basket, and then put it all onto a trolley with a bottle of Chardonnay that I found in what I discovered was the wine cellar, only to stop short when I realized I had no clue where the men were going to eat. Then I heard them in the library and remembered seeing a small dining table in the corner that Mr. Haines said he and his grandfather would eat at during informal times.

    I went in as quietly as I could but Mr. Haines still looked up and blinked in surprise before looking at his watch. I put a clean table cover on and then set everything up quickly before turning to find both men staring hungrily. I almost smiled but I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate and almost scurried out before asking, “Where are drinks going to be served?”

    “The verandah unless the bugs get too bad. Why?”

    “I was going to set a coffee service if you’ll let me know how many you expect.”

    Sighing he said, “Maybe two dozen, could be closer to fifteen but no fewer than that. Crocker and his wife will be here for certain then some of the aunts and miscellaneous others.”

    I nodded and then hurried back to the kitchen. I had just inventoried a large, electric coffee urn which is what gave me the idea for the coffee service. I started preparing coffee and locating and washing two dozen plain, but obviously expensive, coffee cups and matching saucers. I put a lacy tea towel on a silver tray and set the coffee cups upside down on each saucer. I found a glass and put in some little silver stirring spoons. I also located and filled a silver sugar and cream set. Just for the heck of it I also fixed an electric carafe of boiling water and set out some fancy after-dinner teas as well as a pot of honey and some of the nasty (in my opinion) artificial sweeteners that I found near where the regular coffee maker sat in the kitchen.

    I left the liquor up to Mr. Haines but made sure that all of the glasses in the glass fronted cabinet in the drawing room were sparkling clean and that there were plenty of each kind … wine, brandy snifters, cordial glasses, cocktail, tumblers, shots, pilsners, and so on and so forth. At the last moment I realized I needed to fill a couple of ice buckets and while I was at it I found some appetizers and put them out … olives, small pickles, a dish of marinated mushrooms, some mixed nuts, and some dried fruit.

    I was running the ice buckets to their place when Mr. Haines came out of the library and at the same time the doorbell went off. I stopped and said, “Coffee service on the verandah. Glasses, ice, yada, yada by the liquor cabinet in the drawing room. If you want a particular wine you need to tell me. I’ll start letting your guests in and then get the dishes from the library.”

    Turning on my heel I rushed to the door right as it rang a second time. I opened the door and nearly got run down by a stampede. The Crockers were in the first herd and Sylvia laughed and said, “Put a sign out that says head to the verandah.”

    I remembered seeing a chalk board and easel and used it to do just that before finally getting to get the dishes out of the library. I was up to my elbows in suds when Mr. Haines came into the kitchen. “You’re still here?”

    “Finishing up,” I told him.

    “I know how to use a dishwasher,” was his reply as he went into the cooler and brought out a bottle of club soda.

    “Oh no! I knew I’d forget something. I’m so …”

    “Don’t say it unless you have time to listen to me say it. First day on the job and I dump a guest and a party in your lap at the last moment. And you’re staying late.”

    “The work is fine. I’ll gather the glasses and …”

    “No. People can put the glasses on the trays like always. You should go home.”

    “Omelet still okay for breakfast?” I asked reminding myself there would be two for the meal.

    “That would be great.”

    “Breakfast room at seven o’clock?”

    “Make it 7:30. I’m not sure how late this is going to run tonight.”

    “Yes Sir.”

    After that it was a quick finish to the dishes though I will admit I left the two sheet pans that I used in the drainer because I planned on reorganizing the baking dish and pan cabinets tomorrow. I also got some of the frozen melon balls out of the freezer and put them in the refrigerator to thaw overnight. I relaxed further when I remembered the coffee urn was one that turned off by itself after two hours of non-use.

    It was almost nine before I got back to the Cottage and I was both exhausted and wired. A cold showed woke me up … the hot water tank wasn’t working … a cup of chamomile tea soothed me and going over all of the things that went right today made me feel like things were moving in the right direction. I hadn’t even had a “mouth problem” from the stress of the unexpected exercise of my professional flexibility. No complaints. And it still makes me want to giggle remembering Mr. Haines’ reaction to the pimento cheese.
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  17. #97
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    Lovely. Thanks Kathy!
    Visit me on Etsy: ModernMaille

  18. #98
    Thank you for an interesting tidbit!

  19. #99
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    Just lovely! Man, I'd love a job like that!! Thanks, Kathy - you are the best!
    All that is gold does not glitter....

  20. #100
    Thanks for the new chapter!!

  21. #101
    This is so great!!!!! Like a reward for being good!!!


    WAB
    "A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently and die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."---- Robert A. Heinlein

  22. #102
    I'm so happy to hear from you, Kathy. I think we were all getting worried, especially since it had been 2 1/2 years since you last updated.

  23. #103
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    O.K., I know you are super busy, but more please when you can find the time. It is always a delight to read your stories!

  24. #104
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    Who ever paid the ransom, I am grateful. Thank you for more story.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  25. #105
    Thanks and May I have some MOAR please mam?

    Dosadi
    Dosadi

    III


    My family & clan are my country.

  26. #106
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    Thank you great as always.

