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Story Starting Over ... and Over and Over
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  1. #121
    Another amazng tale! Thank you.

  2. #122
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
    Location
    Midwest
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    3,351
    Thanks for the two-fer! Busy day yesterday so I am catching up today.

    And hoping and praying for another two-fer....

    I like this gal Shanna!
    "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. #123
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    Chapter 17

    I may get another chapter posted today ... or not. Grandkid #2 was born yesterday afternoon and we're going to the hospital later today to meet the little boy. I'll admit that my oldest and her husband can be a bit odd about some things and contact with anyone, including family, the first couple of weeks is one of them. But hey, they're grown ups now and it is their child. Their daughter (2 years next month) is a ginger like her father but this one, from the pics that I've seen, looks like he got his coloring from our side of the family ... dark haired and olive skin.

    Anywho, here you go ...

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

    Chapter 17

    By the time we came up, each of us carrying a box of mason jars, we were both filthy. “Well that’s going to be an adventure to clean up,” I said with a chuckle, having fun despite the mess and the work that looked to be before me.

    “Glad you can laugh,” Mr. Haines said mildly disgusted. “I’d forgotten what a blasted warren that was down there. My mother kept everything beyond that first room of storage shelves locked, afraid I would get into something I wasn’t supposed to or pull a shelf over on myself … which I nearly did one time trying to climb and reach I can’t remember what. My arm was in a cast nearly the entire summer and I swear if she didn’t keep reminding me of my misadventure for the rest of her life. I suppose she worried I might go the way my father did … an excess of adventure.” Shaking some dust out of his hair he grumbled, “I don’t even know what to do with most of what’s down there.”

    “First comes the dirt and dust so we can see what is actually on the shelves. Next, we’ll divide it into three categories … broken, repairable, to be held onto. The broken is obvious unless it is something you can sell for parts on eBay. Same for repairable … not worth repairing just chuck it or sell for parts on eBay or repurpose if it is repairable and worth the effort or expense. Then there is the stuff that you’ll want to hold onto … some of which you may eventually want to gift to someone else, sell, or … does the estate have an exhibition hall or anything like that?”

    “Actually there is one … of a sort. It is badly out of date and we closed it two summers ago. Why?”

    “Might be something to have Carra work on. It would give her a chance to study history, take a closer look at her own family history, and create her own legacy here on the Estate. Would look great on college applications too which is something she should be thinking about at her age.”

    I could tell I’d given him something to think about then thinking of more immediate issues like breakables in disintegrating boxes I asked, “What about those old crates with the liquor bottles in them?”

    Brightening a bit he said, “Oh that’s one thing I do know what to do with. That’s scotch, brandy, rum, and vodka. I’ll get Uncle Vern over here and he can tell me how likely they are to still be good. They must have been down there since Prohibition … or maybe were wedding or holiday gifts. Supposedly my great grandfather was a teetotaler but given the fact he was also a pack rat, he never threw anything away even if he didn’t use it. My grandfather only drank Estate wine. Could have been put down there by my father or his wife I suppose, though the dates don’t line up for that. Doesn’t really matter, it’s my mess to deal with now. Er … would you care to stay for dinner? I ... well never mind … I’m sure you want some privacy after working all day and …”

    “Privacy for what? Trying to figure out how to not turn into a vegetable until I can get back here tomorrow? I sleep at the Cottage. I live here at the Big …” I’d shocked myself by letting that particular thought slip out. “Oh, that didn’t come out right. I’m …”

    After stuttering to an embarrassed stop and expecting I don’t know what Mr. Haines smiled and said, “Thank you for accepting my invitation. I’m not that fond of vegetating either and I need a break from my own company.”

    Thinking he was just being kind I reminded him, “You’ve been with people all day.”

    “That’s part of the problem. I’ve been with people but, as a display piece rather than a participant. That alone-in-a-crowded-room feeling. My grandfather was better at this part than I am though I’ve been forced to learn for the sake of the family. Even in this day and age some people just want to see the ‘lord of the manor.’ A couple of my aunts even want me to open the Big House up to public tours and dress in period costume. Luckily Reaves has been able to head them off with the fact that it might take away from the other business ventures … at least for the time being.”

    “Would you do that? Like some of the other southern plantation homes have been forced to do?”

    “I’m not saying I wouldn’t if it was necessary, but I won’t unless finances dictate. I really don’t want the public on this part of the Estate. I suffer it at the other end where the public venues are but having them running all over the Estate would be a liability insurance nightmare if nothing else. Wear and tear on our private roads would be another thing. It is a huge expense already even though I’ve finally gotten a cheaper alternative to repaving by contracting with a local guy that recycles concrete. He’s going to take out the roads that are more pothole that pavement, crush them and mix them with junk gravel from a local quarry that the local EPA oligarch is demanding get cleaned up. Then there is the trash aspect; more trash to deal with I don’t need. We are scanning most of the old records and then shredding the ones that aren’t worth archiving. The shreds go into the composting system we’ve set up. We’re also moving to waterless, composting toilets in the cabins and work buildings. I wanted to install them in the dormitories but there were too many complaints, but that move is coming this fall whether some of the kids want it or not. Since I can’t seem to convince everyone to conserve water with any consistency we’re going to as much of a waterless system as I can afford. We’ll then recycle the waste in a humanure system … and sorry, not what you would call a proper before-dinner topic of conversation.”

    “It doesn’t bother me.” I laughed remembering. “Grandy in particular may have looked like a Southern Belle with her corset too tight type, but underneath the looks she couldn’t help since she was born with them, she was a sturdy farmer’s wife and helpmeet who had her hand in everything that went on on the farm. If my grandfather’s eyesight hadn’t started to fail they would have stayed on the farm to their dying day. My mom was pretty similar to her in that type of mindset. My other grandmother was made of strong stuff as well. All three of them were ladies, make no mistake and certainly expected me to follow in their footsteps, but they didn’t approve of females having the vapors or what they called an excess of sensibility. Er … sorry for blathering.”

    “No apologies necessary. My mother … well, she was … she’d been raised hard. In her words she didn’t survive her childhood so much as escaped it. Sylvia too for that matter. Different times back then. Mom escaped first and worked her way up to the housekeeping position here at the Big House. She helped Sylvia get away who then met Crocker when they were little more than kids. Mom and Sylvia both wanted better than what they’d had at home. Mom said she may not have gotten what she went looking for but she got what she needed.” He shrugged. “It took me a while – and her death – to understand how she looked at how her life had turned out. She was every inch a lady … but my god the woman had a core of steel and stubbornness that even my grandfather respected. He once told me that Mom would have been the making of my father.” Then he shook himself. “Sorry to get off topic. It’s been awhile since … well …”

    I gathered he meant that it had been a while since he’d had the opportunity to talk about his mom, so I just nodded. He’d cut me some slack in that respect, I could certainly give him the same.

    He then got back to what he’d been discussing by saying, “The alternative energy systems need to be expanded and that isn’t cheap either … this summer we are going to tie in the energy storage to some underwater turbines to see what kind of pay off we get from that. One of my cousins is a grad student at the university and hooked us up with a grant. The equipment was partially subsidized, and in exchange we’re giving access to the university and several federal programs to determine the effect on the river and local wildlife.” He stopped and shook his head. “Money wants to go out faster than it comes in, so everything has to be done in stages. Ugh. I’ll open the House to the Looky Lou’s, but only as a last resort and if I’m sure the financial payoff is there.”

    Thinking about what he’d said, and what he hadn’t, I said, “That’s a lot of moving parts to keep organized. There’s more to running the Estate than most people understand isn’t there.”

    “Yes. Not even all of the aunts have a good idea how complicated it can get. They only see the Estate in relation to their sector and seem to be blind to the rest of it. What’s good for them may not be good for the Estate as a whole. And even good ideas have unintended consequences, some of them pretty severe. A couple of the cousins are more aware … and their responsibilities reflect that. Thank god because there is no way for one person to do all of this on their own. But if you don’t mind I need to put it aside for now. I could talk about it all day but I’ve learned I need to turn off when I can. Instead I’d like to see what you accomplished today.”

    “Of course. I’m sorry. Just tell me to shut up next time. I was rather overstepping …”

    “No. You weren’t. Overstepping I mean. I appreciate your interest. And understanding. But now it is my turn to ask what you’ve been up to.”

    I found his explanations on management better than a college course and was as vulgarly curious as a cat about it all. But, I could tell he needed to change the subject so tried to respond gracefully. I’m embarrassed to admit that the attention he was showing my activities was flattering. He was fascinated with everything that had been canned just in the few short days that I’d been doing it. Surprisingly, he grasped right away that it could be a space problem and he started talking about using the basement for it the way it had been done in the past. Things would stay upstairs in the pantry spaces until some of the rows of shelving could be cleaned off. It adds to my workload, but such is life. The ultimate goal will be worth the initial sacrifices.

    Dinner was a success, and it was fun to watch him eat in appreciation. I apologized for not including a salad or dessert and he said not to worry about it. He’d eaten so much in the last few days between the BBQ and then the business meeting brunch that he was happy not to go to bed stuffed to the gills. I laughed a little as he pointed out the fish head. It was a bad joke but it was still funny at the time.

    I got up when he admitted, “I wouldn’t say no to one of them cups of chamomile tea like you fixed the other night.”

    “Another headache?” I asked in concern.

    “Was working on one earlier but not so much now. You have a moment to look in the attic before you have to leave?”

    I looked outside and saw that it would still be a couple of hours before dark started to fall so I nodded and after we loaded the dishes into the dishwasher … and that was definitely a ‘we’ and not just a me … I followed him up to the attic, a place I’d only gotten a short glimpse of the day he’d shown me around the first time.

    The attic is even worse than the basement. The basement serves a more practical purpose and had been in regular use when he’d been a boy. The attic on the other hand looks like a repository for every generation since the house has been built. I opened a drawer of a dresser that leaned drunkenly against a couple of wooden crates and sneezed as I got a face full of moth balls smell. I scooped up the lacey doilies in the drawer and took them downstairs to see what kind of shape they are in.

    The smell wafted with me all the way back to the kitchen. “Good heavens, someone loved them some mothballs.”

    Throwing open a door so I could walk the smell outside he said, “That would have been my grandmother. Grandfather couldn’t stand the smell because it reminded him of her. You can guess that is why the attic wasn’t tackled during the remodel that took place about ten years ago. Some of the rooms used to smell so strongly of camphor you can still smell it despite all of the cleaning that was done.”

    Examining the lace I realized they weren’t doilies but rather lace collars, cuffs, and insets that had been taken off of vintage clothes; some were even comprised of pearl beading. I told Mr. Haines, “I’ll see if I can clean these and put them in the … I’m not sure what that room used to be called but it is the room where all the table linens are next to the butler’s pantry. I think it is the old laundry.”

    “That’s what my mother called it.”

    “Okay, I wasn’t sure what all of those long narrow drawers were for but the ones that I’ve opened have table linens in them. Under the paint I think all of those wooden cabinets are made of cedar … the insides are lined with cedar anyway.”

    After a few more minutes I reluctantly left and walked back to the Cottage. Mr. Haines offered to drive me but I didn’t see it as appropriate, not to mention I needed to walk. While I walked and after I got back to the Cottage I gave some thought to what Mr. Haines wanted. For homemade cleaning supplies: white vinegar, baking soda, castile soap, borax, salt, rubbing alcohol, cornstarch, washing soda, dawn dishwashing soap, ammonia, and a few bottles of different essential oils like tea tree oil and lemon and lavender. I had a lot to think about and plan.

    Tuesday, a cold, heavy downpour started before I could even leave the Cottage. I considered just roughing it by walking in the rain but the lightning that would occasionally boom a loud clap of thunder had me changing my mind. I still got a little wet getting the car out of the garage (and shutting the garage again when I pulled out) and then got a lot wet running from the small parking area to the covered door.

    “Here.”

    I jumped and turned to find Mr. Haines standing there with a towel. “Oh. I … I didn’t mean to disturb …”

    “You didn’t. I was wondering whether you’d have the sense to drive rather than walk through this mess. You have a tendency to choose martyrdom over common … uh … ”

    I gritted my teeth and then found the humor when I said, “Did the coffee pot not start automatically this morning?”

    He got a surprised look on his face like it had taken him a moment to figure out what I was talking about, then an even funnier one when he rethought what he’d just said.

    “Touche’ Ms. Field.” But he said it with a grin so we both left to return to our respective corners and start the day.

    I discovered he was already preparing to leave to deal with some drainage problems on the other side of the estate. “I doubt I’ll make it back for lunch, in fact I don’t plan on being back for the remainder of the day so if you want the day off …”

    “If you don’t mind I’d rather stay here and get some work done.”

