Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chapter Seventy

Chapter 70

December 26th – Too wet and windy to butcher. Part of me is glad. It took me a long time to get going this morning. As much as I liked the burgoo yesterday I think it was too rich for me or I should have eaten last night or something. I woke up fine but right in the middle of cooking breakfast the smell was just too much for me. I had to keep swallowing and I was a whole cup of tea before my stomach settled down.

That wasn’t the worst of it though. I was fine and dandy again and Rand and I had just finished eating breakfast. I picked up the plates to take them to the dish pan in the sink and when I turned … it had been a long time since I’d had something like that happen. It felt like someone stuck a hot poker in one of the deep scars that is down low on my stomach, the one that aches sometimes during my monthlies.

If the plates had been anything other than speckleware they would have shattered when they hit the floor. As it is my favorite tea cup is history. I went from standing up and joking with Rand to on the floor on my knees, forehead on the floor trying to catch my breath without moving any more than necessary.

Rand knocked his chair over backwards rushing to my side. His face was white as a sheet when I was finally able to turn my head and look at him square.

“I’m all right. Just help me to stand up please. I could … oh geez, that stings.”

“Just hang on Babe. I’ll run to get Ken and … “

“No! No. I know what it is, it has just been forever since it happened. Just help me up.”

He wouldn’t hear of me sitting in the chair and picked me up and carried me to our bed. “Rand, you don’t need to … oh … oh … yeah, that feels lot’s better. Just help me … yeah … like that.”

“What the Sam Hill happened?! Are you sure you’re OK?”

“Yeah. I have a deep scar on the left side and I guess I turned the wrong way and … the scar gets kind of hard or set I guess you want to call it. When I turned I guess I stretched it and it caught me off guard.”

“Which one?”

“Hey. Hey!! Your hands are cold! The one on my left. No, not that one. It’s further down. Uh … yeah … um … that one. Rand! “

“Stop blushing Babe, you make me feel like a dirty old man and I’m your husband. Does it still hurt?”

“I can’t stop myself from blushing, that’s just me. And yes it is still sore so stop poking. No! You are not going to go get Ken. Having you look at these nasty scars is as much as I can take. I refuse to try and explain … “

He got down in my face and said, “Every … single … scar … every one of them … is beautiful to me because they mean you survived. That’s all I care about Kiri. If you think I like the idea of some other man seeing you I can promise you I don't but Ken is a doctor … or as close to one as we’ve got around here. And I am going to go get him, this could be your appendix, you haven’t been feeling too hot.”

“The appendix is on the right side. And I don’t have one. I don’t have a spleen either. I’m also missing about a yard or so of my intestines and a few other bits and pieces on my inside. I’m telling you Rand, I’d know if I was really sick. I’ve just been wound up and it settled in my stomach. I might need to lay off drinking so much tea or something. And we haven’t had as many fresh veggies the last few weeks as I got used to eating. I might need to add some fiber or something to my diet if I can figure out how. Really. Please Rand. I … I … I really don’t want to have Ken … you know … see or … touch … me. I … please Rand. Please don’t. I promise that I’ll be fine.”

We went back and forth for a few more minutes which gave the rain time to come back and really start coming down. “All right but if it happens again Kiri, I swear I don’t care if it is the middle of the night and I have to ride all the way to Blitchton to get him. You scared me to death. AND you aren’t doing anything else but staying in this bed.”

“What?! That’s … that’s … “

“That’s the way it is going to be. As a matter of fact,” he said taking off his boots. “I’ll stay here to make sure you don’t sneak off and find something to get into. Getting you to sit still is worse than trying to harness a bumble bee.”

So guess what? I’ve been stuck in this bed listening to Rand’s snores most of the day. The first time he fell asleep I got up to go get my crochet bag and turned around to find him standing there with his hands on his hips. “Are you trying to give me a heart attack on purpose?”