  27. #107
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
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    Midwest
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    3,318
    Thanks much, Kathy! Love your work!

    And I agree with Siskiyoumom!!

    MOAR!!
    "Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
    In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."
    Proverbs 3:5-6

  28. #108
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
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    South East South Dakota
    Posts
    305
    Oh, how pleasant to have you and your talent back! I really enjoy getting lost in your work, and that takes about two sentences.

    Your people & situations are so real and down to earth I love 'em.

    I don't think you should feel any guilt about being gone: you're living a life and that can get pretty frantic at times.

    We are fortunate that you share the hard work with us that you do and I appreciate it very much.


    Cat

  29. #109
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    Aug 2011
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    NE Iowa
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    I want to say thank you to your hubby for telling you to write some more. He must see how much you enjoy it and how very much we all do, too. It's a rare gift when a person can identify what makes them happy, and more rare to identify that about another. So thank you Kathy's hubby, may all your work go swimmingly this year.
    Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
    President Theodore Rooseveldt

  30. #110
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    Jun 2011
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    Chapter 15

    Oh ... my ... Lord. Remind me to never use that powdered rug deodorizer again on my rugs. The granulated stuff is okay, as is borax, but I made the mistake of trying a new brand that has the consistency of talcum powder. Once again ... oh ... my ... Lord. I tried the vacuum; it left "shadows" of powder in rugs. I tried the shop vac; didn't touch it. Went to my husband's commercial grade barrel shop vac and it got more out bout I could still see it in places. I considered renting one of those steam vacs but I didn't want to turn the gunk in the carpet to concrete in the fibers (the rugs are the "oriental" variety). So all I could do was roll up the dingity-dang rugs ... two of them 10' x 14' ... and take them all outside and beat the snot out of them. Argh! Mondays and full moons do not make Kathy a happy camper. I certainly won't be using that brand again. Like I have all that time to waste trying to get their nuclear powered junk out of the carpets. Geesh.

    On the other hand, it was a great aerobic work out. I'm thinking of trying to get a patent on it and call it Mother Hen's Ol' Timey De-Stressor. I can hear the commercials now. The opening scene is all of these crazy and stressed out women beating the snot out of rugs hung over clothes lines and fences. Dust and whatnot if flying alllllll over the place like smog. The scene then fades out and you hear the public service announcer say, "Beat your rugs, not your kids ... or your husband ... or neighbors ... or the tax man ... or anyone for that matter. Just beat your rugs. As an added bonus it helps you keep your glucose numbers down." The pictures comes back of all these women looking tired and smudged with dirt and dust, but blissed out and smiling. In the background you see their families holding up signs that say, "Thank you Mother Hen's Ol' Timey De-Stressor!"

    Ah well, teach me to try and un-tested brand of cleaner on a busy Monday.

    --------------------------------

    Chapter 15


    Six o’clock in the morning came just as early as it did yesterday. I was a little sore but not too bad. Longer day than I had worked in a while – when I would teach all day and then work cashier at night – but all in all I was more satisfied than I had been then, especially as I walked in to find the chalkboard sitting on the kitchen table with “THANK YOU” written across it in a looping scrawl.

    I didn’t have to start breakfast for another hour so I went in search of the mess I was expecting. And there was one, but it wasn’t quite as bad as I had been anticipating. The worst was the verandah and the coffee service area. Ants had already found the mess on the floor though thankfully someone had moved the sugar and other items into the drawing room. There were also plenty of cigarette butts which made me sigh. Note to self: ashtrays are not an archaic item of the past on the Haines Estate, I just hoped people were courteous enough to do it outside only so I don’t have to worry about scorched rugs, floors, or furniture. I spent a half hour neatening up the verandah, a job that was only onerous because someone had used the stone of the ledge to put their chain smoking out and it required scrubbing to clean the scorch marks.

    Then it was time to start breakfast. I made another batch of biscuits. Made a condiment tray of the jellies that hadn’t been enough to fill another jar with, adding real butter and a small ceramic bowl of orange marmalade. A pot of coffee in a carafe … no sugar or creamer needed because I found out the previous day both men drink theirs black. Two dishes of fresh fruit. And mushroom and cheese omelets. I almost added chickweed again but stopped until Mr. Haines indicated whether he wanted his guests to share in his hobby. I also fried some sausage patties and made sure to blot the grease off like my grandmother had always insisted.

    I was putting the last item on the trolley when Mr. Haines walked in. “Please tell me there is food under that cover.”

    “Omelets and the etcetera to go with them. Coffee in the carafe.”

    “Halleluiah. But instead of the breakfast room we’re going to eat on the patio. You mind?”

    I gave him the look his comment deserved and he smiled. “Ah yes. My house my way. I remember now.” Then he realized there were only two plates. “You aren’t joining us?”

    I blinked in surprise. I hadn’t honestly expected to.

    “Reaves is practically family – and is some kind of cousin the long way around – and he’s actually got a couple of questions for you if you don’t mind.”

    “Uh … sure. I mean, of course Sir.”

    He insisted on grabbing the plate that I’d made for myself and the glass of water I’d had beside it. Soon we were all seated and the men well into their meal before Mr. Dunlop asked his first question.