    “Of course I don’t mind. Look, here’s the thing, we’re due some high winds and I wouldn’t be surprised if we lost power. Keep a flashlight with you, especially when you are on the stairs, and if the trees start whipping too much do me a favor and head to the basement. We may not have hurricanes here but we do get gale force winds during these types of storms. I’ve already closed the shutters on the veranda and patio doors.”

    I nodded and then hurried to put something together for him … to go. A couple of breakfast burritos, a thermos of coffee, and some snacks to hold him over in case he didn’t get lunch at lunch time and then he was off. I had a lot on my mind and wasn’t particularly hungry so I ate some fruit and then got busy.

    Due to weather constraints I knew foraging would be out. And if the power was going to go up and down I decided any canning should be put off as well. So, after breakfast, I quickly did the small amount of clean up and bed-making that needed doing and then organized my office which helped relocate some of the other items that I’d been running across in various drawers. I took one look in the filing cabinets and decided that was something I wasn’t able to attack until I knew what was to be kept and what needed to be shredded.

    The next thing I did was start on the basement. I knew I was in trouble when the first thing I uncovered was more of the plates and crystal. The plate pattern I had identified as Lenox Westchester. It was a pattern that came out first in the 1910’s but was still in production; it had originally been intended for weddings and banquets. And while wasn’t the most expensive pattern on the market, it wasn’t the cheapest either, especially not in the quantity I was finding it, and the vintage pieces included in the quantity. I carried it all upstairs … at least twenty more place settings than I had already found … and then did the same to the crystal. I had finally found the pattern name after finding the manufacturer’s sticker on one of the glasses; the pattern is called Longchamp. Then I found crates of other Lenox dinnerware in several patterns I knew were no longer manufactured and, based on the back stamps, had to be from the 1890’s or early 1900’s. My gosh.

    I remember my grandmother having nice dishes, crystal, and silverware for her parties but nothing like I was finding in the Big House. And certainly they were treated better than being put into boxes and piled in the basement. Her dishes were all mismatched and it made her parties unique and much less regimented. She told me it was also because inevitably dishes and glasses get broken and this way she didn’t lose a “set” of anything and could replace it with whatever she could find that struck her fancy. Remembering what she’d explained, I was very careful as I carried that china up to the butler’s pantry and tried to store it more properly than it had been. Some of the stuff was absolutely caked in dust and filth.

    I cleaned one entire set of shelves like that … dishes, glasses and crystal, vintage aluminum serving pieces, a mish mash of flatware and then the real find after the Lenox; it looked like an entire banquet set of vintage stainless steel Sheffield flatware with bone handles. After I had denuded that shelving unit I headed back upstairs and organized it in the butler’s pantry and wondered if there would be room for it all. I had also found some sturdy folding tables down in the basement and I eventually was able to move two of them into an empty room on the third floor; and wasn’t that interesting making the turns on the narrow staircase that led up to that floor. Then I took two more and put them in another empty third floor room. The third floor used to be for the nursery, servants sleeping quarters, and the school room. The only room that still had anything in it was the nursery and it was a wreck and I wasn’t going in there quite yet. What I did with each table was label it with a color and proceed to put glass by color … blues, reds, greens, browns, white milk glass. In the “classroom,” which was the only room with shelves in it on that floor, I put the various other porcelain objects, trying to group them into sets if possible. The problem was there were a lot of knick knacks, what nots, and brick-a-brack.

    I was beginning to realize what a daunting task I had before me when I heard a door slam downstairs. Alarmed I ran down the stairs only to be confronted by … a muddy pig of all things. Luckily for me I’d arrived in time to confine it to the foyer area and then quickly shut it in a closet where it banged around for a moment before settling down. Unluckily for me the foyer had a marble floor and after shutting the front door I slipped and cracked the back of my head hard enough that it took me a while to stop seeing stars. I wasn’t completely free of the fog when I crawled to the phone in the kitchen and dialed the only person I could think of.

    “Sylvia?”

    “Shanna? Hi! How are you? Off work?”

    “Actually no. Look, I have a favor. I … I need either Reggie or Bernie or someone like that to come to the Big House. There was a pig. I caught it but I fell and there’s a mess … and I’ll clean that up … but I haven’t got the foggiest idea what to do with the pig. A leash maybe to get it to go outside or something?”

    There was a silence on the other end then, “Did you say a pig? Inside the Big House?”

    “Mr. Haines is going to go ballistic. I thought they’d given up their practical jokes when I wouldn’t react to them at the Cottage but this is insane. The amount of damage that could have been done. The expense that could have been …”

    “Shanna, I’m calling George right now. And Clint. Are you all right? You sound … strange?”

    “I slipped and bumped my head. It’s not a big deal. I …”

    “You hit your head?! How hard? How hurt are you?”

    “Not much. There’s only a little blood and that’s just because I cracked the back of my … oh no. I’ve got to get club soda on that chair right now.”

    “No! Shanna, listen to me. Just sit tight. We’ll be there in just a minute.”
    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

  4. #124
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    Location
    State WA
    Posts
    12,919
    Adults that act like kids sheesh, My hubby had some guys that worked for him at the city that were like that. They did things like permanent dye in the shower heads, greased door knobs, and all manner of things like that. I thought he must have hired some 20 yr old's or something. Nope they were men in their 50's.

    Great chapter as ever, thank you and congratulations on the new baby.

  5. #125
    Join Date
    Jan 2002
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    Midwest
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    3,351
    Wow. A pig. I hope they catch h*** for that one!! Especially from the aunts who want to turn the house into public grounds! Let the aunts have a go at those guys!! They'll teach them to never pull stunts like this again!!

    Big congrats on the wee one! We have three grandkids. Probably all we'll ever have from our two kids. But that's better than none. And they are precious to us.
    "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

  6. #126
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
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    nw mountains
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    3,861
    Rough day, hope they can make it a little smoother.

    Thank you.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  7. #127
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Location
    South East South Dakota
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    302
    Maybe it's not a joke. Maybe it's a polite pig and he just shut the door behind him.

    Could happen!

    Oh Kathy, it's so nice to have you back!

    Cat

  8. #128
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Location
    NE Iowa
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    1,864
    Congratulations to you on the new grandbaby. They are just the best gift that we can be given. Enjoy every moment of his little life.

    Thanks for the new chapter. I am enjoying this story greatly!
    Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
    President Theodore Rooseveldt

  9. #129
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    Jul 2011
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    NE Tenn
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    629
    Yes, Congratulations on your newest grandbaby! And, thank you for the new chapter.

  10. #130
    Oh No a cliff. Thank you for the chapter.

  11. #131
    Gratz on the grandbaby Kathy

    Thanks for MOAR, but may I please have some MOAR

    Dosadi
    Dosadi

    III


    My family & clan are my country.

  12. #132
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    Where hiking boots go to die
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    Congratulations on your newest grandchild and thank you for this new story. Your characters are so easy to relate to.
    Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

  13. #133
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    Oct 2002
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    I was just checking to see if George and Clint had arrived yet. There’s gonna be heck to pay for that stunt!
    Visit me on Etsy: ModernMaille

  14. #134
    Quote Originally Posted by juco View Post
    I was just checking to see if George and Clint had arrived yet. There’s gonna be heck to pay for that stunt!
    What he said!!

    F5,F5,F5,F5...........!!!!!!

    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

  15. #135
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    Quote Originally Posted by wab54 View Post
    What he said!!

    F5,F5,F5,F5...........!!!!!!

    WAB
    Ahh come on! Let her have a few days to be Grandma to her brand new grand baby before letting the MOAR beast out. That's some special time.
    Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it. - Mark Twain

  16. #136
    Quote Originally Posted by Old Gray Mare View Post
    Ahh come on! Let her have a few days to be Grandma to her brand new grand baby before letting the MOAR beast out. That's some special time.
    You are right. I didnt think of that. My apologies Kathy. Have fun with the little one.

    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

  17. #137
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    Chapter 18

    Ooops. I'm late and the Moar beasties are starving. LOL.

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

    Chapter 18

    I must have been groggier than I thought because the next thing I can really remember is someone touching my ankle … my bare ankle … and sitting up ready to slap the hand away.

    “Whoa,” someone said grabbing my wrist. “I like my head right where it is thank you.”

    “Mr. … Mr. Haines? Oh Lord … I didn’t claw you did I? Let me up, I can’t even remember hearing …”

    “Woman if you move I’ll sit on you if I have to.”

    “Of course I have to move. We have to get a pig out of the under-stair storage closet.”

    “Be … still. Reggie and Bernie are evicting the blasted thing.”

    Then Sylvia Crocker rushed into the room. “Oh good, she’s awake.”

    “She wasn’t until a second ago. Is Perkins on his way?”

    “George said they just passed the Cottage … and I think I hear them pulling up now.”

    I sighed. “I am in the room you know.”

    Mr. Haines said, “Good. I’m glad. You move and I’ll sit on you.”

    “You’ve already threatened that. Just let me …”

    Six voices said, “No!”

    Given the volume and force of their exclamation all I could do was say, “Well my goodness.”

    It was two hours before I was allowed to locomote on my own.

    Sitting at the table with Sylvia I was embarrassed to death. “It isn’t even a concussion and all head wounds bleed a ridiculous amount over the smallest knick. There’s been a huge fuss for no reason. And Mr. Haines still looks like Zeus locked and loaded with an extra-large supply of thunderbolts. He’s going to get another headache if he doesn’t already have one.”

    We could both hear Mr. Haines all the way from the library even though there were several doors closed between here and there. There were other people yelling as well and I wanted to crawl into a hole.

    Sylvia put her hand over mine. “Stop.”

    “I would stop them if I knew how to.”

    “Not them. You. None of this is your doing. Gary and Hirsh have gone way over the line this time. Everyone knows it. Being drunk is no excuse, if anything it makes it worse. Their mother is just hysterical because she knows she can’t protect them this time. Their grandparents aren’t on Clint’s side but they aren’t working against him either. Frankly, I’m pretty sure they’ve washed their hands of the boys until they grow up, though by rights at thirty they should be well into that stage. Even their stepdad is putting his foot down and he normally just laughs at what they get into, being barely more than a spoiled rich kid himself. But this time he was embarrassed when a few of his clients were there and heard about the commotion in detail. Is that ice pack helping?”

    I sighed. “I still feel like an idiot. Should it be helping with that by now?” I cringed remembering that it was the Estate vet that had insisted on putting a single stitch in the cut on my head to help it seal itself. And then fussed at me for trying to handle a full-sized pig on my own. I’d asked him if I was supposed to just let the pig run loose in the house, damaging who knows what but he didn’t seem to appreciate my commentary.

    Finally, the yelling died down and eventually the others left. I got up to make some tea and Sylvia just shook her head at what she considered my unexpected stubborn streak. Mr. Haines walked in and snapped, “What are you doing up? You heard Perkins.”

    “Yes I did. He said that it wasn’t anything near life-threatening and that there was no reason to amputate a body part and that I should be able to work without a problem.”

    “He said,” after snorting. “That you were to take it easy for the rest of the day.”

    “I am.”

    Realizing he wasn’t going to win the battle the way he was playing it he turned to Sylvia and asked, “Have you talked to her yet?”

    At my suspicious look Sylvia quickly stood up and said, “No. I’ll leave that to you since you seem to be back to your normal, charming self. Just remember what your mother used to tell you. One of these days your face is going to stick like that.”

    She hurried out and I heard her leaving with Mr. Crocker and after trying to figure out what she was talking about but only causing my head to ache even more I sat back down and asked, “Do I want to know? Did they … did they do something similar at the Cottage?”

    Mr. Haines cleared his throat and said, “Um … skunk … in the garage. The smell … er …”

    “How bad? Do I need to wash things and …”

    “No! Uh sorry … no. Bernie said it should be gone by tomorrow but … uh … you aren’t going to want to stay at the Cottage.”

    My head was really starting to hurt. “I give up. Just tell me and I’ll deal with it.”

    “You’ll be staying here. At the Big House. The housekeeper has a suite and Reggie and Bernie will bring your things down here and move them in for you after they move out all of the stuff that … er … why are you looking at me like that?”

    “I’m trying to decipher what you just said. If there wasn’t any damage … just stink … why … never mind … start from the beginning again please.”