He marched me straight back to bed. I eventually fell asleep myself but woke up when my scar started twinging again but it was nowhere near as bad as it was this morning. Rand had gotten up and taken care of the animals and heated up a jar of chicken broth and made a pan of cornbread. He did let me get up and eat because neither one of us can stand crumbs in the bed but after lunch we went straight back to bed. Wasn’t anything we could have done outside anyway with the way it was raining. And it was a cold rain too which just made it nicer to stay inside.

It felt like I was starving to death by dinner time. Rand was so excited by that that he let me help him fix venison stroganoff using some of the powdered sour cream and mushroom soup base out of our long term storage with some canned venison and we served it over some of the LTS egg noodles. I don’t know why I was so hungry all of a sudden, it’s not like I’d done any work today.

Rand checked on the animals, none had really wanted to go out into the rain and I couldn’t blame them. Even Woofer and Fraidy decided to stay in the barn where it was warm and Rand had given Woofer a bone he’d snuck off from the pile left over from butchering the cows. Rand told me it was no time before Woofer had it cracked open and getting to the marrow inside. Makes me realize that I never want a dog to really bite into me.

Rand is in long johns and I’m in an old flannel gown that used to be Momma’s. It’s weird looking in the mirror, I can almost see her in my own reflection. Rand is banking the fire in the woodstove so I guess he wants to turn the lamp off and get some sleep. Now that it has stopped raining the cold is really setting in again and Rand says that he’s going to go to Uncle George’s tomorrow.

Hmmmm. He said that “he” was going to Uncle George’s. I have a feeling it is going to take some convincing to get him to not pitch a fit when I decide I’m going too.


December 27th – Today would have been Daddy’s birthday. I don’t know how I could have let it slip up on me like this. I cried a little but not where Rand saw although I wound up having to explain anyway when he noticed my red nose. I could have told him it was the cold but that would have been lying.

And it was cold; glory was it cold, down in the twenties easy. It got a little better once the sun came out but it never did get much above forty degrees. Uncle George said cold snaps as mean as this one were rare; it was every bit of twenty-five or thirty years since we’d had like this in December. Usually the worst weather is in January. The burn barrels set around the yard helped but the heat didn’t radiate far. And the men scrubbing the hogs roasted on one side and froze on the other.

I looked around for Mrs. Withrow but didn’t see her. Mick caught me looking and said, “Missus W is sitting with some lady that just lost her husband over in Poucher’s Corner. Some kind of kin to her husband is what Dad said. Kiri, Rand said you were the one that knitted the scarf. I … I know I’m thirteen and was too old for the Christmas tree but … anyway I wanted to say thank you. Tommy likes his too and because they are different colors we won’t get them mixed up. Tommy and I … we meant to make you something for Christmas but … um … “

“Thank you and it’s OK. You were some of my first friends, that was like an early Christmas present.”

I don’t know who was more embarrassed him or me, but he was being sweet … for a thirteen year old boy. I keep forgetting how old he is because he is small for his age. Rand told me that Mick was a preemie and has always run on the small side. Tommy is two years younger than him and slight for his age too. They may be small for their age but they sure do their share of the work. They lifted and toted and still managed to find some time to walk Hatchet around. Rand didn’t want them riding him because of the cold weather but they did lead him around the corral more than a few times and then rubbed him down and brushed him out before putting a blanket over him.

We all worked hard today. It took me forever to get Rand to stop checking up on me. Alicia finally asked what was wrong and I had to tell her.

“Ouch! Are you sure that’s all it was?”

“Yeah. I wasn’t even sick this morning, not really, and I’m hardly sore. I swear you would think that my head had fallen off the way he is carrying on.”

Alicia got a laugh out of that and next time Rand came to check on me she busted down in giggles which left Rand looking at her like she’d lost a few IQ points which only made her giggle harder.

It wasn’t all fun and giggles. The work was hard, harder than it was before because we were all bundled up. And on top of that that strange man named Lemuel came back claiming Rand owed him “compensation” for hurting him because now he wasn’t able to work.

Rand, not much in the mood for it asked, “Not able to work huh? So what was your excuse before? You said you weren’t able to work then either. And you seem to be walking pretty good ‘cause I know for a fact that you live a good three miles from here even cutting across fields.”