    “Clint tells me that you’re going to help him inventory the house. Can I ask what experience you have?”

    “Nothing that is strictly professional. I helped with some family estate matters … both of my grandmothers, my parents and brother … my … my former in-laws’ estate. Then there was the store inventories and the like at jobs I’ve held over the years.”

    “Any probate work?”

    “For my parents and brother.”

    “Any problems with that?”

    “None, or none that I’m aware. And, to be … frank … I had to do an inventory during … during my divorce. The system I used was a template on MS Access and it definitely passed legal muster.”

    The man nodded. “Why I ask is because as one of the trustees I’m going to need to at least sign off that I’ve seen the inventory. Having it computerized will help with some of the questions people have been pegging at me.”

    “I’ve already got the template up and set some of the input parameters. It can be as detailed as needed.”

    Surprised, Mr. Haines asked, “When did you start that?”

    “Yesterday. I needed to stay near the kitchen because I had timers to watch so I started with the small appliance closet to try and estimate how much time was going to be needed for each item. So long as I can take pictures beforehand, including of model numbers or brand markings, it takes me about five to ten minutes per item.”

    Mr. Dunlop asked, “What computer are you using and is it secured from hacking?”

    “The computer is my personal laptop, but it isn’t connected to any wifi signal. For now, the file is on the laptop’s hard drive – and double password protected – but as soon as the external hard drive arrives that Mr. Haines has ordered I’ll move the file there and when not in use the external HD will be secured in a locking cabinet in the housekeeper’s office … unless Mr. Haines wants to keep it someplace else.”

    There were a few more questions, then after we had finished he asked to see it. I gathered the dishes and said I would bring it to the men in the library with more coffee. “Oh, none for me thank you,” Mr. Dunlop said. Mr. Haines said the same thing and said, “We’ll help move this back to the kitchen and then instead of you having to haul it to us, we’ll come to you.”

    Six of one, half a dozen of another I thought and after a few minutes I had the computer up and running and then left them to it while I loaded the dish washer with the first load of crystal from the night before and put other things to soak in the sink. I was running the vacuum in the drawing room when Mr. Haines found me and said, “Reaves has left. And … er … thanks.”

    “For?”

    “Not throwing a fit last night and not getting territorial this morning. Reaves is a good man but when he gets in lawyer mode he can come off … stiff.”

    “Compared to some of the lawyers I’ve dealt with the last few years he was very friendly. Does he need the inventory modified?”

    “No. Though we may need to modify it some when it comes to inventorying all that frou-frou upstairs. And there’s the attic.”

    Winding the vacuum cord to put it away I told him, “I thought about how to streamline the process and wanted to ask, would you mind if I used a couple of the empty rooms that haven’t been remodeled upstairs to organize items as they get organized? For instance,” I explained before he had to ask. “Yesterday looking for coffee cups I found various pieces of the same dish design in three different places. Depending on how many dishes in the same set you have, the entire set might be more valuable than the individual pieces, or vice versa. You’ll also be able to match brands/makers/artists and put them back in storage more organized. The computerized database will help with this some, but physically managing what you have more efficiently will make any further inventory easier. And if you wind up having something you want to sell off, this will make it easier to put it up for auction or whatever you decide to do with it.”

    The manager in him examined the idea and then approved it. “The other thing is that Reaves wants to see if we can get current values for each item. I can find the original purchase price for almost all of the gizmos and appliances purchased in the last decade from my accounting files but the antiques and other stuff might be a challenge.”

    “Depends. Places like EBay and Etsy, and a good set of collector reference books will make that fairly easy to do for some items. Museums and auction houses sometimes publish reference materials as well. That can be done as we go or at the end … or both depending on what kind of item we are talking about. I can already tell you what some of the Lenox items and Fenton glass pieces are running on the open market, even if they are vintage or antique. I had to sell a few pieces that I’d inherited to pay … um …”

    “Ms. Field … Shanna …”

    His unexpected sympathy threw me off for a second before I quickly said, “It was necessary. I had to learn to … to let go.”

    Still showing more sympathy than I was comfortable with he asked, “Did you sell any of your things to move here?”

    “Oh. No Sir. By getting this job I was actually able to keep several of the pieces that were next on the chopping block.”

    “You put them in storage someplace? You left them behind?”

    “No, they’re in the cedar chests that Reggie and Bernie carried up the stairs for me. Thank you for asking though.”

    Then he changed course and asked me, “Those jellies you put on the table … did you make them?”

    “Yes. Were they … um …”

    “They were damn good. And thank you for sharing. I do want a list of anything you will need to keep doing that sort of thing. And I have a weird question … do you know how to make wine?”

    It was a strange question but one I could answer positively. “Weird answer … yes … or at least old-fashioned versions. May I ask why?”

    “Two of my aunts preside over the Haines vineyard and they were talking about introducing some limited and unique specialty wines; flower and herbal wines was something that came up during the discussion. There was a winery around here that used to do fairly well in that market, but the owner became ill and was forced to retire. His family tried to go a more traditional route, only for it to fail.”