    Apparently, Mr. Haines feels that it would be better if I simply occupy the rooms all of the other housekeepers before me have. Even with Gary and Hirsh “banished” to Asheville to sink or swim in a business there, Mr. Haines feels there are still factions – his word, not mine – that are going to try to undermine what he is trying to do and possibly try to get to him through me. I told him that I wasn’t going to participate in something so sophomoric – the “factions,” not his plans – and that there is no need for me to move to the Big House. Apparently, Mr. Haines is very used to getting his way. Very used to getting his way. Emphasis on his way.

    It was decided that I’d be moving to the Big House. That I would occupy the rooms all of the housekeepers before me had occupied. And that it would be a load off of Mr. Haines’ mind and therefore one less thing to give him a headache. The end.

    “Are you really that averse to living here Ms. Field?”

    “It isn’t a matter of being ‘averse’ as you call it. It is more the principle of the matter. I feel like … I don’t know … like I’m running away, and I thought I’d left that behind me in Florida by running away to here.”

    I was ashamed to feel the old sadness trying to overwhelm me. I fought it and surprised myself when I won the battle. I shook my head. “I do appreciate the position you are in Mr. Haines. I’m not trying to behave like an ingrate or like a donkey’s behind.”

    Mr. Haines snorted. “I know. And in your shoes I’d probably kick over the traces more than you are doing. But I’ve actually been thinking of this before today. Carra will be here and it would be easier if you were closer to hand just … er … in case she … uh …”

    “Turns into a girl?”

    “Exactly.”

    I would have shaken my head if it hadn’t hurt so much and if I wasn’t worried he’d misunderstand.

    He surprised me further by saying, “Boundaries.”

    “Excuse me?”

    “Boundaries. I know that’s what you are concerned about. Believe me, I’ve considered it as well. There will be the temptation to expect you to be on-call all the time and then just steam roll you. I watched Grandfather do that to my mother too often but she also knew how to say no or come up with some compromise. You’ll need to do the same thing. In fact … uh …”

    Turns out part of the discussion that came up is that if Mr. Haines is going to be “head of the family” that people needed to see him performing those duties in addition to being the Estate manager. And one of those duties was to take his turn hosting the weekly family get together.

    “Hell of a thing to drop on you, especially given what’s just happened, but …”

    I guess it is a good thing that I’ve learned to be flexible. “It’s my yob man.”

    “Huh?”

    Chagrined at myself and wondering if maybe there wasn’t more to the bump on the head I took I told him, “Sorry. Something my brother used to laugh about with our dad. It’s my yob man or It’s not my yob man. I think it is from …”

    “An old TV show. Before your time.” He sighed. “Probably way before your time. I keep forgetting how young you really are. You’re younger than some of our student employees.”

    “I’m twenty-five!” I yelped, scandalized.

    “And that makes you ancient,” he muttered sarcastically.

    “It’s before your time too. It’s from Chico and the Man … like from the early 70s and how did we get on this subject?”

    “No clue,” he said with a reluctant grin. “So. you aren’t going to abandon me to the sharks?”

    “Of course not,” I said forcing myself not to rub my head. “Just give me some idea of what we are talking about … I mean you … what do you need me to do.”

    He gave me a slow grin and said, “Like the first one better. Makes me feel less like Don Quixote tilting at windmills. As for what, I honestly have no clue. Grandfather used to cater these things when he did them. Er …”

    “Catering is expensive. How about a pot luck? Ask everyone to bring a side dish. Let them compete if that’s their thing. You’ll provide the main course and dessert. Beverages can be split 50/50. Adults-only families can bring an adult beverage. Families with kids are to bring a family-friendly beverage. For those that forget there will be water and tea. Any restricted diets need to get the info to me so I can make sure to have something they can eat as part of the plan or they need to bring their own.”

    “It’s Memorial Day weekend so they are going to expect something a little special.”

    “How many are we talking about?”

    He grimaced. “About fifty probably. Not everyone will come but all the aunts will and that’s eleven right there.” He kept counting and then scratched his head and said, “Maybe closer to seventy-five. Good Lord … with the kids maybe a hundred.”

    “You’ll need RSVPs. Beyond that? Get some beef hot dogs, some sausage dogs, some chicken dogs or chicken sausage dogs. The more inexpensive burgers can be dressed up with fancy cheese and lots of veggies and other type toppings. I’ll sauté some mushrooms … maybe a couple of different varieties or with a couple of different sauces or something like that. In this morning’s mail there was a flyer for pork butts at $5 per pound … uh … a third of a pound per person after cooking and you lose about forty percent during cooking so at 75 people that would … no better figure on a hundred because there are always gulttons … so geez … say 75 pounds of raw pork butts – they lose about 40% of their weight while being cooked – should be sufficient but that’s going to be … wait no … my mental calculator is on the fritz … oh geez, never mind.”

    “Don’t give up yet. It’s a good idea and if we buy in bulk I can see about getting an additional discount. I’ll invite some of the upper staff and a few other people. Figure we really are talking about a hundred people. I’ll call it a business expense and …”

    “If it is a business thingie then make sure you serve the Estate wine.”

    Surprised and pleased for some reason at the same time he said, “Hah! Good one. There’s a line of sparkling wines that should work. We’ll just need to make sure only those of drinking age get their hands on it. Trouble of that sort I don’t need nor want. I guess the question really is whether you can get this done or if you need help. I can order the meat and have it delivered tomorrow.”

    “Then … well if we are still having people bring sides and drinks then yes, yes I can do this.”

    “Okay but I’m still going to ask Reggie and Bernie if they want to man the smokers on Saturday.”

    “Don’t they have families?”

    “The Estate is their family these days. They’ve got a few others that they keep up with but they weren’t treated with much respect when they were kids and … well …”

    “Is that why Bernie wants to bring his niece to the Estate?”

    “Pretty much. I’ve met the girl. Woman … well girl in most respects if you know what I mean. She has training in some areas but Bernie says she’s … hmm … his words is she’s been very kept down by her father who was always afraid she would run wild and get hurt by some boy or other. She’s worked out here before when there are big events and extra hands are needed. To be honest … no … never mind … I won’t say it.”

    “They’re … um … very backwoods and you don’t know how much is lack of education and how much is inbreeding?”

    “Now how the hell did you …?”

    “I’ve spoken with Bernie and Reggie a few times. They let things slip. Neither one had a very good childhood and Bernie just wants his niece to have a chance at some type of life, some type of independence, rather than being her mother’s and sisters’ servant for whatever years she’s given. And Sylvia just explained a few things to me as well. Her name is Lacey and she’s already working with her but starting the week after Memorial Day she wants to get her scheduled to work here a day or two a week. Either Monday and Wednesday or Wednesday and Friday. She said Mr. Crocker was going to speak to you about it.”

    “He did. And at the risk of sounding rude you are starting to look the color of rancid cheese. Why don’t you go lay down for a bit and then I’ll drive you up to the Cottage so you can get some of your things and bring them back. Tomorrow …”

    “Oh, you don’t need to do that.”

    Like I said, Mr. Haines is used to getting his way.

    I knew where the housekeeper’s rooms were since they are immediately off the office but I’d not really given them much thought. Mr. Haines walked with me to them and then asked, “Will this be all right?”

    “Of course. Um … would it be a problem if I … moved some of this out and … and …”

    “Brought your own things in? I’ll make sure it gets done tomorrow if it isn’t still raining. I understand you have a few pieces of furniture. And …”

    And so it was. In addition to preparing for everything else going on … the Sunday potluck, the inventory, foraging and canning, and normal housework … I moved from the Cottage to the Big House. The suite wasn’t like an efficiency apartment exactly, but it did have a small area that I could keep a hot plate and things like that. With Reggie and Bernie helping … as well as Sylvia Crocker who brought Lacey to introduce to me … It only took half a day to move in and get most everything where it was supposed to be. There were a few things still at the cottage but Reggie and Bernie would bring them down another day.

    I was also encouraged to take Friday off before the crowds hit and try and enjoy myself a bit. I was more inclined to prep for the Potluck but at the same time I needed a little space now that I was living at the Big House 24/7.



    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

  18. #138
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    16,381

    Chapter 19

    And the promised two-fer ... just a day late.

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

    Chapter 19

    Both Mr. Haines and Sylvia Crocker encouraged me to make a run to town before the vacationing crowds really started rolling in. I also had a list of things that I needed to buy on Mr. Haines’ behalf and he’d transferred the money onto my payroll card rather than reimbursing me after the fact which I found very generous.

    So, on my second full day off – Friday instead of Sunday because of the potluck – I left the estate to head into town with a list and a plan before the sun even rose. I know that sounds crazy but I needed to maximize the amount of time I had to use since it is three hours round trip to get to Bryson City. Plus, I wanted to hit up the farmers market that was in Bryson City on Fridays only from nine to one. Not a lot of time.

    The closest wally world to Bryson City is in Sylva, which is another twenty minutes away from me; but, I went there first to pick up my ship-to-store purchases that included a case of various Sure-jell and Certo pectin products and a separate case of the same thing as ordered by Mr. Haines once he realized what I was doing to save money. My purchases there also included canning and pickling salt, some pickling spices, and some ready mixes for things like pie fillings and salsa. I also picked up another two cans of dried milk, and some yellow rice, sazon seasonings, Badia brand seasonings, Linden leaves tea (relaxant), hibiscus tea, mojo marinade, naranja agria marinade, Café Bustelo coffee (the only kind I drink when I do drink coffee), and other things that I was used to having access to but which weren’t in the local stores. The one thing I missed were fresh chorizo sausages but I was able to order in some vacuum sealed chorizos from Goya. I couldn’t believe it when I was picking up the dried milk I saw they had Recaito (Celantro base) and Refrito (tomato base) in the jar and I picked up six of each even though it made people look at me like I was semi-demented. I was – and am – glad that I stocked up before leaving Florida of the other things like guava paste, media crema, adobo seasoning, Maria cookies, powdered coconut milk, flan mix, good ham bouillon, tropical flavored jellies like papaya and mango and the like, Spanish cooking wines, and a little bit of this that and the other as well. I suspected, and it proved true, that when you change regions you can lose access to items that you took for granted before.

    Also, I found out that I’m not the only razor snob. Razor snob is a phrase I coined when Kirk used to ride me all the time about the cost of the razors that I used. He could need really good razors but he never seemed to grasp that my legs and pits were every bit as sensitive as his face. He kept trying to get me to switch to the cheaper, disposable razors since I used so many. Well of course a woman uses more razors than men … we have more area to cover. And the one time that I tried to have a wax job … uh uh, forget about it. It was expensive, painful, and didn’t last nearly as long as they said it would. After Kirk left I gave up shaving for a while. I couldn’t seem to be bothered to find the energy to keep myself up in a lot of ways. I let my hair grow back out – I had cut it shorter than I’d ever had it after my parents were killed – and I know I need a trim but I’m thinking of just letting it grow and getting a blunt cut. It is easier to use a hair doughnut to create a bun or even an updo though why I am even bothering I don’t know. I should just get what Kirk used to call a butch cut and be done with it. On the other hand, letting it grow out will keep the salon bills down. It won’t be long until my hair starts going silver; Mom’s did by the time she was thirty; old pictures say the same thing happened to my grandmother. They both had these gorgeous wings of silver from their temples to … okay, back on topic. Mr. Haines is a razor snob too. It was an odd conversation to have with a boss but at the time it seemed just a normal everyday type of discussion. Didn’t hurt that I was able to find some online coupons to bring the cost down.

    Getting out of wallyworld wasn’t cheap but nothing will go to waste and frankly I’m living even leaner than I did back in Florida so having a few specialty ingredients for comfort food isn’t going to break the bank and makes me feel better.

    Back to Bryson City and I was just in time for the farmers market to open. I couldn’t believe it. The market was in a barn! I nearly got the giggles from that alone. Seeing grown men walking around in bib overalls tickled me too. Not because I thought it ridiculous but because I remember one of my grandfathers dressing like that every time he could get away with it. I wandered into the barn and nearly got the giggles yet again. Then I jumped a mile when someone said, “You should smile more often.”

    I jerked around and there stood Mr. Haines. “Oh … Oh I …”

    “Come help me pick some of this stuff out.”

    “What stuff?”

    He turned and pointed and I wanted to skip over and only caught myself just in time. “Uh … I mean Sir …”

    “Not today. For the next few hours I’m Clint and you’re Shanna. No one else from the Estate is here, just the two of us. Consider this a kind of hooky. Later we’ll go back to … whatever it is … but I’m gonna enjoy this little bit of time. And I would like to do it with someone that treats me like I’m not some damn wooden Indian whose only job is to sell Haines products.”

    I learned to read when Kirk needed to decompress from a difficult project or contract and Mr. Haines was giving off the same kind of vibes. He was smiling but there was something almost manic behind his eyes. It made me wonder how much he really enjoyed his position as head of the family corporation or if maybe he’d simply accepted that was his place for his grandfather’s sake and got lucky that he was good at it.

