Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chapter Forty-Four

Chapter 44

September 8th – I’m finally getting back on my feet and feeling human only now Rand is sick. Mr. Henderson came by today and said about half his men and their families are still down or going down. I was glad that Mr. Henderson came by because I could finally tell someone that not only was Rand sick but I had Pastor Ken here and sick as well.

When I told him that Mr. Henderson looked relieved, “Well thank God we know where he is at. Everyone had started to believe the worst.” He showed me what I needed to do for Hatchet and the mules and moved a feed sack where I could get to it more easily. I worried about him being sick with it but he said that he’d been a little off for about twenty-four hours but that’s all. He’s pretty sure that it was the church service where we all picked it up at. Grouching in his usual fashion, “Probably those blasted, snotty-nosed Bradford kids sneezing on everything. Allergies my Aunt Fanny’s fanny. Martha Bradford just didn’t want to have to stay home by herself with ‘em again while that next to useless husband of hers got into who knows what.”

I started feeling bad on Monday night but didn’t really realize what it was. I put it down to being upset and my monthlies being late - stress does that to me real easy - but by Tuesday morning though I just didn’t feel good at all. I tried to get around but at lunch time I had trouble even getting out to the barn to tell Rand that his food was ready. Whatever this is it isn’t the flu. I’ve had the flu twice and this doesn’t have the aches and pains like the flu did.

Pastor Ken is on the mend, just really tired, and when he is awake he likes to talk. One of the things he has said is that this is just some kind of fast moving virus and it has hit everyone so hard because of the physical stress we are all under. Poor nutrition, skimping on the personal hygiene, all the extra physical labor … you name it and we were sitting ducks.

I told Rand I was going to sit down for a while and didn’t get anything but a, “Yeah, OK.” That kind of hurt my feelings but he looked pretty hang dog, like he was feeling bad about something. I just didn’t really feel like talking so I went back inside and was going to write a little bit in my journal but I don’t know what happened, The next thing I remember Rand was lifting me up and taking off my clothes and I was upset by that because it made me cold. I know he was talking to me but I was so tired I couldn’t figure it out so I gave up and went back to sleep.

I woke up again the next day … that would have been Wednesday … with Rand still dressed but asleep and laying across the bed all funny. I had to get up for nature’s reasons but nothing wanted to work right. I had to wrap myself in the sheet because I couldn’t find my clothes and didn’t know where my nightgown had got to. I was coming out of the bathroom after working my way downstairs and Rand was standing so close the pocket door when it opened that he scared me to pieces and I just started to cry for some stupid reason. He was talking at me again but all I remember is wanting to lie down and go back to sleep.

I woke during the night to hear two people talking and coughing. I was in my parents’ bed and Rand must have put a nightgown on me. The house was dark and I stubbed my toe on the door frame trying to find my way out. Finally I saw the glow of one of the lamps in the great room and it was Pastor Ken and Rand. Both of them wobbled when they stood up when they saw me and it took a couple of minutes for my brain cells to connect but I finally realized they were getting sick too.

Rand kept on asking me if I was all right and touching my face and saying that he had some broth in the carafe if I was hungry. I kept telling him I was fine but he didn’t seem to want to listen to that. Finally everyone just turned in for the rest of the night.

When I woke the next morning … yesterday … both of them were burning up with fever. I wasn’t feeling so hot myself but I couldn’t just do nothing so I managed to force a couple of acetaminophen tablets down their throats with some water without choking them to death; dealing with the sick kids at the warehouse gave me skills I hope I don’t have to use too often in this life. That took most of my energy but then I realized that the animals hadn’t been taken care of.

Woofer and Fraidy were both on the porch when I finally managed to get the doors opened and nearly knocked me down they were so happy to see me. Woofer did his silly chasing his tail thing and Fraidy twined between my legs and if I hadn’t grabbed the front porch pillar I would have flat out hit the ground. I got lucky and the barn doors were closed but the roll downs weren’t. I don’t think I could have wound them up enough to get anyone of them out except the birds maybe. I finally got the doors unbolted and open and Pretty Boy came out and then the hens came out … and the broody hen must have finally managed to hatch what she was sitting on because there were two little chicks. Mother Hen is so funny … she strutted around worse that Pretty Boy ever had she was so proud of what she had done. I made sure their run was open in case they felt like going in there and tossed some millet and some cracked corn in there for good measure since I didn’t know how long since they had been fed.