    “One of my grandmothers did things like that. She was the one I mentioned that had the catering business. I can pull her recipes for you if you want to see them.”

    “If you wouldn’t …” The side door rang interrupting him. He said, “I’ll get it. Probably the night reports.”

    That left me free to finish the cleaning. First the drawing room. Then some more dishes. Prepared tuna fish for lunch and put it in the cooler. Then upstairs to take the sheets off of the bed in the blue bedroom and to clean the hallway bathroom. Back downstairs to throw the bedding in the washer. Some more dishes and take the clean ones and put them in neat rows in the butler’s pantry until I could inventory them … which wouldn’t be until I could make sure that I found all of their mates that were spread in various rooms in the house.

    I came back into the kitchen to find Mr. Haines getting into the tuna fish and I apologized profusely for not realizing what time it was.

    “Relax. It’s just a relief not to have to do all of this myself after the family has descended on me and try to keep up with my other work too. Er … this is supposed to be your half day … Tuesdays and Thursdays.”

    I had forgotten. I had hoped to can some wild greens but instead I said, “I’ll get out of your hair as soon as I clean up the lunch dishes and … do something with the sheets.”

    I walked back to the cooler to get the vegetables that I’d chopped to go with the sandwiches and try and figure out what I was going to do but he followed me. “You’re due two half days and Sunday off. Anything other than that and I’m taking advantage of you.”

    I turned to look and he had a kind of weird blank but hopeful look on his face that I didn’t know what it meant. Then he said, “I’m … I’m sure you have things you’d like to do … maybe some of the young people … er …”

    My mouth fell open. “They can keep their ‘er’ to themselves. I’d rather sit and fall into a coma than ‘er’.” Getting a look at his face I started to apologize.

    Instead he smiled. “Don’t apologize. Not if that’s how you really feel. Actually … actually I was wondering if you’d be interested in some foraging.”

    I admitted, “Until you reminded me I had to take a half day that’s what I had planned.”

    “Really?” he asked in surprise, taking the vegetables from me, giving me a free hand to grab the mint tea that I’d made earlier.

    “There’s a fine crop of fiddleheads along the drive … I was going to pan fry some for you for dinner and then can as many others as I can harvest without over thinning your ferns. There’s a patch of nettles coming up in what I think is supposed to be the rose garden. There’s more ramps than I’ve seen in one place since I was a little girl. There’s wild asparagus that will turn leggy by the end of the month. I’ve got bamboo shoots growing up near the Cottage. The chickweed of course.”

    He said, “Of course.” But when I looked at him he wasn’t making fun of me and in fact looked like he wanted me to keep talking.

    “There are a couple of different mushrooms ..”

    “Do you … uh … don’t take this the wrong way but …”

    “I don’t know everything there is to know but my brother taught me a lot. His primary job was as a mechanic, but he grew up wanting to be a mycologist … someone that studies fungus,” I explained when it was obvious he was trying to figure it out. “Just he had some academic challenges. He was a micro preemie when he was born. But while he wasn’t able to turn it into a career he did it as a hobby. He also grew mushrooms on the side to make money and sold them on the weekends at local garden markets.”

    “He was older than you I take it.”

    “Yeah. Almost nine years. My mother used to babysit him … and when his mother abandoned him she convinced my grandparents to let her keep him. His bio-mom was a cousin. Anyway, just family history. Then Dad saw mom when they were both kids and that’s all she wrote. It was just always accepted that Mom and Dad would be my brother’s mom and dad. I came along two years after they were married and Mom couldn’t have anymore after me so … anyway, like I said, just family.”

    “You’ve heard mine so don’t expect me to be judgmental. Your brother and I are the lucky ones. Plenty of kids out there that haven’t been so lucky.”

    I gave him a grateful smile. “So. That’s how I know mushrooms. The ones I don’t know I stay away from. But you’ve got yellow morels, dryad’s saddle, reishi mushrooms, chicken of the woods, and stonecrop. I’d like to collect what I can for drying and canning. I mean if you don’t mind.”

    “So long as we go in shares.”

    “You … you really want to?”

    “I do. Let’s eat, hang the sheets, and then hit the grounds.”
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  31. #111
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Florida
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    Chapter 16

    Oh what the heck ... here's another two-fer for the moar crowd. LOL.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~`

    Chapter 16

    How can a job be so much fun? Not everything goes right all the time but it does most of the time. Oh, there’s work for sure. I can’t just play around every day. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons however I spend hunting and gathering and I can things almost every day. Not only with Mr. Haines’ consent, but sometimes with his help. He is fascinated by the whole process. At least he is when he can get away from his other work which is really starting to heat up because of the summer tourist season and because of the economic and environmental realities the Estate is facing. Right after Memorial Day weekend is when it really starts going crazy from a tourism perspective.

    On my first Sunday Mr. Haines told me I had the run of the house and kitchen if I so desired, but he had familial obligations on the other side of the estate. He wasn’t thrilled about going but he intended on picking the brain of his oldest aunt to see if she could remember for him how things were done at the Big House in the old days. For my part I spent the morning hiking … and honestly just avoiding “The Jerks” and their entourage of sycophants. There had been no more breaking and entering but I believe that is due mostly to the belief that Mr. Haines did have some type of camera system set up in various locations. Still I’d been caught a few times. To say I wasn’t amused is an understatement. My mouth is hard enough to control, having people intentionally trying to push my buttons only makes the job harder.