    I told him, “So long as you promise not to hold my mouth against me if it takes on a life of its own.”

    “Ms. Field … Shanna … so long as I get the same grace.”

    “Deal.”

    After that we got down to the business of having fun. He bought several bushels of corn, a couple bushels of yellow squash, and fifteen full flats … fifteen! … of strawberries. I was wondering how to get them back to the Big House when he pointed to a pickup truck with a camper top on it.

    “The camper is basically just a jury-rigged cooler. So long as I park in the shade it should be okay. I built it when my grandfather had me running errands for the estate.”

    “You built it?”

    “You seem surprised.”

    “Uh … not exactly. The men in my family did more than their share of tinkering and building things when they were needed. I … I guess it is more that your grandfather … um …”

    “By all accounts my grandmother could be a little snooty but not in an unfriendly way … she was just of the old south and was raised with a class structure, and so long as people behaved right or didn’t disturb her worldview she wasn’t hard to be around. Grandfather was different. He was a lawyer because of his father pushing him and wanting him to go into politics. He preferred his life after he retired … managing the estate and that sort of thing. He valued hard work and creativity. He once told me his greatest regret was not learning to work with his hands, not having a real trade. It is why he insisted I start at the bottom and work my way up, insisted I be able to do the jobs that I would eventually be assigning to other people. As for the truck, I finally got irritated enough at my aunts always complaining that things weren’t fresh when I delivered them that I decided to figure something different out. Damn I was stupid proud of that truck.”

    “Sounds like you put a lot of thought and effort into it.”

    Then he made a face. “Yeah, well Grandfather asked me why I’d wasted so much time on it when I could have just bought a refrigerated van.”

    “Uh …”

    “Yeah,” he said with a shrug and nostalgic grin. “Grandfather could be a whole lot of ‘uh’ but he didn’t mean anything bad by it. But …” he said with a wink. “Between you and me I’m still stupid proud of that truck and I keep it running … and use it when I can.”

    He obviously was being a little silly but it was the same kind of silly the men in my family would have been so it didn’t make me uncomfortable. So, taking him at his word I added some okra and several watermelons for the potluck to the total. And that’s when I saw the purple potatoes and started laughing.

    “What?” he asked.

    “Granda – my mother’s father – well his eyesight was getting bad toward the end, but he still insisted on doing things like ordering the garden seed. One year he goofed and got purple seed potatoes instead of red skinned ones. Grandy was really busy that year and Granda got the garden in by himself. Everything was fine and dandy until …” I stopped to try and control the laughter the memories brought. “She dug a hill up and boy was she surprised. We’d all come over and … and at dinner … she … she sat this big bowl of lavender-colored mashed potatoes down in front of Granda and he … he still couldn’t … he wanted to know what the joke was when everyone started laughing. Momma said, ‘Guess you’ll wear your glasses now huh Dad.’ My grandfather just snorted and said no because he didn’t necessarily want to see what he was eating if they were going to start making things in funny colors.” When he just stood there and smiled I added, “Sorry. Just family stories.”

    He looked at me and then reached around and picked up a ten-pound bag of the potatoes … and then a second one. “Think they’ll last until Carra gets here in two weeks?”

    “Sure. In the walk-in cooler.”

    “Good. Maybe you can make some of these up her first couple of days on the Estate. If nothing else, it might break the ice.”

    I smiled and said, “It’ll start a conversation that’s for sure.”

    There wasn’t the huge variety of fruits and vegetables like there would have been in Florida this time of year but what was there was fresh from the field and looked really good considering I’d heard the winter had been cold and wet and long.

    “Did everything come in on your ship-to-store order?”

    I nodded before adding, “And yours as well. I have it in my trunk.”

    “You mind if it stays there?”

    I gave him the look the question deserved before telling him, “I didn’t plan on meeting you – or anyone else for that matter – and … well, sorry … you were being silly and I missed it.”

    “Gotcha,” he laughed. “Let’s check out and see what other mischief we can get up to.”

    There was a lady there who heard what he said and started laughing. “Oh ho, you’ve got one of those too do you? Put ‘em on a leash. That’s the best suggestion I can make … and then let ‘em drag you into allll sorts of things. But the leash at least gives you something to hold onto so you don’t get left behind.”

    Everyone was laughing but all I could do was blush which only made everyone else laugh harder when they spotted how red I was getting. We pushed the borrowed flatbed out to the truck and loaded the produce into the coolers … huge Coleman coolers that had seen better days but still obviously worked … and as we loaded Mr. Haines said, “They were just joking.”

    “Oh … oh I … I know that. I just want you to know that I would never presume …”

    “That’s not what I meant. I just mean there was no harm in it.”

    I sighed. “I … I just don’t want to shame you. Even if we are playing ‘hooky’ for a while you’re still my boss and … and I really … I really like where I’m at and appreciate … all of it.”

    I was so uncomfortable I had a hard time drawing enough breath to say what I thought needed saying.

    Mr. Haines growled, “Your husband was a jackass. Excuse me, ex-husband.”

    Startled by the sudden attack I stammered, “What? No … if I gave that impression …”

    “I’ll take your word that he didn’t start out that way. I’ll even take your word that the problems were on both sides. But something happened at some point. Now listen to me Shanna … and I’m gonna call you Shanna for this. If, as you say the problems were on both sides, then one of the problems was him. I don’t know what he did, how he did it, or what he said, but I gather from George Crocker that he let his lawyer just about destroy your ability to financially support yourself. And human nature says if he’d do that then he’d do other things. And no matter what you say to rationalize it, running from your home in the middle of the night, not letting anyone know you were leaving or where you were going, that tells me there’s a lot more to it, maybe more than you’re able to admit, even to yourself.”

    “Please don’t.”

    “I’m not saying this to hurt you woman. But you need to wake up. Whatever happened … it is done and over with and you need to stop letting the ghost of a dead marriage wrap you in chains so tight you’re scared to death of having a life.”

    “I … I have a new life. I left everything …”

    “Bullshit. ‘Scuse my French. You may have left geographically but you’re still grieving and dragging the failure with you like you don’t deserve a new life completely free of the hurt of the past. Time to push through it Shanna. He can’t hurt you anymore.”

    “Kirk never hit me,” I gasped, shocked he’d somehow gotten that impression.

    But then he surprised me by saying, “He didn’t need to. He just beat the shit out of your self-esteem.”

    “I … I …”

    He took a finger, put it under my chin, and closed my mouth gently. “Maybe your ex didn’t start out that way, maybe he had the purest of motives and doesn’t even view what he did that way, maybe he didn’t even have a direct hand doing it … but he let it be done to you. He could have called the lawyer off. He could have had his freedom without destroying your ability to be free. Even if for whatever reason he couldn’t stay married to you, even if at that time you were the worst wife imaginable, there’s no excuse for doing what he did or allowing others to do it for him. Even if he started out being 100% right … he ended deep into wrong territory. I’ve watched women do that to their ex-husbands … tying the man to them when they were the ones that wanted the divorce. It isn’t right. And it isn’t right in reverse either. And now you’ve escaped you keep letting his ghost haunt you. Enough. Let yourself enjoy life and have some fun.”

    “Are you kidding?! I’ve had more fun in the last couple of weeks than I can remember having since before my family died.”

    With a thread of satisfaction running through his voice he said, “Good. Not good that it’s been that long since you’ve enjoyed life but good that you feel that you are now. But you need to find some joy in something besides work. Trust me, I had to learn that lesson the hard way. And it’s a concept I don’t think my Grandfather ever learned, and my father took too far in the wrong direction. Because I was trying to be neither man I made an idiot out of myself, hurt people I didn’t mean to hurt, and got hurt by them in the process. I’m telling you I have been there. And as comforting and rewarding as it can be, work is only going to see you through so far.”

    Somewhere between embarrassed, indignant, and legitimately curious I asked, “What do you do then?”

    “Well one of the things I do is what the family calls my ‘hobby’ … the self-sustainability and preparedness stuff. I also try and combine work and pleasure when I have to travel … I’ve explored places, eaten food I’m not familiar with. And I paint.”

    “Paint?”

    “Yeah, water colors mostly but I use chalks and acrylics on occasion.”

    Beyond surprised I let slip, “You have to be the cleanest artist I’ve ever met. I’ve been working in that house for two weeks and I’ve seen nothing.”

    He barked an amused laugh. “To be honest I don’t have a lot of time right now but I’ve been itching to get out the sketch pad.”

    “Then do it.”

    “I will. But this isn’t about me. What do you do … for fun?”

    I thought about it. “I haven’t had a lot of time … or energy … for fun … but I … I used to do what I’m starting to do now. Momma and I would … well we would go to u-pick farms and farmers markets and bring it home and … and play. Or to me it was play. Other people might look at it and see it as just more work upon work but for Momma and I … it was play fun. With the added bonus of feeding the family with what we were playing at. My one grandmother used to love to go to yard sales and estate sales and antique malls. Daddy used to go with her after her husband passed away but he wasn’t always available so I was the one that went with her. She’s the one I inherited most of the china, porcelain, and vintage glass from. She’s also the one that taught me needlepoint and crocheting. I still have …”

    When I stopped because I’d fallen into some memories he prompted, “Still have what?”

    “One year Daddy made his mom, Momma, and me … all three of us … a sewing box. My aunt got my grandmother’s and I don’t know what happened to it after she passed away. But I have mine and Momma’s. I … I just haven’t had the heart to pull them out … for a long time. Kirk always preferred more modern and clean … um …”

    “The man’s not here anymore Shanna. Do things the way you want to, you don’t answer to him any longer.”

    I leaned on the tailgate and looked back at the barn. “I know he isn’t here. I know it in my head and my heart. But it is awful hard to … to get beyond the fact that my failure is what made that happen.”

    “Wrongs were on both sides. What? Are you telling me you had an affair?”

    “God no!” I said horrified at the very idea.

    “Did you swindle money from him?”

    “No! He’s the one that handled the finances.”

    “Then what did you do that was so terrible?”

    I tried to verbalize it and then let my lingering frustration show. “I … I … I don’t know!” I wanted to stomp my feet. “I don’t know what I did. Or maybe it was that I didn’t do enough. I don’t know! I just know he said … he said … he said I didn’t make him feel like a real man, that I took that away from him,” I ended in an embarrassed whisper.

    Mr. Haines gave his trademark snort. “Then he failed to learn the most important lesson of all. You aren’t a man or a woman because someone else makes you feel that way. A man is a real man because he chooses to be that, and because he lives his choice day in and day out regardless of how other people make him feel. All your ex was doing was looking for a scapegoat because he wasn’t feeeeling the way he expected to feel. Damn I hate that emoting crap people do. Crying about this that and the other.”

    “Oh … oh I …”

    He winced. “I’m not talking about the fact that you were weepy a couple of times. You’re female and that’s to be expected and doesn’t bother me. If you had been sitting around whining and going woe is me then yeah, that would have bothered me.” Then he tapped my nose and said, “So don’t do it. And I think you’ve had about all you need of me riding your case. It didn’t get broke overnight so it won’t be fixed overnight. Just start treating yourself better … and you can start by not beating yourself up like everything that went wrong is your fault and feeling guilty because your life is better than it was there for a while. If there were problems on both sides then there is blame on both sides. How about a strawberry whip?”

    “What? Uh …” I stopped and tried to catch my bearings from where he’d changed the subject so fast I was having a hard time keeping up.

    “A strawberry whip. C’mon. I don’t get a chance to get them often and I feel like having one now.”

    “It’s not even lunch time!” I said, nearly scandalized. And then winced when I saw the price of the frozen dessert he was talking about.

    “I know. But every once in a while you need to have dessert first.”

    A man in bib overalls nodded and said, “You tell her son.” The wink he gave me had the older lady with him batting at him with her purse and saying, “Will you settle down.” Turning to me she said, “Honestly Honey, pay him no mind. Spring is in the air and they’re all acting like new foals.”

    “Awww, give me a smooch Old Woman.” She looked at him and said, “Assuming you can catch me Old Man I might just do that.”

    I could just imagine my parents being like that had they lived to the age of the couple in front of me and it made me smile. I turned and nearly put my nose in a small cup of the aforementioned strawberry whip and took the plastic spoon that was handed to me in self-defense.

    At my first taste I was smitten. “Oh my gosh … this reminds me of the Dole orange or pineapple whips you could get at the fair when I was little. Only strawberry-flavored I mean.”

    “Orange whip? I might like to try that.”