Hatchet obeyed me for once and let me lead him and the mules out to the corral. I think it was when I told him that if he wanted some water he would need to go to the corral. Pumping water and bringing it around by the bucketful from the summer kitchen was too much for me so I cracked into one of the rain barrels to water all of the animals. It’s amazing how much they will drink on a hot day. Frankly I wanted to stand there and slurp from the trough too by the time I got it filled.

I went back inside and checked on Rand and Pastor Ken and they were sleeping. I forced some more water down their throats … I don’t think they appreciated it too much at the time as they wore as much as they drank … and then went in search of the broth that I remembered Rand telling me about last night. It was lukewarm but frankly I didn’t care because suddenly I was very hungry. I took a pot of water and set it on the pot belly and got a fire going. And then I spotted the garden and nearly had a panic attack. I limped out there and sure enough, some of the plants looked like if they didn’t get a drink of water quick they were done for.

I couldn’t carry as much water as I was normally able to so it took twice as long to get everything watered but the plants perked up real fast so I knew they hadn’t been as bad off as I had feared. Then I had to limp back to the stove to save the pot from boiling dry. I added more water and sat for a moment trying to think what else I needed to do. The water had just boiled and I was trying to work through my fuzzy brain when Rand stumbled out of the house. He looked bad enough to scare me and it took what little bit of energy I had left to get him back inside and tucked in bed.

Pastor Ken had woke up too so I gave him more water, more pills and practically begged him to stay put because I couldn’t manage him and Rand wandering loose at the same time. “I think I’ll take you up on that if you don’t mind,” is all he said and went back to sleep.

I sat on the front porch swing and dozed. I woke up when Woofer growled at something but I never could figure out what it was. The rest of the day pretty much went like that and I was very grateful for the sun to start lowering. I put the animals up with Woofer’s help. Hatchet was in a mood. I expect whatever had made Woofer growl set him off too. Something had spooked me and I dropped the rolldowns on the barn doors just to be on the safe side and locked them too with the hasp locks that get used even less that the rolldowns do.

I woke up the next morning to find that one of the rain barrels had had a hole punched in it and a couple of the other ones had been deliberately turned over. I was glad whoever it was hadn’t done more damage or hadn’t been able to get to any more of our stuff. When I bothered to look I saw several sets of funny looking shoe prints. They had tracks that looked like tire prints.

It wasn’t long after that that Mr. Henderson showed up. When I showed him the tracks before he left he said, “Gotcha!” like an old time TV detective. I hope he has figured out who the trouble maker is because as little loss as it seems we’ve taken compared to others putting a hole in one of our barrels was just meanness and emptying the water could be a serious problem if we don’t get some rain pretty soon.

I managed to get Rand and Pastor Ken to eat something today … I fixed scrambled eggs and biscuits. They slept most of the time and that seems to be what helped me the most so I left them to it. We all did have a treat for dinner. The cantaloupes that I planted are finally ready for harvest, well some of them are anyway. If I’m right, a bunch of them are going to be ripe tomorrow and I want to can a couple of things.

I didn’t do much today but I’m so tired I feel like I must have weeded the garden and canned all day long too. I’m going to sleep out on the sofa tonight with Woofer in case something or someone comes around again.


September 9th – Rand is up and around … sort of … and Mr. Henderson has taken Pastor Ken to his place. I spent a nice “relaxing” day cleaning all of the sheets and stuff that have been used and scrubbing bathrooms and anything else I could think of. Everywhere I went Rand kind of followed me around looking like a lost puppy. I guess he isn’t used to being sick.

I tried to get him to stay put on the sofa with a book or on the porch swing but that lasted all of about two seconds each time. I finally got him to stay put long enough that he went to sleep when I started canning the cantaloupe and gave him a bowl of the chunks I had cut up to eat.

I have several pounds of cantaloupe sitting in bowls in the summer kitchen soaking in sugar and tomorrow I’ll convert it to Cantaloupe Preserves. I’m also going to make a cantaloupe pie tomorrow since we got word from Mr. Henderson that one or more of the Crenshaws plan on dropping by. They had the virus run through their house too but mostly as a twenty-four hour bug and not quite as bad as Rand and I seem to have had it.

We need a name for this new communication system we have. Maybe the Henderson Phone or something. So long as word gets to Mr. Henderson or one of his patrols the word will eventually get where it is supposed to go. I don’t mind precisely and I do appreciate it, it just feels weird having someone know so much of my business.