Lemuel got all puffed up and squeaked and squawked but in the end he went away empty handed and acting pathetic. Bill came over as I was taking some fat to the lard kettle and told me, “You make sure Rand watches his back. That old boy has been trying to pull something over on anyone that he can. We won't let him trade at The Shack anymore until he pays the tab he ran up. He’s conniving and has probably made his way in life like this up ‘til now and still can’t figure out why it isn’t working any more.” Great, like I need something else to worry about.

We brought home all of our jars today. Uncle George was worried about them freezing out in the barn. Honestly I’m glad I didn’t have to ask him for them because I wanted to bring them home anyway. I didn't want a scene and that's what I was afraid we were going to get.

It was getting so cold it was hard to work so we left the meat to hang in the near freezing butcher shed, packed up our stuff and came home a couple of hours earlier than we had expected to. We also brought home the cured hams and shoulders and they are hung in the smokehouse … with the thick doors padlocked shut.


December 28th – Busy, busy, busy. Mrs. Withrow kept saying we needed to sit and talk but there wasn’t any time and when one of the kids – a boy named Robert - got a bad splatter with hot lard, she was busy tending to him up until it was time for us to leave. Too tired to write more. Gosh this butchering work is hard.


December 29th – Was able to avoid Mrs. Withrow again. I’m rethinking whether I want to be in that Ladies’ Auxiliary. I’ve been working on my list of things that I need to do as soon as the butchering is over with. No way am I going to have time to be involved in some social club.


December 30th – Ahhhhh. We made it. Today was the last butchering day. Tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and Rand and I plan on staying at home and working the kinks out of our joints. Besides it is warming up a little bit and I’m sure the animals need to be outside for a few hours of daylight beyond what comes in from the loft windows. And you don’t want to know how bad the barn needs to be raked out and fresh hay and bedding put down. Ugh.


December 31st – They’re crazy. Every one of them is flat out crazy. No way. Absolutely, positively no way it can be true.


January 1st – I think … it can’t be true but even Pastor Ken … what a way to start the new year. How could this have possibly happened?!


January 2nd – Rand is upset. He thinks that I don’t want to be. It isn’t that. It isn’t that at all. I mean, I’m not sure how I feel about it but it’s not because I don’t want to be. Now his feelings are hurt and I’m upset that he thinks that I don’t want his … I still can’t say it. I just …


January 3rd – OK, this is ridiculous. Well, not ridiculous exactly but … pretty unbelievable. OK, maybe not unbelievable but it sure as heck is shocking. I’m too young. Aren’t I? What if I’m not good at it? I could totally mess of some little innocent …

I guess I better start at the beginning before I get so wound up I don’t make any sense at all. I’m pretty close to that as it is.

On New Year’s Eve Rand and I mapped out some work that needed doing. We put some compost on the garden and plowed it one more time. We marked all the rows and put mulch between them. I had plans to put the first seeds in the ground on the first, kind of like for good luck but I’ve been so turned around I would have planted the hoe and hung the seeds in the shed.

I was feeling really good and then Mrs. Withrow, Momma O, Mrs. DeLois, and Pastor Ken all show up a little after lunch. I knew right away that something was up but I couldn’t begin to imagine what would bring out the big guns like that. Pastor Ken said he was going to go say howdy to Rand who was checking the fence around the cow pasture where a limb had come down on it. That left me alone with the ladies.

None of them had ever been back to our house much less inside and I was nervous about it but it didn’t seem to be the house they were interested in though they were polite and nodded about how nice and neat everything was.

Momma O started by saying, “I’ve heard you’ve been missing a certain talk and on purpose too if I don’t miss my guess.”

Mrs. DeLois tried to come to my aid by saying, “Now Momma … “

“Don’t Momma me DeLois, this can’t continue.”

All I could do was sit there with my mouth hanging open. I couldn’t imagine what I had done to get into trouble this time and I was racking my brains trying to think of something to say.