    While we’d been getting the produce and then talking, several new vendors had arrived and set up shop around the outside of the barn. We walked around the stalls and I got a few ideas for dry mixes including dry soup mixes, picked up a few dip mixes to have for Sunday that I only needed to add to cool whip or cream cheese or sour cream, and some unique salts … like bacon salt and ghost pepper salt. They were pricey but they gave me ideas. I reminded myself that I’d brought my laptop in case I could find a free wifi connection which further reminded me to enquire, “Mr. Haines …” He gave me the squinty eye and I finally figured it out. “Clint.” After a grin of satisfaction that I tried to ignore I asked, “Is there free wifi hook up here in town?”

    “At the library. The coffee shop probably has it. Why?”

    “I have a few things that I want to research. I know Sylvia mentioned they have it in a room over near the dorms at the estate but I’d … um … rather not …”

    “I’ve got satellite in the library at home. Had it put in two summers ago so that Carra could take some class to prep for high school. There’s a limited amount of data during the day but there’s as much as you need at night. Except with the hours you keep it may not … let me look into adding to the data plan.”

    “Oh that’s not necessary. I don’t need much sleep and frankly I won’t have a whole lot of time for that kind of stuff. Night time research will be more than sufficient for what I need. Though if you were serious about letting Carra work on the exhibit hall she might need to do a lot of research.”

    “Hmm. Let me think about it.”

    I took my packages back to the car and then tried to decide what to do next when Mr. Hanes said, “Shanna, you mind following me to the co-op?”

    “Co-op? I mean, of course if you want me to I just mean what is it?”

    He grinned. “I have a feeling you’ll like it. A friend of mine from school is one of the managers. It is part wholesale plant nursery, part grocery store, part feed store.”

    He walked me to my car and opened the door for me – there’s that old-fashioned streak that is a mile wide – and gave me the general directions for where we were going. It took a few minutes to get there but mostly because we got stuck behind a tractor that had a wide bush hog attachment and there wasn’t really any way to pass him on the winding road we were on. Then we pulled through a gate into an area that looks like it used to be an old dairy farm … smelled like it too when I rolled down my window to hear the man telling me where I could park. Luckily when I got out of the car I didn’t have to watch where I was walking because I wasn’t wearing boots.

    Mr. Haines had pulled into a spot that was in the shadow of the large barn and I walked over to him but hung back while he talked to a man that looked to be either his age. Then he noticed me. “Shanna, c’mere. Wanna introduce you to Cody Clark. We played baseball together in high school.”

    “How do you do Mr. Clark.”

    “Call me Cody. Mr. Clark is my grandfather,” he said with a laugh. He turned back to Mr. Haines and said, “I’ll leave you to it then. I’ll tell Lindy that Carra is coming back but they’ve probably already been in touch.”

    After Mr. Clark walked away Mr. Haines said, “Lindy is Cody’s little sister, same age as Carra. The two try and get together a couple of times while Carra is here for the summer. Lindy usually comes out for a few days at least. Didn’t happen last year because Lindy was down most of it with mono.”

    “Been there done that. Sucks beyond the English language’s ability to describe.”

    From behind me I hear. “Oh my god, exactly!”

    Mr. Haines and I both turn and I was introduced to Lindy who said, “Cody said to tell you that the farm truck just pulled in. We’ve got beets, broccoli, cabbage, greens of all kinds, loose leaf lettuce … church bought us out of the head lettuce already for some potluck or other this weekend, and the blueberries are coming in early so we have some of those too.”

    She then hurried off after hearing her name bellowed from the trailer that had a sign on it calling it the Office.

    I didn’t realize I was behaving a little … er … energetically until Mr. Haines put his hand on my shoulder and laughed. “You’re gonna need lead soled boots on to keep you on the ground at this rate. Little excited?”

    “Oh … oh I’m …”

    “You say you’re sorry and you’re going to hurt my feelings. I’m just glad you are enjoying yourself.”

    “I am,” I told him and then laughed. “Please don’t take this the wrong way but you’re … well you remind me … of …”

    He scowled. “Your ex-husband.”

    “No!” and had to laugh again at the very idea. “Kirk … look let’s just say that Kirk was more familiar with what went on inside a computer than he knew how the food he ate made it to the table. I mean he had a lot of good qualities but being that kind of outdoorsy wasn’t one of them. He liked the gym, waterskiing, and that sort of thing … but on his terms. You remind me a bit of my brother, dad, and grandfathers is all. Outdoorsy in a natural kind of way with a side order of old-fashioned do-it-yourselfness.” I stopped and then said, “I know you asked me to … to think of this as hooky but … I hope I didn’t insult you just now. I … well … it was a compliment. Or at least I meant it that way.”

    He gave me an odd smile and then said, “Then I’ll take it that way … and thank you. You were close with your brother?”

    “I thought I was. I mean we were close. At least … big brother/little sister close. He and I got married at about the same time and … and we still talked and stuff but … I guess we were both trying to keep from the other how much trouble we were having. Our parents had a great marriage, they were friends before they got married and even better friends after being married as long as they were. Neither one of us … well we were both just falling short in that department. His marriage broke down before mine … his wife messed up her back in a work-related accident and started taking pain pills and it affected her personality I guess is the polite way of saying it.”

    “Yeah. Probably politer than she deserved. I have a cousin with the same problem. She finally got control of it but she burnt a lot of bridges. She lives overseas with her latest significant other. I stay out of it because apparently I ‘use the truth like a weapon.’ And yeah, that’s a quote.”

    I shrugged. “You’re forthright. Better that than not knowing where you stand.”

    He barked a laugh causing a couple of people to turn and look. “You can tell the Hen Club that next time they’re on my case. Are we going to have freezer space for all of this stuff?”

    “Oh … well I don’t plan on freezing it. The beets I’m going to pickle, bake, dehydrate, juice, and turn into relish. You … you do eat beets don’t you?”

    “Last time I had real pickled beets I ate the whole jar. You know how to make them from scratch?”

    I nodded. “I like pickled beets and end of the garden pickles and relishes better than other kinds of pickles though I plan on making some of those as well. I also use beet juice to sweeten smoothies with or to pickle eggs in.”

    The young woman that was counting up the bushels for us asked, “What do you do with the pulp after you juice stuff?”

    Without thinking about how odd it was for a stranger to just up and ask such a question I answered, “Depends on what it is. I put it in soups, use it in breads, make veggie burgers with it and …”

    “Wait. Hang on a sec. MOMMA!!”

    I nearly jumped behind Mr. Haines when this large, raw-boned woman came over and her daughter told me to tell her again what I do with the pulp left over from when I juice vegetables. I wound up in quite a conversation and I kept glancing at Mr. Haines only to find him grinning like he was happy about something. I finally escaped and tried to apologize again.

    “You do that too much. If it was a problem I would have ‘forthrightly’ told you so,” he chuckled. “Miriam Denson is a holy terror. She’s worse about hating waste than I am. The fact that she didn’t have a complaint about anything you were doing is a good thing. Let’s get this to the truck.” He lost some of his smile. “I got a text and need to head over to the bank to sign off on some loan docs for one of the aunts. My play time is over.”

    Hesitantly, unsure of my footing, I slowly said, “Um … maybe there’ll be a next time.”

    He brightened but tempered it with some realism. “Summer and into the fall is our busy season. I don’t know when we might get the chance to do this again.”

    Trying to shrug it off and keep it light I told him, “Well, most of the time I already feel like … well like I’m playing hooky from real life, or at least my former real life. I was more referring to you. If nothing else, you should let me know what I can do so you can have at least some time to pull out that sketchbook you said you have wanted to.”

    He looked at me and then nodded. “We’ll figure something out.” I wasn’t sure how to take what he said but I wasn’t in a position where I could – or even wanted to – ask him to explain. Instead I decided to stick to the here and now and not get bogged down in anything else.

    I knew I had a task ahead of me with all the produce Mr. Haines had in the truck and this weekend would primarily be taken up with prepping and then hosting the Sunday Potluck. I started to get nervous about what was before me but then got distracted by the nursery side of the business. I was about to turn away after seeing the sign “wholesalers only” when Cody came up and said, “You’re fine since you came in with Clint. I already caught Clint to let him know the truck with the Ruskin Tomatoes arrived a few minutes after the farm truck. He said to tell you there will be several bushels of tomatoes to go with everything else. I take it he got called away.”

    I nodded but didn’t give details, remembering in time the confidentiality clause and my hard-learned stricture to not say something that I might wish unsaid. I went into the new area and bought several trays of mix-n-match potted herbs and a slew of heirloom seeds so that next week when Bernie’s niece came to work on the garden she actually had something to work with.
    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

  19. #139
    Oh wow a two fer! And a very nice end to the cliff you left us with. I am rereading Forsaken Harvest. It is very good and it has been long enough ago that I do not remember much. Thanks for that and this as well!

  20. #140
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    Thank you so much, I so enjoy the time you take to put up more chapter.

  21. #141
    Thanks Kathy!!!!!

    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. #142
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    I'm glad those two "boys" didn't get away with it this time!!

    Thanks much from this (proud to be) MOAR hound!!
    "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

  23. #143
    thanks mam

    Nice

    may i haz some moar please LOL

    F5 n all that too.

    Dosadi
    Dosadi

    III


    My family & clan are my country.

  24. #144
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    My, you don't have to spoil me but keep it up, I love it...LOL!

    thank you.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  25. #145
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    That you Kathy!
    Visit me on Etsy: ModernMaille

  26. #146
    Thanks for more great chapters, Kathy!!

  27. #147
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    Congratulations on the new "additions" to your family. I'm sure you are justifiably prôud of them and I wish you many hours of joy with them!! You have a wonderful way with words. I am enjoying your story immensly!!

  28. #148
    Thank you for the new chapters and congratulations on the new grandbaby

  29. #149
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    Welcome bady Lady Kathy....

    and thank you for posting once again.

    You have been sorely missed!

  30. #150
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    Wow, Kathy, I didn't know you were back but I'm glad you are and even happier that you are back sharing your talent with us.

    I started yesterday and got to read nineteen chapters in a row.

    Welcome back and congratulations on a new grandbaby.

  31. #151
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    Kathy, thank you so much for more story!

    Does the big house have dumbwaiter(s)? They would be a big help in moving things from the basement or attic to the kitchen to be cleaned then to the third floor to be sorted. Laundry chutes would help move clothes and linens from the upper floors.

    Shanna should tell them about the water heater being out in the cottage, unless the next occupant will be one of the twins.
    The difference between being smart and being wise:
    Being smart is learning from your own mistakes.
    Being wise is learning from the mistakes of others.
    My life has given others many opportunities to be wise.

  32. #152
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    Kathy, thanks, this story is really a fun read! So...I’m down in Hillsborough County Florida to visit DS and his family (where it’s hotter than the surface of the sun)...you know, this is Terra incognito for me, I had only been here briefly in December after I drove their car across the country for them. BUT, I’m really having fun now recognizing all the landmarks from your stories set here. Dale Mabry Hwy, McDill AFB, Oldsmar, Busch Garden...it’s like coming home to a place I’ve never been. One more reason to be grateful to you as a writer of tales I love to read!
    All that is gold does not glitter....

  33. #153
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlaskaSue View Post
    Kathy, thanks, this story is really a fun read! So...I’m down in Hillsborough County Florida to visit DS and his family (where it’s hotter than the surface of the sun)...you know, this is Terra incognito for me, I had only been here briefly in December after I drove their car across the country for them. BUT, I’m really having fun now recognizing all the landmarks from your stories set here. Dale Mabry Hwy, McDill AFB, Oldsmar, Busch Garden...it's like coming home to a place I’ve never been. One more reason to be grateful to you as a writer of tales I love to read!
    Oh my gosh! LOL! You're in town and I'm running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to prep for my brother's wedding and for going out of town this weekend and then again next week. Monday is our 30th Wedding Anniversary. Absolutely nuts on top of it being the beginning of the month when our business is so busy it is hard to stand it. And this weather is NOT hot. LOL. This is actually really quite cool for this time of year. You want hot you need to come visit in August when it is like living in a sweat lodge.

    Boy, how funny!
    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

  34. #154
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    Chapter 20

    First of the month ... prepping for my brother's wedding ... our 30th Anniversary ... then our Anniversary trip ... needless to say Kathy is a might overwhelmed at the moment. Oh, and did I mention the wedding is going to be at my house and my parents are coming for a week-long visit and you can add mother's day and mom's birthday in there too ... and Spring cleaning. Yes, I've lost my mind. Oy. I'm crazy, have to be, that's the only possible reason I keep getting into messes like this. When will I ever learn not to volunteer?! Oh yeah ... and a new grandchild. Lord, Lord, Lord. Little green froggy is just swimming away in that toasty, bubbling hot water.