Today I managed to can a couple of batches of Spicy Melon Pickles. First combine three cups of vinegar, two cups of water with the following spices in a large sauce pot and bring it to a boil: 2 sticks cinnamon, 2 t. whole cloves, 1 t. whole allspice, and 1 t. ground nutmeg. Reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes. Remove from heat; add thirteen cups of cubed melon; and let stand 1½ to 2 hours. Add four and a half cups of sugar to sauce pot and bring everything to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce the heat and simmer for forty-five minutes or until the cantaloupe chunks becomes slightly transparent. Pack the melon into hot jars, leaving a quarter inch headspace. Pour hot syrup left in the pan over the chunks, leaving a quarter inch headspace this time too. Remove air bubbles. Adjust caps then process for ten minutes in boiling water bath. Each batch only makes five jars but I think the two batches will be enough to last. Not everyone likes them but I grew up eating them.

Momma used to make a relish tray up when we had company over and it would be full of things she canned during the year. If I knew when people were gonna just drop by I’d try and do the same thing. The pie is going to have to do for tomorrow though. I’m just not up for much else.


September 10th – Count me knocked over with a feather. It was Brendon who came by to check on things. I could tell he’d lost weight and like Rand, it didn’t look good on him. Maybe I just don’t like skinny guys or something. He, Alicia and Tommy had been the main caretakers out their way. It wasn’t just the Crenshaws that came down sick. Just about everybody on their farm road had people down with this bug; most are doing better but there are some people that just can’t seem to recover.

Mrs. Winston isn’t doing well at all and Brendon said she isn’t fooling around about it. She looks like she’s had some kind of attack. Her color is off and her breathing is funny. She is sitting up on the front porch now but she can’t seem to be bothered to even do her hair which isn’t like her at all. Mr. Winston and JR don’t seem to know what to do for her. I sent a basket of plums and some grapes and a cantaloupe and a jar of blackberry shrub. Brendon and Rand gave me a funny look but I’m just trying to do what Momma would have done. She was just like that and I figure there might be some things that I can do to be like her without endangering the rest of who I am. Besides, I’m not talking about becoming best buds with the woman, I just don’t like to see people suffer. I’ve been through it enough in my life myself and it isn’t anything to gloat over.

Brendon and Rand each ate a good sized slice of the pie I made. It’s pretty easy to make but Momma only made it when we had fresh cantaloupes from our own garden. She said the ones in the store were too expensive and were never ripe enough to suit her. You start by mixing two tablespoons of flour with one cup sugar and then cream it with a quarter cup butter and two eggs. I used real eggs since not all the hens seem inclined to be mommas and walk away from their nests long enough for me to snag the egg or two I find every couple of days. Next you stir in two cups of cooked and mashed cantaloupe and add a pinch of salt. Next you are supposed to line a pie pan with plain pastry and bake until half done in moderate oven. I made a pat-in-the-pan crust since I haven’t got the hang of making a pie crust yet that doesn’t taste like beat up cardboard. While the crust is getting a little brown on it, you cook the sugar, butter, and egg mixture until it begins to thicken. Add one teaspoon of vanilla extract to that and then pour into half-baked shell and bake in moderate oven until everything is golden brown on top.

I was glad that Brendon came over because Rand still had that hang dog look on his face. I was hoping that maybe Brendon could cheer him up … or irritate him … something to make him not depressed. I asked Brendon to check on him because he wasn’t talking to me much. While I made up the cantaloupe preserves that were calling my name they went for a walk to check on the easement field and then when they got back Rand went to the barn just long enough for Brendon to say to me, “He’s all right. But, if he gets up the nerve to talk to you just hear him out. I think he’s being an idiot myself but since I’m not in y’alls shoes what do I know?”

Of course that just confused the heck out of me even more. So after Brendon left I waited and waited and waited for Rand to talk to me about whatever is bothering him. But he wouldn’t. Finally after dinner he just went out to the barn again. It was getting late and I was worried when he hadn’t come in so I went out only he was just sitting there on the hay bales. I know sometimes I just need alone time and I thought I would walk away and leave him to it but then when I was half way back to the house I had to turn around. The whole “woe is me” thing was starting to bother me a lot. I had to know if he was really sorry we had gotten married or not.

I may not have mentioned it before but I don’t like heights but I didn’t have any choice but to climb that stupid ladder because I wasn’t going to shout up to him.

“What?”

“It’s getting late. Are you coming in?”

“In a little while.”

I almost turned tail and gave up but I figured it was better to know now rather than later.

“Look, I have to ask you something and I really want a true answer, not just what you figure I want to hear OK?”

All I got was a grunt.

“Rand, are you sorry you married me?”

“No. Are you sorry you married me?”