“Don’t bother denying it child. And no, you aren’t in trouble, at least not the kind you seem to be thinking of,” Mrs. Withrow chided.

“Well, I’ll admit I don’t have a clue what is going on. This can’t be over the Ladies’ Auxiliary surely,” I stammered. “I don’t want to be rude but, if it isn’t that what am I in trouble for?”

“Child, didn’t I already say you aren’t in trouble? But … my lands. Kiri Joiner, I’m gonna ask you something and I don’t want you getting all pruned faced at me for prying. Not a one of us mean any harm. But it seems to me … well … you’ve had a rather … unconventional upbringing the last few years and you might not … Oh for Heaven’s sake, I’m gonna feel plum foolish if I’m wrong. Kiri you … well, have you been feeling … unwell lately?”

I sure didn’t know what business it was of theirs but I could think of a good enough reason not to tell them. “I’ve been a little … busy … and when I get stressed out it … settles in my stomach. I still don’t see … “

“Girl, don’t get so defensive,” Momma O said with a snort. “I could hardly believe it myself until I took a good look at you and realized … Girl, have you had your monthly lately?”

“What?! Now, you’re getting a little personal. What has that got … to … … do … Oh,” I finally laughed. “I’m sorry Momma O but you are off base there. I’m not exactly … well … regular as a clock … but I’d know if my calendar was off.”

“DeLois, you tell her.”

“Momma! Honestly!!”

“Yeah, I am your momma and I’m telling you to tell her.”

“Oh for goodness sake. Kiri, every once in a while … “ Mrs. DeLois smiled and then said, “Kiri, every once in a while God likes to show his sense of humor and surprise us. I was five months along with Paul … regular as clock work too until that point … and no one was more surprised than me. He was an answer to prayers after … well, we hadn’t thought we’d be able to have any more and then suddenly I had four months to enjoy being pregnant and get ready for a new baby.”

I didn’t want to hear it. None of it. They kept trying to get me to think about it and to my absolute horror they’d even carried their suspicions to Pastor Ken. Everyone, Rand included, wanted Ken to examine me. Well I refused and there was a bit of a row over it. By the time they left I was furious; so angry I busted out crying and was pretty zoned out for the rest of the day. Rand didn’t know what to do. He looked like he’d walked into a wall and the wall had taken exception and fallen on him. We didn’t even get to enjoy the New Year’s Eve plans we had made.

Next morning I did nothing but puke I was so upset. Or at least that is what I kept telling myself. And then Rand started in on me. It can’t hurt to let Ken examine me. It would set our minds to rest. Don’t I want to know for sure. On and on and on. By lunch time we were barely talking.

Ken showed up as I was doing the lunch dishes and I saw him and Rand talking out in front yard. Rand was still mad at first but as Ken talked to him he settled down and then got that worried look he gets. I knew it was because he was worried about me and I felt bad enough about some of the things that we’d said to one another that I stepped out onto the porch and just said one word before walking back in. “Fine.”

All I wanted to do was cry and I guess Ken figured out fast that I wasn’t going to be an easy patient.

“Kiri, I understand … “

“You don’t understand anything. Look, just get whatever you need to do over with.”

“Kiri, it doesn’t work like that, I need to ask you some questions. If you’d be more comfortable with Rand here or with another woman … “

“Isn’t this bad enough?! Just ask your questions.”

“OK. When was the last day of your … “

“Well, that’s a pretty useless question right there. Like I tried to tell everyone yesterday my calendar is just fine. I feel fine. There is nothing wrong with me.”

Ken finally sat back and crossed his arms. “Being pregnant is not the same thing as having something wrong with you. And while it isn’t normal to have a pseudo-cycle after you’ve gotten pregnant, it isn’t abnormal for some women either. One or two months of break through spotting is actually what is normal for some women.”

“I told you … “

“Yes. I heard what you said. Kiri, for a person your age your body has taken a lot of abuse. Rand told me that sometimes your scars even still hurt. In particular you had a recent episode that dropped you to your knees.”

“Well gee whiz, I told him not to say anything.”