    I could have done a lot of things on Sunday but I narrowed my focus first to gathering all of the rose petals I could without wrecking the beauty of the bushes. The rose hedges were crazy with blooms and buds. I left the small buds but took two whole bags of rose petals from the other blooms. Since I was so close to the Big House I took advantage of Mr. Haines permission and put the petals in the walk in cooler to be dealt with the next day. The other thing I did was my own laundry. There wasn’t a lot because I was keeping up with my delicates by washing them by hand at the cottage and then using a drying rack I placed in the bathtub. My outer wear however needed more than a lint brush and spot wash, especially the aprons.

    After the rose petals I trimmed some onion grass for drying, green briar tips for making jelly and sauce with and to can a small batch as greens, and I was about to collect some more mushrooms when I found the motherload. Wild strawberries. There was a patch, then another patch, then another. I kept following them until I was much further into the woods than I’d ever gone. I refused to panic, my sense of direction has always been good, but I wasn’t exactly happy that I’d done something so unthinking either. And then I heard something I was hoping wasn’t what I thought it was.

    Aloud I said, “If this is a prank, it isn’t a particularly funny one.”

    Of course that only encouraged it to exercise its curiosity. I don’t think I have ever climbed a tree that fast. The bear waddled over to the tree, stood up on its hind legs and sniffed, tried to rock the tree, then decided to sit down and use the tree as a butt scratcher. After that it decided to eat the strawberries that I’d been hoping to gather. I still had my other strawberries and no bear was going to get them. But after an hour of being stuck in the tree I was almost ready to use them as a bribe. Then the blasted thing sat down like it was considering a nap.

    “No! You cannot just get your belly full then go to sleep. Go. Go on. Go find someplace else to take a snooze. Go find a bear friend to go fishing with or something. I don’t care what you do … just go.”

    The bear turned to look at me and got a really stupid look on its face … like maybe it was drunk or something … right before making a pile of scat.

    “Argh! Find some manners already you … you … oh just go away already!”

    All it did was keep looking at me and scratched its belly.

    “You are NOT funny. Go … a … way! Now!”

    It wasn’t me that put the bear on the run, it was the sound of a shotgun going off. The sound was so unexpected I nearly fell off my perch.

    “Ms. Field?! Are you alright?!”

    “Reggie?”

    “Yes ‘m. Need some help getting’ down?”

    “No thank you. I got up here and … oomph … I’ll … dat blast it … get myself down.” Feet firmly on the ground I told him, “Thank you for the rescue, that blasted oversized fuzzball acted like it was going to go back into hibernation right under the tree. Nothing I said was convincing it to leave.”

    He snickered and said, “Bear was braver than most men I reckon. We better get back to the Big House. Mr. Haines will have heard the shotgun and will be worried.”

    “Oh brother. I’m going to have a hard time explaining this one. Bear 1, Housekeeper 0.” I blew a curl away from my eyes, grabbed my basket of strawberries and nodded at Reggie that I’d follow him. We had just stepped onto a trail that I recognized when I spotted Mr. Haines and another young man coming towards me quickly.

    I held up a hand and said, “I know. Dumb move but I wanted these strawberries. It is not my fault that Rip van Bear decided to eat his lunch in the same meadow I was vacating and after making sure that it couldn’t tip me out of the tree I climbed, or convince me to come down and share my bounty, the dat blasted thing decided to poop and then sit down and refuse to leave no matter what I told it about bad manners.”

    I was huffing and puffing, trying to go up the trail and get away from them just staring at me while simultaneously trying not to hear the additional details being given by Reggie including the inglorious statement, “That musta been some bear Mr. Haines. If the Housekeeper had been yacking at me the way she was yacking at that bear you know I woulda lit out of there a long time sooner.”

    All three men were snickering at the “city girl” I suppose but I was more than embarrassed. I fast walked to the kitchen door entrance, let myself in, and hurriedly took the strawberries to the walk in cooler and sat them with the other things I’d foraged. I wanted to hide there but there was rain in the forecast and I needed to get my clothes off the line. I was deciding which direction would be the fastest to avoid being seen when Mr. Haines caught me sneaking around the other side of the drive.

    “Ha! Caught you,” he said with a grin.

    I turned away so he couldn’t see the tears that wanted to fall out of my eyes. “I’m sorry. I can’t believe what a total idiot I must look like. I won’t wander so far off the path again.”

    Noticing my distress his smile faltered. “Actually, had you kept going you would have run into the riverside trail and you could have followed it back to the dock. Uh … Ms. Field … Shanna …”

    I sighed. “I hate looking stupid. You probably think …”

    “I think, all things considered that you did the right thing by staying in the tree and acting unafraid.”

    “Well I wasn’t afraid of the bear. Not really. I was mostly irritated at being interrupted.”

    “And by the fact the bear refused to move on?”

    I was finally able to give a small smile. “Reggie undoubtedly thinks I’ve lost my mind.”