“No, but … look, I know I don’t know much about all this relationship stuff but it seems like every time I turn around the last little bit I’m doing something wrong. Wait. Let me finish ‘cause I’m running out of courage and I don’t know if I’m going to like the answer I get or not. I made you mad somehow last Sunday and I’m pretty sure I embarrassed you and I really didn’t mean to do whatever it was I did and now you are acting all depressed and stuff and I just don’t know what to do. You say you’re not sorry you married me but I can’t think what else it could be.”

He just looked at me, not saying anything, and I finally did run out of courage and I started climbing down the ladder.

“Kiri. Kiri, don’t. Come back.”

But I couldn’t just sit there anymore. I’m not very good at waiting for the other shoe to drop or whatever you call it. Rand started coming down the ladder but he is still weak from being sick. I’m not one hundred percent but I can move faster than he can. I ran to the orchard to hide and I thought he’d gotten the message that I just couldn’t handle anymore for a while but then Woofer came to lick my face and then run off again. Traitor. He led Rand right to me.

“Kiri, I know you heard me calling you.”

“Yeah? So? I just … leave me alone Rand. I got my answer and now I’m trying to deal with it.”

“I never answered you.”

“Yes you did. You didn’t have to spell it out any louder. I’m sorry you feel that way. If you just give me a little time I’ll try and figure out how to fix this. I never meant to make you miserable.”

“You don’t make me miserable,” he said while he tried to put his arm around me.

“Don’t Rand. Just don’t. I’ve seen how you’ve been. You weren’t like that before so that means that either I’ve done something or you’ve changed your mind. Either way it isn’t fair to you to make that kind of sacrifice and …”

“Kiri would you shut up and let me get a word in? Come here. I’m too tired to chase you and you don’t need to be running around either. You scared me to death. I couldn’t … you wouldn’t wake up.”

“Well, that’s not my fault.”

“Kiri, please … just let me try and … I’ve made a mess of things. No! I mean it Kiri, no running off. Just sit here with me please. Thank you. Look, first I need to apologize. I should have on Monday but I just wasn’t ready for you to see why I was upset.”

“I still don’t understand what I did that was so wrong. I mean I know I can be embarrassing and … “

“Kiri you didn’t embarrass me. I just … I was … look … “

I sat there and tried really hard to wait and listen to him but I was getting the squirms so bad I could sit still.

“Look, I thought you were flirting with that guy … Ram or whatever his name is.”

“What?! One, why would I do something so totally stupid as that and two, what have I ever done to make you think I’d ever do something so totally stupid?!!! And don’t you dare compare me to Julia or I swear Rand I’ll hit you or something.”

But the look on his face was enough to tell me that is exactly what he had been doing. It didn’t make me mad like I expected, instead it did something worse. It made me feel like my heart was breaking.

“Kiri, please … please … I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what Rand? For thinking I’m a cheating … well, a not nice girl? I promised that I would be loyal to you forever. I promised I would. I gave my word. What kind of person do you think I am that I would break my word like that? And to you of all people?!”

“What do you mean to me of all people?”

“What do you think I mean Rand?! I trusted you enough to marry you!! And do all that stuff we do!!! Now to find out that you don’t … that you think … “

If he hadn’t wrapped both arms around me I would have run off. And if he hadn’t been sick I would have done something to make him let go of me but even then I couldn’t , not to him.

“Why did you marry me Kiri?”

“What do you mean why did I … Rand I told you before. I trusted you more than anyone else since my parents. I wanted us to keep our home and be able to stay here without people taking it away from us.”

“Taking it away from you. This is all yours and … Ow! Dang it, that hurt! I don’t have my boots on girl. You probably broke my toes!”

“I hope I did you big dope! I’m getting so sick of this stupid fight. I am done with it. If you tell me this place is just mine one more time it won’t just be your toes I stomp on!! Just like with the stupid money. It’s ours and if you say one word otherwise you are going to like me even less than you already do.”

“Kiri …”

“Don’t Rand, I’m warning you. The way I feel right now I could just explode all over you and everyone else for miles and miles and miles around. I don’t know what I keep doing wrong but that part I know isn’t wrong. Sometimes it feels like that is the only thing I’m doing right. This … is … ours … and I’m not arguing about it anymore!!!!”

“OK … OK … come here. Come on … come here.”

There wasn’t really enough room for both of us on the little bench so I wound up having to half sit on his lap which made me uncomfortably aware of just how close he was.

“Kiri, I wasn’t really thinking about how you would feel to think that I thought … this is getting ridiculous. Kiri, look at me please. I was jealous. I was jealous of your friend Ram. Then the next day I found out that he was married and that the only way he talked about you to anyone else was like an annoying little sister … he was fond of you but that was it. Then … but … Kiri I didn’t want you to know I was jealous.”