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

    Chapter 20

    “This is quite a load, sure you don’t need any help?”

    “No thank you. I have it. Looks like people are starting to stack up at the gate.”

    “Getting here to pick up things for the weekend. We’re closed Saturday through Monday this week. Well, it was nice to meet you and tell Clint to treat you right.”

    “Oh. I’m not …” But it was too late and he’d hurried away. I decided to worry about Cody Clark’s misconception later. If there was one since his remark could have meant something completely different from what I was worried about. For now, I needed to figure out how I was going to get all of the trays of transplants in my car without them squashing each other. Soon enough the floor boards were full as was the whole of the back seat. There would be no sudden stops if I wanted everything to make it back in one piece.

    In addition to the trays of herbs I had transplants for celery, collard greens, mustard greens, okra, sweet potatoes, and several different varieties of both tomatoes and peppers. Seeds included lima beans, bush snap beans, and snap pole beans, cucumbers, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, cantaloupes, watermelon, black eyed peas, pumpkin, radishes, spinach, summer squash, winter squash, and turnips. I may very well have over done it but a little extra can’t hurt.

    I thought about lunch and then decided I could skip a meal to finish my to do list and then head back to the estate before the heat of the closed up car could do any damage to the transplants or tomatoes. I pulled over into a café that said it had free wifi. It was unsecured so I didn’t need to go inside and get a passcode or anything but I purchased a bottle of water and a bag of pretzels anyway. Sitting on one of the outside benches where people waited to be called to pick up their order I typed an email to the few cousins that I thought would care.

    Dear Everyone,

    Sorry for the group email but I don’t get to get on the ‘net as much as I used to. I’ve got one request; please don’t give my new email address out to anyone outside the family. Guess you know to whom I am referring and I know it sounds a little dramatic but I am trying to start a new life and this is part of it. It was hard enough to cut ties, I don’t want to have to deal with what could start back up long distance.

    First off, just to explain the “long distance” comment, I wanted to let y’all know that I am no longer in Florida. I took a job out of state and it is turning into one of the best decisions I have made in what feels like a long, long time. I’m sure it doesn’t come as a shock that my divorce was finalized and I’m sorry I haven’t kept up with informing you all about things, but some of you know how it feels. Then between grieving for Mom and Dad and Brother, and then the separation and divorce, and then having a hard time getting a job to support myself … well in all honesty I have been struggling to do much more than put one foot in front of the other. Secondly, to put your minds at rest and just so’s you know, things are going better and when I feel like there’s more to say other than the same ol’ thing I will let you know. Also, in case anyone has been trying to reach me on my old phone number … well, I gave it up. I have a new phone but it doesn’t really get a signal in the area where I work so it is off most of the time. I just figured it was time to at least let you know that I’m not, as Granny would have declared, lying dead or drunk on the side of the road some place. Even more important, I’m not feeling sorry for myself which is a bad habit I had fallen into while I struggled with the lemons life had dealt me and trying not to live like sour grapes since. I won’t go into the whole nine yards of what happened but basically the divorce was just plain nasty and I’ve finally recovered sufficiently to be glad to have it behind me. Life is different than I thought it would be but accepting that has helped me to move on though I’m still grieving about a lot of things.

    Thanks for your prayers as I’m sure more than a few have been said on my behalf. They kept me going when not much else did. Please continue with them as I start this new phase of my life and really it is so different from what I always imagined my life to be but that’s turning out to not be a bad thing. I’m using more than a few of the lessons I learned from Granny and Grandy and Momma. I will continue to keep you in my prayers as well. We all seem to be going in so many different directions for so many different reasons but we’re still family and I love you all.

    Love & God Bless, Shanna

    I thought about it for nearly fifteen minutes, fixed a couple of typos, changed a couple of sentences, then hit the send button. New life or not they are still family. Maybe we don’t live in each other’s pockets but that doesn’t mean we don’t think about each other. I just hoped that they could leave it alone and not meddle or send my email out. I’m not sure if I am being a drama queen when it comes to worrying whether my old life, including Kirk, would try and haunt me and mess up the new life I was building, or trying to build, however you want to look at it.

    My water and pretzels finished at the same time as my email, I didn’t have a whole lot left to do. I thought about wasting a little more of the day but didn’t much feel like it. That’s when I spotted the flyer for the craft and antique mall. I wasn’t sure what on earth I was going to do beyond walk around but I decided in for a penny, in for a pound and just hoped I could find a little bit of shade to park in.

    Surprise, surprise, but what do I see when I finally find the place, find a parking space, and then walk into the building? Mr. Haines standing there chatting up a woman at the counter … a customer, not an employee. I was giving serious consideration to slipping back out and gave it even more when I heard the woman purr, “Clint we don’t see you in town nearly often enough.”

    I had even started reaching for the exit door when I heard, “Shanna?”

    I winced. It wasn’t Mr. Haines or the new woman, but Maddie of all people. I turned, trying to hide a wince of exasperation at her megaphone tone, and gave her a nod.

    “Wow, what a coincidence finding you here.”

    “Why?”

    “Well your normal days off are Sunday for one.”

    I shrugged, “Sunday is out this week. Mr. Haines is hosting the family potluck for Memorial Day. I didn’t know you had an interest in antiques … or is this one of the meet-up places for people from the Estate?”

    “No, Bud insisted on stopping when he saw Mr. Haines’ truck pulled over at such a weird angle in the parking area. He wanted to see if he was broke down.”

    I nodded in the direction of a guy that was standing beside Stacy Crocker. “Good for him. And I see Stacy Crocker is with you also.” I left Maddie standing there and walked towards the two young people that were looking a little desperate. “Hey. What’s up?”

    Stacy gave me a meaningful look and said, “The usual.”

    “Oh,” I said giving her a grin letting her know I understood her.

    “I needed a ride to come pick up a few things for Mom and Dad. Bud was coming to town but then there was a pile on.”

    “Need a ride back home?”

    Bud suddenly looked glum but then brightened when Stacy said, “Naw. I’ll stick with Bud. Besides Maddie is supposed to be heading to the kayak rental place as a fill in and the others have already found a ride back since they were going to a local watering hole. But Maddie was an emergency call in.” At my questioning look I said, “Guess you didn’t hear. Hirsh smashed his face on a rock during a raft run. He really wrecked up his mouth and teeth.”

    “Does Mr. Haines know? Stupid, of course he does. Is his mother okay?”

    “Uh … actually she’s … she’s kinda having an … er …”

    From behind me Mr. Haines said, “Margaret is having a bit of reality check. Gary and Hirsh had both promised not to screw around, drink, and then go rafting. This was supposed to be their last weekend before moving to Asheville. Instead, they were both sloshed and that’s the likely cause of Hirsh’s accident. She went from protecting Dumb and Dumber from every dust mote to reading them the riot act big time and promising them death and mayhem … and loss of all financial support … if they didn’t stop acting like a couple of dumb college kids.”

    “But she’s really upset. Those are her children,” I told him with a look trying to non-verbally remind him that he was surrounded by college kids.

    He didn’t take notice but instead asked, “You feeling sorry for them?”

    “No,” I answered. “For their mother who has to be freaking a bit over everything that has been going on.”

    He sighed as if greatly put upon. “You gonna change your name to Jiminey Cricket?”

    “Do I need to?”

    All he did was snort but everyone else seemed to be looking on with avid curiosity. Mr. Haines must have noticed as he turned to the young man named Bud and said, “Thanks for stopping but there’s no problem. Stacy? You want me to haul anything back for your parents?”

    “No thank you Mr. Haines. Bud was on the way back to the Estate when he saw your truck.”

    “Alright. But just you be careful. Holiday traffic has already caused a couple of accidents between here and Sylva.”

    Bud nodded. “We just have to stop at the feed depot to grab a bag of pooch food for Mr. Bob and then we’re off.”

    They said their good byes and left. Maddie was just standing there and I asked, “Did you have a ride from here to the kayak rentals?”

    “Oh crap,” she said startled and ran to catch up with Bud and Stacy.

    I turned to Mr. Haines and was going to make my own excuses but then he said, “Shanna this is Marcy Cummings. She and Gary dated for quite a while.”

    The woman gave an exasperated chuckle, “Oh really Clint, it was completely casual and way back in college.”

    He shrugged carelessly and then ignored the woman and instead asked me, “You were going to skedaddle. Why?”

    Faced with such a direct question I couldn’t help but say, “I didn’t expect anyone to be here. I was going to look around for some valuation books for the inventory.”

    “Inventory?” the woman asked, trying to insert herself into the conversation.

    Mr. Haines answered, “Estate business.” And there was a big ol’ fat period at the end of the sentence that was a little shocking at how sharp and pointed it was. Or should that be sharp and pointy. It certainly struck a bullseye with her and she said, “Same ol’ Clint. See ya.”

    Below his breath Mr. Haines muttered, “Not if I can avoid it.” More directly to me he said, “Why were you leaving?”

    “I told you.”

    “Uh uh. Doesn’t add up.”

    “Then check your math,” then stopped on a visible wince. “Sorry. I think I’ve gotten too used to my own company and have forgotten my manners.”

    “Bull. But I’ll let you off this time,” he said, a grin slowly replacing the irritation that had been on his face earlier. “What were you looking for again?”

    “Valuation books. Even if the values of the collectibles aren’t current, the books will give the names of the pieces, correct color names, year of manufacture, all the pieces in a set, name of the pattern, that sort of thing. It will help me locate current prices or at least give a reference point. I’m pretty sure Mr. Dunlop wants to see that on the inventory.”

    “I’d like to see that on the inventory if you can really find it.”

    After asking the woman at the counter about what I had come in for she pointed me to a couple of different vendor booths that sold books and I grabbed what I could find. In another vendor booth I found some vintage cookbooks that I didn’t have that pertained to Appalachian and Smoky Mountain cooking. And in yet another booth I splurged and bought three Fenton glass slippers that I didn’t have in pattern or color.

    “What are you doing?” I asked when he handed the cashier his credit card.

    “Paying.” The look he gave me said not to make a scene and hooky or not, Mr. Haines was still the boss.

    I took the small box they’d put my purchases … excuse me, Mr. Haines’ purchases or so I was thinking in extreme irritation at that moment … in the back seat of my car.

    “What the sam hill is all of that greenery?”

    “Stuff for the garden.”

    “Where did you get it?”

    “At the wholesaler. As for why, because Bernie’s niece starts on Wednesday and there’s not going to be anything for her to do if there aren’t supplies. The greenhouses on the Estate have already been emptied of this season’s plantings. You wanted a garden ergo there needs to be something to be planted in the garden. I’m the House Manager so it is my job to …”

    “Whoa. When you get angry you really get angry. So, tell me what you’re angry about instead of just being angry.”

    I looked at him and couldn’t believe he didn’t see it. “You … you …” I took a calming breath. “Every time I turn around you’re making comments about how people treat you different, how they take advantage of you even if you don’t use those words, how they expect things from you just because you are head of the Haines family … or at least the Estate. And now, despite never having wanted to put you in that position myself, you … you … just what kind of person do you think I am anyway?!”

    “Excuse me?”

    “Look Mr. Haines …”

    “I thought we agreed it was Clint and Shanna today.”

    “We agreed back at the farmers market. You had to take care of business and said hooky time was over with. And that doesn’t have anything to do with what I’m talking about.”

    “It doesn’t?” he asked, obviously fighting a grin.

    “Are you being this way on purpose? Because I’m missing the joke. You expect me to treat you just like everyone else does and I told you that … or … or maybe I promised myself … I can’t remember … either way I wouldn’t want someone doing that to me, so I won’t do that to you.”

    He was silent for a moment and then started laughing. I nearly lost my temper right there. At least until he said, “I knew I was right about you. You are bent out of shape because you think that I think that you’re after my money.”

    “See! You do know what I’m talking about. How you could think that when I’ve been so careful to …”

    He put his hand over my mouth and I nearly bit him. “Okay. We got our wires crossed.”

    I yanked his hand down. “Crossed?! Those glass slippers cost nearly forty dollars; and the cookbooks add another thirty to that. That’s a lot of money. And …” He tried to do it again and I stepped back and said, “Stop that.”

    “Fine. Then take a breath so I can get a word in edgewise. I didn’t mean to insult you. Those books are for an inventory of my house. You’ll be cooking for me out of those other books. Those glass shoes were just …” He shrugged. “Don’t take it so personally.”

    “Uh huh. How would you feel if I did that to you?”