    Mr. Haines chuckled. “A little, but not necessarily in a bad way.”

    “Is that even possible?” I asked turning around.

    “In Reggie’s eyes it is … and in mine as well. At least you don’t panic in a stressful situation.”

    “No. My mouth goes into overdrive. I should apologize.”

    “To Reggie … or the bear.”

    “Likely both. I hope I didn’t waste your time.”

    “No,” he said, surprising me by taking my arm and walking us around to the back of the house. “Have you eaten dinner yet?”

    “No. If you will give me a minute I’ll start you some dinner and …”

    “Actually I brought home leftovers from the cook out. Rod always cooks too much and Julie tries to farm it out to whomever will take it.”

    He walked us into the kitchen and when I saw the amount of food on the counter top all I could do is say, “Good gracious.”

    “Aunt Daffy is Julie’s mom and she said you can can the leftovers … if you were so inclined.”

    “Pressure can … you pressure can low acid items like meat and most vegetables,” I told him absentmindedly while I tried to make heads or tails out of the pile.

    “Can you do that?”

    “What? Pressure can? Yes.” I stopped and then turned to look at him and asked, “Didn’t we cover this during the interview process?”

    “Just making sure,” he said giving me a hopeful look.

    I shook my head and said, “Keep out what you want to eat and I’ll pressure can the rest of this tomorrow.”

    “You don’t mind? Technically this isn’t part of your normal duties.”

    “Neither is being rescued from a bear, but I’ll be flexible if you will.”

    “Deal,” he said with a grin.

    Dinner was a picnic of leftover BBQ, beans, and cornbread. I left quickly after that to get back to the Cottage before the rain and just made it. That Monday I arrived to find Mr. Haines already up and sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee.

    “There’s water for your tea,” he said pointing next to the coffee maker.

    “Why do I have a feeling I’m going to need it?”

    He looked at me and the mullygrumps slowly left his face. “This is your first season here on the Estate. Things start getting painfully busy right around now. My time is going to be short and I just want to make sure everything is in stock that is needed. Yesterday my aunts were complaining about the costs of things skyrocketing and if we have another slow season like last year we’re going to have to do some economizing that some in the family aren’t going to like. One of the reasons that Reaves was out here was to discuss the new accounting and budget procedure that I want to put in place.”

    “Uh …”

    “And before you start saying that is none of your business I am going to say it is for two reasons. First is that I can’t institute something for the others if I’m not willing to do it myself. That means we need to have a more regimented food budget around here and you are the House Manager … and for the record that is now your official title so Crocker will have an addendum to your contract to sign in the next day or two … so you need to know not just the ins and outs of the food budget but all of the other and how it is estimated.”

    He was expecting a response but all I could come up with was, “Yes Sir.”

    “Are we okay with that?”

    “Er … I have no problem with it. I assumed there was a budget to begin with.”

    He nodded, obviously relieved. “I figured with your background that you’d understand but I prefer to have things out in the open. But with that said, since I anticipate some complaints with the new budgetary strictures you may get some blowback. Any trouble with anyone since the … er … squirrel incident?”

    “Not beyond what you witnessed. But I haven’t been making myself available for any mischief either. Unless you count bears,” I said, determined to face my embarrassment head on.

    He gave an understanding grin before continuing, “Speaking of bears, there were a couple of other reports of bears yesterday along the river. The trout are running strong this year so that may be the reason, just keep an eye out. It’s been years since one has come up to the house but we haven’t had a garden in a while either; however, I’m thinking of putting a late one in this year. And no, I won’t expect you to keep up with that and the house management. Bernie has a niece that needs a job and she’s … well she’s like Reggie and Bernie but is supposed to have a lot of experience in the area of gardening. The way Sylvia Crocker tells it … I’ll leave all of that to you to get with her and she can explain it,” he said after looking at his watch. “I have a meeting I need to leave for in about an hour and it will be a brunch or something like that according to the Aunts so I don’t need breakfast. What I want to cover before then is some ordering. Aunt Florence reminded me there should be a lot of jars around here somewhere because the housekeeper before my mother had a seasonal staff that would help with food preservation. I found them last night in the basement.”

    Completely thrown off the surprise of my changing title I asked, “There’s a basement to this house?” I said looking at the floor and wondering where the entrance was since I’d yet to notice one.

    “Basement, sub-basement, attic, and three floors between, all filled with an ungodly amount of junk of every shape and description and age … and all needing to be inventoried, organized, or gotten rid of. I know it is a lot to ask but do you think you can work on the inventory and work on food preservation at the same time and still keep up with the house?”

    Nodding I said, “It will just be a matter of organization. I’ve already started inventorying here in the kitchen by putting like with like. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many cast iron pieces in one kitchen, not even my grandmother’s collection beats yours. I’m trying to move it all into the same cabinets with the primary pieces being hung on the hooks over the center island. There’s a lot of copperware as well. That I’m hanging on the hooks that run around the walls of the kitchen after it gets cleaned. Once the kitchen is organized and the inventory completed, which I can do as I watch the timers, I’ll move into the butler’s pantry. I’ve already started reorganizing in there, trying to match up patterns for dishes and crystal and then hopefully there will be enough cabinet space for the collectibles like the Fenton stuff and the carnival glass that seems to sit on almost every surface. If you don’t mind I’ll tape index cards on the glass doors – I’ll use painter’s tape – to keep things from getting mixed up. There’s an ungodly amount of silver serving pieces as well as utensils that need to be matched up too. And … well … on next month’s budget I’ll need to figure in specialty items because getting all of this stuff cleaned and polished before I take pictures of it is going to take time.”