“Well I don’t know why you would even think anybody would want me … you see the kind of trouble I’ve been for you … but I understand even less why you would think I that like Ram enough to mess up our friendship and stuff.”

“It’s about that ‘friendship and stuff’ that you keep saying.”

That hurt my feelings some more. “You mean you … you … you don’t want … to be my friend?”

“Yes, I want to be your friend.”

“Rand this is just confusing. I wish you would just come out and say what you mean because I’ve told you and told you I don’t know how to play these games!”

Then he grabbed my face, turned it me towards him, looked me straight in the eye and said, “I was jealous because … because … I love you Kiri. That’s it. I’m an idiot and I don’t want to scare you off but there it is. I love you.”

I remember feeling like the Grinch in the cartoon by Dr. Seuss … a heart several sizes too small suddenly growing so much my chest could barely hold it all in. I turned around in Rand’s arms and hugged him with so much enthusiasm the bench went toppling backwards but I didn’t care. He wasn’t mad at me. He wasn’t leaving me. He LOVED me!!!! I couldn’t stop laughing, only I was crying at the same time which was dorky but I didn’t care.

But unlike those silly romance books rolling around in the grass is not without consequences. The skeeters found us real fast and we had to get up which was a little embarrassing for me ‘cause I’d come all undone somehow. We hurried and locked up the barn and got into the house before we completely got drunk dry by the flying devils. And despite it all, even with the best of intentions, all we could do was cuddle since we’d both just got over been so sick.

“Are you sure you don’t … I mean … I know you are pretty young and you could change your … “

“Rand … I really, really, really don’t want to have to move and stomp your toes again. And in case you haven’t figured it out yet I love you too. I just didn’t think you wanted anything like that from me.”

“Kiri I swear we must both be crazy. Whatever the future holds let’s go on being crazy as long as it is for each other.”

And within a few minutes he was snoring again. I didn’t know whether to giggle or hit him with a pillow. But this is … this is even bigger than getting married was. I thought I was going to have to keep my love quiet and to myself and be careful not even to write it down on paper so I wouldn’t run him off or embarrass him. He didn’t think he had anything to offer me … as if. Geez, Rand just doesn’t get it sometimes. I have a feeling I have my work cut out for me with him. In a lot of ways he is really great, he makes me feel great, but it makes me mad at Julia all over again to think about why he thinks he doesn’t have much to offer me. I’m just going to prove her wrong. She was dumb enough to do what she did but I’m not going to be that dumb … ever. Rand and I are married and we aren’t just best friends we love each other too.


September 11th – Patriot Day. Pretty ironic if you think about it. Or pretty well planned on purpose. Mitch came by this morning early enough that the coffee was still hot but I could tell something was bad wrong right away by how white his face was. I screamed for Rand and he came running from the barn. Sometimes you just … know. I can’t explain it. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear it.

The sitting president of the USA has been assassinated as have several of the remaining ranking officials. Some group of foreigners tried to take over the US but they’ve mostly been killed off by the military forces. They are trying to gather all of the remaining people eligible to take over as president and hide them away some place. There have also been large explosions around the world. Nothing nuclear yet but who knows what will be coming next?

No continent has been spared and given their timing they had to be from the same group … bombs went off in strategic plances all over Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Egypt on the African continent, there were several in France, Saudi Arabia, and a bunch of other places. England no, but one went off in Belfast for some reason. They found one set to go off in the London underground by accident and it was disarmed right before the others went off all over the world. Here in the US there was one in NY, one in Sacramento, Portland and Tampa; that’s all we know of for sure though several big dams were supposed to have suddenly disintegrated too which would be an awful big coincidence to swallow. Mexico City got two and someone was hacked off at Venezuela for some reason because they got four in the capital alone.

Information is still coming in but they aren’t sure how this is going to affect things. Everybody keeps saying they are “localized” events. They’ve said too many times that none of them were nuclear for everyone not to think that maybe some of them were, but we don’t know for sure.

Rand and I haven’t taken any chances we’ve been moving things around but who knows what is going to happen. It is hard to believe that a little place like Live Oak could be a target but there is lots of noise about it being Islamic extremist or anarchist or … well, there have been too many or’s to be honest. There is an Islamnic Center between here and Lake City and that has a lot of people watching things real close. Who knows what is going on. Rand said as hard as it is going to be we are just going to have to wait and see. There is no polite way to say how much I hate that being true.

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