“He’s worried about you.”

“Look. It hasn’t happened in a while but it has happened before. I stretched the scar the wrong way or something. No biggie.”

“Kiri. Just let me do an external exam. If I don’t find anything then we’ll stop there and just keep a watch on things and see how they go. I’d give you a pregnancy test but there aren’t any left in town. And since there aren’t we’re back to the old fashioned way of doing things.”

So I figured I might has well give in and just get it over with but I refused to do it gracefully. He was pushing on areas a little lower than I was at all comfortable with and taking his time about it. When he pulled out that little tape measure thing I was starting to get really bothered. He wrote a few things down on his note pad and then had me sit up.

“Kiri. Are you absolutely positive that your cycles have been normal?”

“I told you they were. Well, one was a little late a couple of months ago but everything has been normal since then. It was just nerves because of the bandits and some other stuff that was going on.”

“Maybe, but that doesn’t change the fact that … Kiri you better sit down.”

“I don’t want to sit down. This is getting to be ridiculous. Come on. Surely I’d know?”

“Kiri, I measured you three times and each time it is saying that you are fourteen weeks along.”

That’s the last thing I remember until I came around to hear Rand hollering at Ken and then calling my name while he sat in the floor holding me. All I kept thinking was that he better stop it because my pants weren’t zipped and they were sliding down.

I finally was able to get his attention and all three of us sat in the floor, me in Rand’s lap, while Ken explained that when I thought I had stretched my scar by turning wrong it was likely my insides putting pressure on the scar. This was his big concern, that without a sonogram or whatever you call ‘ems that my messed up insides might start giving me problems and he wanted me to stop lifting and tugging and pulling stuff. I nearly hit the roof again but instead started crying because I had a whole garden to get planted and there were so many other things we needed to do.

I don’t even remember Ken leaving I was in such a daze. I barely remember going to be to be honest.

Next day wasn’t any easier. I made it worse by sliding back into denial. Rand wanted to go tell his Uncle George and I just came all unglued on him. How could he and it’s no one’s business and I don’t like to remember what all I said. I was pretty awful and I’ve spent most of today apologizing and then crying about it. I’m lucky that Rand has decided to put it all down to unexplainable female hormones and is giving me a complete pass on being such a donkey’s south end.

Truthfully it was really bad yesterday. Rand even slept on the sofa because we’d had another bitter argument when he wouldn’t let me go out and help in the garden. He got pretty nasty that time asking me if I was trying to do something to lose the baby on purpose or something. I wasn’t but what hurt was that he could think I would. He said he really didn’t but was just so scared the worst thing he could think of came out of his mouth before he really thought it through. I guess we are both pretty shook up over it.

I had a bad dream in the middle of the night and woke myself up but when I rolled over and remembered that Rand wasn’t there I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I got up and fumbled my way into the living room and then started sniveling and crying and woke Rand up. He said he wasn’t asleep but he was snoring loud enough that I didn’t need a lamp to find him in the dark.

Rand carried me back to bed and we talked the rest of the night and ironed some things out. I fell asleep after he got up to take care of the animals and let them into their pens. I woke up nauseous and it took me a while to get started. By the time I was dressed Ken had come by again and he and Rand were on the porch talking. I felt really bad and apologized for the way I had been acting.

“Don’t even worry about it. It was a shock and everybody has to come to terms with shocks in their own way and in their own time. But now that you’ve really accepted the situation Kiri I want to sit down and talk about a few things.”

So we did. “If this was before I’d be able to give you lots of attention and prenatal vitamins too. But its not and I don’t have a thing I can give you. Pregnancy isn’t a sickness but you still need to be sure and treat yourself right because treating yourself right means you’re treating your baby right. I want you to drink at least a full glass of milk a day. And eat some of that cheese you make as well. You need to make sure and keep your calcium up. If you get a chance to eat liver, do it. That will be your iron and your folic acid. Speaking of folic acid, here’s a list of foods to eat if you can get them. Folic acid is very important with fetal development. Rand, here is a list for you. She experiences any of these symptoms come and get me lickety split. But for those last ones on the list don’t leave her alone. You’ll have to work out how you are going to pull that off. I’ll add you all onto my regular rounds but you’ve got a long way to go before this baby is going to be ready to be born.”