    “This is turning out to be more expensive in supplies and man hours than I considered.”

    “I’m not going to tack on any overtime,” I said almost insulted. “You’re allowing me to cook and do laundry here.”

    Startled he said, “I thank you for that, but I was referring to office supplies and cleaning compounds and simply the reality of only being able to be one place and do one thing at a time.”

    Slightly more relaxed in his company than I probably should be I snorted in my own way and said, “Oh. Well it needs doing so it will get done, it just may take longer. As for the other, Grandy always said most of the name brand cleaners were a waste of time and money and preferred making her own to clean her catering dishes and serving pieces. I have her list of homemade cleaners and all of the ingredients are really basic … salt, lemon juice, ammonia, alcohol, peroxide as a bleaching ancient, baking soda, fels naptha or zote, detergent flakes, borax, vinegar, yada yada … and even better, relatively cheap.” I stopped and laughed. “I hadn’t ever bought detergent or softener or anything like that at the store until afer I got married.” Then the light sort of went out of the morning.

    I stood to go do what I don’t know when Mr. Haines said, “Still hurts?”

    I nodded, not quite understanding why I was being so honest with him on the subject. “I don’t know why exactly. Kirk made it plain there was something about me he couldn’t live with any longer. I did what I could to fix things but it was too late. And here I am, starting over and … and things keep tripping me up. And oh my God, I can’t believe I’m telling you this. You hired me to be practical and …”

    “I hired you because of your unique set of skills. I appreciate them … and your willingness to be flexible and practical. As for the rest of it … I appreciate that too. I may not have been married to Mary Lee but we were together long enough that what she did … it set me on a different path from where I had ever thought to go. Somewhat similar to what you have experienced. It makes me … let’s just call it sympathetic and leave it at that. Grieve what you need to. But here’s some advice … eventually you need to find some way to …”

    “Get over it?”

    Showing some insight that I’ve tried to give some thought to he said, “No. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you made and find some way to forgive the other person too for not realizing how badly they hurt you. Then you need to move on. For your own mental health. Grieving yourself to death isn’t going to help anything.”

    I stiffened my spine and slowly sat back down. “You’re right. So … where were we? Cleaning supplies?”

    He gave me a smile of approval and said, “What I’d like is for you to try and estimate the supplies that will be needed to work on the various projects we currently have going … the inventory, food preservation, and any additional cleaning supplies. And … here’s something I want to do concurrently. I want to continue ordering food and supplies as normal through the Estate but depending on what some things are, I will order them personally.”

    He explained his reasons and then the conversation continued in that vein until he had to leave for his meeting. I immediately got to work preserving what I’d stuck in the cooler the day before. I was a little flummoxed when I discovered there was no extra BBQ sauce to can some of the meat with but I fixed that by making homemade with some cheap, store-bought grape jelly and bottled chili sauce I found in the condiments when I arrived. I also used a commercial marinara sauce to can some of the appetizer meatballs. It means reworking one of the pasta dishes I was going to make but I had to prioritize what I had to work with. Lunchtime came and went and I finished off the little bit of potato salad that was left with a sliced tomato that needed to be used. I was about to decide what to fix for Mr. Haines’ dinner when there was a knock on the kitchen door.

    “Ms. Field?”

    It was Reggie and Bernie … smelling a little fishy. Literally. I realized why when they held up a string of cleaned trout in my face. “Mr. Haines asked us to bring these to you. And …” Their noses twitched. “That there smells like ramps.”

    “That’s because they are ramps.”

    “You know about ramps?!”

    “Know about them. Eat them when I’m lucky to find them. My brother had a buddy he used to go fishing with in Asheville and he’d bring some back home for my mother and I when he could get them.” I tried not to be sad and ruin the good memory, but they must have sensed it.

    “Take it he ain’t with you anymore.”

    “No. No, he … died. Not too long after my parents.”

    “That’s sad right there. Not everyone has good family but when you do, you just hate when they ain’t with you no more,” Bernie said like he knew what he was talking about.

    “You said a mouth full.” I cleared my throat and said, “Well what Mr. Haines wants Mr. Haines gets and he looks like he gets trout for dinner and ramp pasta to go with it.”

    “Ramp pasta? You don’t say.”

    “Hang on. I just finished a test batch and you can let me know what you think. I might need to cut the flavor a bit with a white sauce instead of the olive oil I was going to use.”

    They were all over that and in no time I was declared fit to cook for real men. They agreed the ramps were a bit strong so that a sauce on them would do well. Then I filled their thermos and they were off. I was smiling and shaking my head as I set one trout in a broiling pan and took the others to the freezer. I came back just in time to catch Mr. Haines snitching a pasta noodle.