    He opened his mouth then closed it and then just grinned again. “Okay, I can see your point when you put it like that but I didn’t mean anything by it. Maybe I am in the habit of picking up the check for the wrong reason but with you it was for the right reason. And if you absolutely insist we’ll square up over the receipts tonight.”

    Already regretting my show of temper I nodded and then couldn’t look at him. He said, “None of that. It was a misunderstanding. We took care of it. Over and done and on to better things. Like getting all these things back home. And I got a call from Crocker that all of your stuff has finally made it to your rooms. If we can make it back while there is daylight I’ll help you move the furniture where you want it if Reggie and Bernie ignored your note.”

    “Oh … oh you don’t have to …”

    “Nope. I don’t have to. I want to. You done here in town?”

    “Yes. This was the last stop.”

    “Good. Let’s get. And you don’t have to cook tonight. I’m fine grazing out of the cooler.”
    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

  35. #155
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    16,381

    Chapter 21

    Chapter 21

    “How’s that bruise?”

    Saturday morning found me sore, tired, and startled to hear Mr. Haines so early in the morning.

    “How’s that bruise?” he said again when I looked over from the chalk “to do” board that I’d put up in my office area.

    “Fine.”

    “You’re not moving like you’re fine.”

    “I’m running late,” I groused a bit as walked out of my office and into the kitchen to dare the coffee pot not to have come on when it was supposed to. “I hate running late.”

    “It’s Saturday.”

    “It’s a work day,” I said sighing in relief that the coffee maker was already dripping appropriately dark liquid and the crock pot with the timer … something I’d only heard about before finding it in the appliance closet … had done its job overnight. I immediately started to get breakfast plated up but Mr. Haines said, “Wait on that for a moment.” When I turned to try and figure out why he asked, “Everything cleared up from yesterday?”

    I blinked trying to get my brain to deal with the unexpected question. “Huh?”

    He chuckled when he figured out I wasn’t faking. “I should take that as a yes but I want to hear you say it.”

    The pistons in my brain finally started firing as they were supposed to and I said, “What happened yesterday was a blip Mr. Haines. I … I got a little too comfortable and my mouth ran over my commonsense … and manners. Any apologizing that needed to happen was on my side. And no, I’m not being a martyr, just taking personal responsibility for my character flaws.”

    He shook his head. “Don’t start that again. I can see if from your side now. And I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.”

    “I should have been mature enough that ‘hurt feelings’ shouldn’t have come into it in the first place. I just didn’t want you thinking that I would take advantage of you like that.”

    “I wasn’t thinking that and I don’t. And so long as things have been smoothed out, I’ll drop it. Shanna, you aren’t a doormat. You certainly aren’t my doormat. You may be employed by me, living under my roof, but you aren’t ‘on’ 24/7/365. Live in housekeeper … House Manager … is different than a job you come into and then leave at the end of the day. I don’t have a problem with that. You need to get comfortable with it or you are going to burn yourself out. I don’t want that to happen. You are making my life a lot easier and getting things knocked off my own to do list that frankly I was beginning to think wouldn’t happen.”

    “Mr. Haines …”

    “You can call me Clint. Do you have a problem when I use your given name?”

    “It’s not that. I’m just trying to be … professional. I like my job. I want to keep my job. I don’t want misunderstandings … between us or by other people who have a too-active drama gene.”

    “Good. I’m glad. And if it takes you a while longer to get comfortable with the new arrangements then fine. Just know that you don’t have to keep calling me Mr. Haines like I’m my grandfather.”

    “I didn’t even know your grandfather and I’m not sure that I even understand what that is supposed to mean. I’ll try, but don’t expect me to do it while other people are around. You may want to … to … I don’t know …” I sighed. “Geez, even Alice on the Brady Bunch called the kids’ parents Mr. and Mrs. Brady and …”

    At that Mr. Haines started laughing. I asked, “What?”

    “Trying to imagine you as Alice that’s what. Let’s just take it as it comes. Now how about that breakfast? It smells good enough to make me hungry.”

    In case I haven’t said it often enough to make it stick, Mr. Haines is extremely fond of having his own way. When he wants to discuss something that is what is going to happen. When he is done you better be done too. I will say this for him however, he grew up in this kind of lifestyle … one of the housekeepers was even his own mother. I don’t know if he is trying to recreate his childhood or if he is continuing what he has always known. It is very old-fashioned, at least to me. Even one of my grandmother’s had a “cleaning lady” that would come when her kids were younger and she was just starting her business, but my dad remembers calling the woman “Miss Sophie” – she was an unmarried, older woman – and the cleaning lady still addressed my grandmother as “Mrs.”. I don’t know, maybe I’ll just let it roll into being whatever it is and stop worrying at it. It is a waste of energy anyway; Mr. Haines is gonna get what Mr. Haines wants.

    As for the rest of my Saturday it has been a real rear bumper humper, “excuse my French” as my boss would say. At least I wasn’t responsible for smoking the pork butts. But I did keep Reggie and Bernie fed and watered and Bernie’s niece Lacey came with him and helped me to prep everything. I told her she didn’t know how much I appreciated her help. Lacey doesn’t talk much but her reaction let me know she appreciated being appreciated. And she fell in love with the transplants. And then when she found out about my foraging adventures she really started opening up. It was from her that I found out that I could look forward to a lot of wild fruit in June … mulberries, more strawberries, serviceberries, feral cherries, and blackberries. There’d also be a lot of herbs that would be ready to harvest. The flowers would change – she was fascinated by the flower jellies that were in the pantry – and there would be honeysuckles, elderflowers, mimosa flowers, and daises to name just a few.

    Everyone agreed to bring a family-sized side dish and drinks but the suspicious and cautious person in me said that it might not be a bad thing to make a couple gallons of baked beans and some desserts. Ten plus flats of strawberries didn’t phase Lacey at all. Good grief is she fast, I couldn’t keep up and admitted it. She shrugged and explained that she helped in a strawberry festival every year … up until this year when the main sponsor of the festival declared bankruptcy and they no longer hired people but were trying to get by on volunteers.

    “I woulda still done it but Momma and Jolene said no.”

    Jolene is her oldest sister and, from what I gather, is every bit as controlling as Bernie’s sister is. Apparently there is a sister in there someplace that “went wild” and “rebelled” and got into a lot of trouble and everyone was sure that Lacey would go the same way simply because she resembled the woman in question. I don’t see it myself but either way it is none of my business.

    We sliced two flats of the strawberries and set them to soak overnight in the cooler to make strawberry shortcake. Just in time I found out that several people with “the sugar problem” would be attending so I took some frozen blueberries and sprinkled them with the Splenda that I had round in the house during the first coffee night.

    The remainder of the capped and sliced strawberries I divided up into plastic containers and put them in the freezer for making jam though I did make one tray of “strawberry chips” in my Excalibur dehydrator – the one kitchen appliance that Mr. Haines apparently doesn’t own – by over-drying a fruit roll. I will use that to garnish the top of the the strawberry shortcake. I did the same with blueberries and then had the idea that I might just use both at the same time to continue the red, white, and blue theme.

    There was going to be about twenty kids under eighteen so I decided to make some munchies. Red, white, and blue chips were easy enough since I’d bought nearly a case of them at the wholesaler. To go with the store-bought chips we made homemade dips … nearly a gallon of fresh salsa, and another gallon of nacho cheese, plus French onion dip, spinach dip, and sour cream dip. As each dip was made it was put into a plastic container and labeled and then put on a shelf in the walk-in cooler. Lacey helped to prep the raw veggie trays and also helped me to make the sixteen dozen deviled eggs. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to see another boiled egg for quite some time. It was Lacey that said the egg shells from those sixteen dozen eggs could be ground and used as a soil amendment around the roses … which was a good way to get rid of some of the compost I was creating.

    Another idea struck me not long afterward. I decided to keep the gluttons from taking more than their fair share by making things in individual portions. We made several sheet cakes and then took a round cutter and cut the cakes. To start with we estimated one round per bowl/serving but all we did was set the rounds into a deep dishpan and cover them with plastic wrap and set them in the cooler. After I got the final numbers, and if there were fewer to show up than expected, I could double the cakes or leave them singles. The chunks of cake between the circles I cubed up and make a lemon trifle for those that wanted neither of the other flavors … and for the couple that I was informed were allergic to strawberries.

    Then I found out that Lacey had a lot more going on than people were giving her credit for when she said, “Why slice the cheese by hand? If Mr. Haines don’t have a meat slicer I know Mrs. Crocker does.”

    My mouth fell open and I nearly danced her around the kitchen. “Lacey you … are … a … genius!”

    She looked at me and started laughing so hard she was nearly clucking like a hen. Bernie heard and stuck his head in and said, “What’s up Doodle Bug?”

    “She’s funny Uncle Bernie.”

    I explained and Bernie grinned. “See. Told you that you had a brain under all that hair.” Reggie added his two cents by saying, “Work smarter, not harder.” Which told me that the two men were smarter than they were given credit for as well. Academics may not be their strong suit, but they certainly have a strong streak of pragmatism even if sometimes they behave as if commonsense didn’t appear to be an equally as strong characteristic.

    It wasn’t long after that that the pork butts were taken out of the smoker and left to set up so that once they cooled enough I would be able to shred them for the pulled pork. Lacey offered to stay but I told her that I appreciated the help she’d already given me and that I didn’t want to take advantage of her. The three left … and left me with quite a lot still to do, which was fine considering it was my choice. I decided to slice the tomatoes on the meat slicer as well. While I was doing that, and while the butts were cooling enough to handle, I started making tea by the gallon and was a bit frustrated that I hadn’t started doing it sooner. And on and on it went.

    Mr. Haines stuck his head around the door once … all I did was look at him and point to the crock pot that held Spanish bean soup … and then went back to counting the paper plates, plastic utensils, and solo cups to make sure that I had enough. I had a dozen black Sharpies ready so that people could write their name on their cups which would hopefully cut down the waste. I had given serious thought to saving the landfill space for something more important but the mere idea of doing dishes for a hundred people gave me heart palpitations. Not to mention Mr. Haines said, “I’m as frugal a man as you’ll find but Lord woman even I know that paper plates and plastic utensils have their place.

    And finally, after another clean up of the kitchen, I am laying my head down.
    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

  36. #156
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    16,381
    I may not make it around tomorrow or Monday so I'm posting a three-fer today. LOL. If I can I will but the days are busy with craziness.

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

    Chapter 22

    “Dear Lord, they’re like locusts,” was all I could think as I watched all of the food being demolished throughout the day. Yes, it was there for them to eat but for some of them, it was like watching rabid squirrels fight over the last nut in the forest before winter set in. I don’t know what I expected exactly but whatever it was, it would not have resembled the redneck yacht club atmosphere I was seeing, nor the poor manners that some of them had. Not that it was a horrible thing – my own brother was all Hillbilly Redneck and then some, to the point of sometimes doing it just to irritate people – but perhaps I had my own unreasonable expectations of the Haines family. I suppose I had romanticized them … both because of the family history and because of my own preconceptions of their socioeconomic level. I had to keep reminding myself just because they lived on this huge estate and had a history that seemed to go back to Abraham and Isaac, it didn’t mean that they were story book characters that I could arrange as I saw fit.

    And for a man who claimed to not enjoy the “Lord of the Manor” position he was stuck in, it sure did look like Mr. Haines was in his element. Of course, he was also guarding the “adult beverages” to keep the under-21 crowd out of them since their parents weren’t exactly monitoring things, having already sampled more than a few adult beverages themselves. Mr. Haines was ostensibly holding court with the “Hen Club” but the location was surely convenient, and glad I was of it since it was one less thing I had to manage. Rather than forcing them to move I got some help to move folding tables over to them and then served them myself. Mr. Haines tried to make a fuss but I gently kicked his ankle so that only he would notice and he finally figured out I was trying to help.

    After that he introduced me around – and good grief I am sure I will never remember all the names and who they belong to – but only gave me a look that promised a “discussion” for turning aside his invitation to sit and eat at the table with everyone. What he didn’t know, and what I eventually told him when he did start to fuss after everyone left, is that while he was guarding his corner I was guarding mine.

    “What did you say?” he asked in surprise after what I said finally penetrated.

    “I closed and locked all the doors I could; I love those hideaway sliders in the larger rooms. I hung a velvet rope across all of the stairs. But it didn’t always keep people – especially the kids – from wandering around.” I shook my head. “Some of them act like they’ve never been in the house.”

    Mr. Haines snorted. “Some of them haven’t … or haven’t in a long time. Anything get broken?”

    “No.”

    “What did they say they wanted?”