“I still don’t understand how I can really be three months along without … I mean … “ I stumbled to a stop.

Rand asked, “Yeah. She’s as small as she ever was. Missy, Laurabeth, and Alicia were all looking pregnant by this point.”

“Well, Kiri works hard and some of that is going to have to stop, or at least slow down some. Nature will take care of that shortly but you need to start doing it now. The other females in your family knew right away what was going on and they ... well for lack of a better way of explaining it, they've been enjoying the attention and accentuating the fact that they were pregnant from early on. Not that that's bad. And some of it may be that scarring.” He looked at me and said, “If you feel any more of that stretching I want you to stop what you are doing and sit down for a bit. We don’t know how your previous injuries are going to impact this pregnancy. You’re young and healthy and you have a good head on your shoulders. Use some commonsense and says your prayers. Faith will get you through no matter what happens. And no, get that look off your face. I didn’t mean I expect anything bad, just that we don’t know and because we don’t know we can’t assume anything. We are just going to have to have patience. The fact that you haven’t had any problems up to this point is a good thing.”

After the pastor left Rand asked, “It’s a pretty fine day, you want to clear the cobwebs away and go for a buggy ride?”

We hitched Bud to a little two-seater surrey similar to Pastor Ken’s that Rand had managed to refurbish. The buggy top was still in bad shape but the rest of it had been fixed. It looked repaired, but repaired by someone who cared about how it looks if you know what I mean. The seat was a lot better than the wagon seat that is for sure.

We drove by Momma O’s and I asked Rand if he’d turn around and let me stop for a minute. Turns out that Mrs. Withrow was visiting with some of the other Auxiliary ladies; they were trading seeds. I stuck my head in the parlor and nearly pulled it back out again but I’d been seen. I didn’t need to say a word. Mrs. Withrow and Momma O both came over and wrapped me in hugs and wouldn’t let me even get my apology out.

“Don’t you worry about it child. We understand, maybe better than you think. Are you out buggy riding?”

“Yes ma’am. I don’t want to leave Rand standing too long. I just wanted to say … “

“I told you not to worry about it. My lands you’re a hard headed girl. I’m not so old that I don’t remember what it was like. Now go on and get. He’s looking like he’s needing his feathers smoothed down.”

I got off lighter than I should and that’s a fact. I would never have been forgiven like this before. Aunt Wilma either ignored me or froze me out until she decided I’d had enough and even this it was obvious she thought that she was giving me more leniency than I deserved. I was rotten to her sometimes but maybe I would have been able to conquer some of what was wrong with me if she would have been a bit different in the way she handled me. Who knows?

Rand and I knew it would be all over in no time now so we took off for the Crenshaw place to try and beat the gossips. Uncle George sat down on a hay bale and just said, “Well, I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later.” And then he shook Rand’s hand all manly and stuff. Guys. I guess it means something but don’t ask me what. Missy of course had something to say and I don’t know who was blushing more, Rand or me. Bill chucked her under the chin and then whispered something in her ear and then it was Missy’s turn to blush and she left us alone after that. Alicia couldn’t have been more pleased and Laurabeth was nice about it too. Mick and Johnny looked like their eyes were about to fall out of their heads.

It’s a good thing that we came when we did because sure enough before we left someone had said something to someone and we were getting congratulations from folks arriving to go into the trade shack. I don’t guess I’ll ever understand how gossip travels as fast as it does. Don’t bother with a telegraph, just tell a busybody.

And now we’re home and snugged up. Rand says we’ll put seeds in the ground tomorrow but from the look on his face there are going to be a few new rules that I’m not sure but that I have any choice but to live with at this point. Rand’s being so careful of me and that’s just about to drive me up a wall. We’re going to have to do something about that. I may be pregnant but I’m still me. I don’t think anything is ever going to change that.

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