    “You’re going to spoil your dinner,” I told him. The noodle was half way in his mouth and he looked at me and sucked in the last of it quickly before saying, “No I won’t. But I do want you to show me how you made pasta out of the ramps.”

    I laughed. “Were you avoiding Reggie and Bernie and eavesdropping?”

    “Guilty as charged. They’re both good men and have been on the estate since they were little more than boys, but about half the time they treat me like I’m still a kid and the other half like I’m my grandfather. I can only take so much of either one.” Pointing to the broiling pan he asked, “You don’t mind?”

    “Of course not.”

    “Spent part of the day being put on display with some out of town investors one of my aunts is trying to create a relationship with. They bought a mountain retreat that used to be popular before bad management ran it into the ground. Aunt Lori wants to see about creating a working relationship where the Estate wines get heavily promoted in exchange for guests getting discounts on some of the estate businesses … rafting, horseback riding, so on and so forth.”

    “Does the Estate do that a lot?”

    “It is getting to where we have to. It is a matter of competition. We aren’t the only game in town anymore and too many vacationers are only looking for the cheapest ticket rather than quality. We had a lot of loyal customers but they are aging out of some of our activities or are being restricted by the economy’s prolonged slump. My grandfather was a little slow about adjusting to the new realities in the market. His sister and then his nieces oversaw much of that end of it.”

    “I gather you were groomed for the position.”

    “Yes, but it took me a while to be agreeable to it. And I didn’t actually get to do much until my grandfather passed and then had to fight tooth and nail to prove myself. Too many thought I only held my position because I was the last male heir to carry the name Haines … and some didn’t appreciate my illegitimacy. It isn’t as bad as it was but there are a couple in the family that seem to do everything they can get away with just to give me a hard time. It didn’t help that I made a fool of myself right after Grandfather and my mom passed, but in hindsight I might could have fixed things with Mary Lee except by then I didn’t want to.” Momentarily I wondered if that was how Kirk had felt but I quickly told myself it wouldn’t change things to know it this late in the game.

    “I take it Tweedle Dee and Dum are part of that group?”

    “Yeah though they are the only ones that take it to the extreme they do.”

    “They want to usurp your birthright? If so, it certainly isn’t the first time that has happened in your family. The original colonial Haines split from his family in England when his twin cut him out of the family fortune. Then there was another kurfluffle in the mid-1800s between Clemson and Darnell Haines and that’s when my family broke off from the area to keep from having to take sides.”

    Mr. Haines barked a laugh. “You do know the family history don’t you. And yes, as archaic as it sounds, that is exactly the beef Gary and Hirsh have with me. Their father was a jackass and a drunk before dying in a hunting accident up in Alaska. Their mother has spoiled them to the point they are near useless except as pretty ornaments. Their step father has no kids of his own and I guess has expectations of having someone to leave his business interests to. Their grandparents, Aunt Lindy and Uncle Darin, made a habit of covering for them because they are their only two grandkids but this last stunt … getting caught proof positive … is causing a change in tactics. They lost their salaried position and now only get paid for the hours they are actually on-site and working. We’ll see how long that lasts, I know for a fact they aren’t really taking it seriously.” Then he caught me off guard by asking, “Would you like to see the basement?”

    I set the trout in the refrigerator until it was time to broil it and accepted with extreme curiosity and a little trepidation.
    Find my free fiction stories here.

    "Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?” - Kelvin R. Throop III

  32. #112
    Join Date
    Oct 2001
    Location
    the boonies of Alaska
    Posts
    1,634
    Thanks! I've been checking in through the day to see if you updated, meanwhile transplanting parsnips and rutabagas, whopping down a bunch of the honeysuckle, and carting compost over to transplant the second set of onions. Was that a black bear in the story? We don't have them here, just the big Kodiaks. Black bears seem to be more agressive, at least in Alaska.
    It's later than you think!
    (Fr. Seraphim Rose)

  33. #113
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
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    Central Mississippi
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    I am really liking this story! I can't wait to check it every day. Please keep up the great work.

  34. #114
    Join Date
    Nov 2014
    Location
    British Columbia, Canada
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    Thank you so much for the 2-fer. I am totally addicted to this story.
    Now I have to wait for tomorrow -- waaah!

  35. #115
    Thank you for the two fer!! I am really liking the story.

  36. #116
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
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    State WA
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    E gads girl with the rug deodorizer powder, now that you really didn't need. Thank you for the 2 chapters .

  37. #117
    Join Date
    Oct 2002
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    Virginia
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    4,166
    Thank you for another two-fer! But you know I’m gonna holler for moar anyways. Lol
    Visit me on Etsy: ModernMaille

  38. #118
    Join Date
    Jan 2012
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    N. Central Texas
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    2,042
    This is an excellent story, as good as the many before it. Glad to see you back!

    Jeff B.
    "The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits"
    Plutarch (Roman Philosopher and Statesman)

  39. #119
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    Sep 2006
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    Where fog and sun meet.
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    Me too!

  40. #120
    So glad to see you back on the forum, Kathy - and selfishly glad to see you back to posting your stories! Thanks so much for sharing them with us!

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