    “Usually it was a bathroom. I just redirected them outside with the excuse that the water was off in those areas.”

    “How many didn’t buy that?”

    “A few … until they tried the faucet handles and then I guess word got around. Amazing what Reggie and Bernie will let slip if you ask them the right questions. I just wanted to know how to turn the water off so I could give the toilet tanks a good scrubbing. Anyway, I’m still amazed that you have those outhouses. I thought those were garden sheds. Thank goodness I was able to get in there and clean them before people started arriving.”

    “Er … about that … I meant to have someone from the Estate to come over to clean them up before you had to.”

    “Why?”

    Out of the blue he snarled, “Well damn woman, I’m no slave driver that’s why!”

    I jumped at his tone and the look on my face must have startled him as much as his tone had me. He made a face and slowly sank into a chair at the kitchen table. “That was uncalled for,” he said with on fist balled up on the table’s surface and his other hand rubbing his forehead.

    “I’m … I’m sorry. I … I guess I …”

    “Don’t Shanna. I shouldn’t have taken it out on you. It has just been one hell of a day.”

    “Oh. You … you didn’t enjoy yourself.”

    “Actually I did … for the most part. I just got tired of being poked all freaking day by the Hen Club and some of the others.”

    “Er … poked?”

    He lifted his head and said, “Some of it was digs about being tardy with picking up the mantel of the head of household … you know, allll of the responsibilities and not just the fun business stuff. Some of it was ‘suggestions’ about how I should be doing it better … but in the best way possible of course. And yes, I’m being sarcastic. The most outrageous you’ll probably hear about eventually. Mostly … mostly they kept wondering if it would be a repeat of history.”

    I was confused for a moment until I noticed that the tips of his ears were red. “Oh.”

    “I’m an honorable man Shanna.”

    “Of course you are.”

    “Of course I … uh? You … you believe me?”

    “Of course.”

    “Not of course. If my own family is thinking …”

    “Mr. Haines …”

    “You said you would call me Clint when others weren’t around. Do you not trust me now?”

    I sighed. “You don’t need to make yourself feel worse just because your family has some screwy ways of trying to get your goat.”

    “Uh …”

    “I’m doing my best to take your very sound advice from the other day. The past is in the past. All I can do is not repeat the mistakes that were made there. And to stop being so … so … sensitive about it all. Not to mention … family. If there is a group of people on the planet capable of making anyone crazy it would be their family. The women you call the aunts … maybe they think they are doing their job. They are quite a bit older than you. Perhaps they think their life experience and age gives them some … responsibilities to you, and to the family.”

    “I’m sure you’re right and that is part of it. But … I … I should say that … I’ve been thinking lately that …”

    Whatever he was going to say was interrupted by the phone ringing. I answered it and Mr. Crocker asked to speak to Mr. Haines. I turned to go finish the clean up and after about five minutes of me just standing there trying to figure out the best way to tackle the remaining mess, Mr. Haines came out in a rush and all business while saying, “We’re in for a bad storm. The Ridge is hiding the build up but they got some hail in Bryson City and it looks to be heading this way. I was hoping we could leave these tables out but …”

    After that we kicked it into high gear. I’d managed to organize a little cleaning before everyone took off, and thankfully I made sure everyone took their dishes with them so I wasn’t responsible for cleaning them, but there was still all the trash and tables and leftovers to deal with. It was less planned campaign and more semi-organized retreat to get stuff out of the yard and into the kitchen. The wind had started to pick up half-way through and then the first cold drops of rain were falling as we dragged the last table into the shed they were kept in.

    We were both soaked by the time we made it back inside but I was laughing. Mr. Haines looked at me and then chuckled himself. “You’ve got a sunnier nature than you let on.”

    “Huh?” I asked as I tossed him a tea towel to match the one I was using to control the drips from my hair so I could pass into my bedroom without making a mess on the floors along the way.

    “Most women … most people for that matter … would be sputtering and hissing like a wet cat right about now.”

    I shrugged. “Rain happens. In Florida it happens a lot … at the drop of a hat … and sometimes with less warning than what we got. We managed to move everything out of the weather so I consider it all good. But if you don’t mind I am going to go change and then come back in the kitchen and deal with the rest of this. And didn’t you say that you had a ton of paperwork to do? I’ll keep it quiet so I don’t disturb you.”

    He sighed. “It is stacked about three feet high on the corner of my desk. And a little noise won’t bother me, it isn’t that type of work.”

    “Want a pot of coffee or a pot of tea?”

    “Coffee,” he answered though there was no enthusiasm to it.

    It was at that moment that the power flickered and then went off. There was some fancy cussing under his breath by Mr. Haines who told me to stay put while he found the lanterns.

    “They are in the office … er, my office … on one of the upper shelves … or at least the LED lanterns are. I changed the batteries out in them day before yesterday while I was going through my hurricane supplies. Hang on, I have a mini light on my key ring.”

    When the light came on Mr. Haines was a lot closer than I expected him to be and I jumped. He grinned and said, “Boo.”

    That time it was my turn to snort which only made him grin and say, “The ever-resourceful Ms. Field.”

    “Just experienced with wonky weather … and having to go out to my car after my shift at the grocery in the dark when they shut down half of the parking lot lights.”

    Using the light we walked back to the office and I pointed to the lanterns. We both jumped when a loud, explosive blast came from outside. Mr. Haines cursed and said, “Damn I hope that wasn’t the transformer. Just in case I need to secure a few things.”

    “Bernie and Reggie showed me the manual pump for the cistern but there are several gallon jugs of water off the pantry in case that is one of the things you want to take care of. If the power is going to be off for more than a day I’ll start canning things out of the freezer by lunch. I already have breakfast planned out … I was going to fry some slices of leftover pork and make breakfast sandwiches with it … and lunch can be whatever can be pulled together. Is there anything in particular we should be unplugging or whatever?”

    “Dammit!” he said in a rush. “I need to unplug the satellite.”

    Taking one of the lanterns and me praying he wouldn’t break his neck in the dark, he rushed towards the basement where there was a room that all of the electrical panels and connections were set up in. I could hear the wind really starting to whistle and after a pretty hard chill I decided I’d be best served by changing as I had planned. I stepped out of the bathroom to find Mr. Haines standing in the sitting area of the suite.

    “Oh!”

    “Sorry … didn’t mean to scare you.”

    “Uh … is there something else we need to do?”

    “Actually, if you wouldn’t mind, I could use some help with the shutters. I just need you to hold the lantern while I wrangle the rest of it.”

    “Third floor shutters have already been closed and locked. Bernie suggested it. And I closed the side shutters when some kids started up that game of stick ball and heard two balls hit the house.”

    “I’m definitely keeping you around. I should have thought of that.”

    “And how are you supposed to think of everything? Not to mention you were a little busy playing bartender and keeping your aunts entertained.”

    “Not exactly what I’d call what I was doing. Let’s get the rest of them shut … at least on the side facing the drive. That’s the direction the worst of the wind is coming from.”

    An hour later I was adamant that he keep the compress on his hand. He said, “It’s going to bruise either way.”

    Fussing I said, “You’re lucky those fingers aren’t broken. I can’t believe they aren’t with as hard as the wind whipped that shutter closed. Speaking of wind, what do the campers do when you get storms come through?”

    It took him a moment to catch up to my change in subject. “We don’t have too many tent or soft-side campers in our facilities. It is deep in bear habitat and it just isn’t worth the danger. People in the cabins should be fine. Hopefully the people in the RV lots will have had the sense to pick up anything they had set up outside. Anyone that is in a small trailer or camper will probably be told they can take some gear to the clubhouse. Hopefully this storm will subside quickly and won’t put too much debris in the water. We don’t need to lose a day of rafting at the beginning of the season … none of the local outfitters need that.”

    He’d been sitting in a recliner that had been too much trouble to move out when I moved my stuff in and started to stand up. I told him, “Unless you are going to try and work in the dark you might as well stay there and keep that hand elevated. I’m not sure you could get anything accomplished anyway.”

    “You don’t mind?”

    “What’s to mind?”

    “Me. Invading your domain.”

    “My what?”

    I could just barely make out a grin. “It’s what my mother called it. It was the only place my grandfather wouldn’t hunt her down.”

    I shrugged. “Doesn’t bother me and I need to keep an eye to make sure the swelling starts to go down. This time maybe I’ll call Dr. Perkins on you.”

    He gave a surprised laugh. “Still smarting about having the Vet work you over?”

    “I don’t know if I would call it smarting but you won’t ever find that little incident on my resume, that’s for sure.”

    Without either of us meaning to we both dozed until the phone rang about two in the morning. Out of habit I answered. “Haines residence.”

    “Shanna, this is George Crocker. I hate to bother you but Clint isn’t answering his phone and I need to give him a report of some damage.”

    “Of course. Just a moment.”

    I turned to hand Mr. Haines the phone only to watch him whack his hand accidentally taking it down off the pillows it had been on. He said a loud curse but followed it with a grumbled, “’Scuse my French.”

    By way of explanation since the silence on the other end of the phone meant that Mr. Crocker had heard I said, “A shutter snapped closed on his hand. It is a nasty shade of purple at the moment but I don’t think anything is broken but a couple of the fingers could be sprained.”

    “I’m in the damn room you know,” he snapped.

    “Now you know how I felt after the ignominious pig incident. I’ll fix you some tea to go with another painkiller shall I.”

    He groaned, “Oh, don’t start that.”

    Ignoring him I handed him the phone and then went into the office and got my candle burner … a small water heater that had as its fuel source votive candles. I turned to find Mr. Haines standing in the door way still talking. He cradled the phone against his ear and contrary to what he had said earlier, gratefully took the mild pain pill and washed it down with an herbal tea of kava kava and feverfew. He made a face at the bitterness but had come to trust me when it came to finding something to help his headaches.

    He said into the phone, “Encourage everyone to get a few hours of sleep. If the rangers think the rafting should be fine then we’ll go with that. Glad there was no damage in the camp ground, sounds like it was worse here at the Big House than on that side of the Estate. I’ll be out as soon as I can. Yeah … you too.”

    I took the phone from him so he could use the warmth from the cup to soothe his hand which was obviously still causing him some pain.

    “The power station here on the Estate made it through the storm without any problem but the lines from town are down due to a slide. Don’t know how long it is going to take to get things restored. And restoration is also going to depend on finding out if that kapow we heard earlier was a transformer or a tree being hit by lightning.”

    I was already rearranging what I had planned to do. He noticed and said, “I admire your tenacity but we should both gets some sleep. If you need me I’m going to bed down on the office sofa.”

    “How are you going to sleep like that?”

    “Pretty well actually. Before you moved in I spent about half my nights in there. With no AC and unable to open the windows because of the rain, those upstairs bedrooms can get more than warm.”

    “Oh. You … you can go back to sleep in the recliner if it would be better. It would certainly make elevating your hand easier. Plus the windows here have screens and then we can also open the transom window above the … er … I … I mean …”

    Quietly Mr. Haines said, “If you really don’t mind … I … I used to sleep in this chair when Mom … she got sick you see and I used to sit with her. Here.”

    “You want another cup of tea?”

    “No,” was all he said before he slowly sat back in the chair and leaned back. He closed his eyes and in no time he was asleep. What is strange is that none of it triggered the alarms you would think such a scenario would cause. I trust Mr. Haines. I can’t tell you why, especially not on such short acquaintance. But I do. Maybe we have some things in common and that seems almost as strange as trusting him does. Either way I think I’ll be able to go to sleep as quickly and easily as Mr. Haines did.
    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

  37. #157
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    eastern West Tennessee
    Posts
    340
    Thank you for more!!!!!!

    I hope you writing this story is as therapeutic for you as it is for us to read it. It has already improved this rainy Saturday morning for me.
    The difference between being smart and being wise:
    Being smart is learning from your own mistakes.
    Being wise is learning from the mistakes of others.
    My life has given others many opportunities to be wise.

  38. #158
    Wonder if there is a cure for an overdose of good writing?

  39. #159
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Location
    nw mountains
    Posts
    3,861
    I was planning on saving some for tonight but found myself reading sig lines and comments before I realized that I had read it all. Smooth writing thank you.
    The word Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. George Carlin

  40. #160
    Join Date
    Apr 2014
    Location
    eastern West Tennessee
    Posts
    340
    Quote Originally Posted by Mr Bill View Post
    Wonder if there is a cure for an overdose of good writing?
    Who would want to find out?????
    The difference between being smart and being wise:
    Being smart is learning from your own mistakes.
    Being wise is learning from the mistakes of others.
    My life has given others many opportunities to be wise.

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