Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Chapter 13

I saw a basket that didn't have too many holes in it, grabbed it, and started loading the few toys that survived my mother's mania for decluttering our bedrooms into it. When it was full I wedged it onto the shelf of things I wasn't ready to part with but knew would likely have to go sooner rather than later. I grabbed another basket and started pulling off rocks, arrow heads, and other things I'd found on the farm when I'd still been into digging in the dirt.

"I have no idea if the boys will be interested in this stuff but I'll give it to them."

"Teaghan ... stop it. Look at me."


"You don't have to do this."

"Yes. Yes I do."


"Because however things were before they aren't like that now. I can't keep on holding onto the past. It's gone, over with, never coming back. Holding onto it doesn't make good sense." I tried to edge around him since he refused to move but he wedged me up against the wall. I told him, "That's not fair. You're bigger than me. You know I can't make you let me go."

"No you can't. And I don't like using my size against you but you aren't listening to a word I'm saying."

"Yes I am."

"No you aren't."

"Yes I am. You're saying that I don't have to do this and I'm saying yes I do ... it's time. Maybe past time for some stuff."

"Teaghan ..."

"Will you stop that?! Look, I may not be ... what was that word you used ... oh yeah ... sophisticated. I may not be sophisticated like the females you are used to being around, I may not act like the women you normally ... well whatever you normally ... but I would appreciate it a great deal if you'd stop thinking that I'm half baked and need to be humored just because I'm different than them. I'm sure some of the stuff you mean flies over my head. I'm sure that I'm not who or what you would have picked if you'd been given the chance. I'm sure I even make you mad or irritated because I'm not what you would have picked. But guess what ... I didn't get to pick the way things turned out either ... I dealt with it by choosing the best option I thought I had. I'm doing the best I can with what I've got to work with which we both know isn't much. I don't own nothing. I'm not sophisticated. Apparently I don't have enough enthusiasm for whatever it is you want. Frankly I know there's a whole lot of things I'm not ... but there's just as many things that I know I am. I'm honest. I work hard. I keep my word. I can cook. I don't waste money. I don't need to be sweet talked into doing what I should be doing in the first place. I don't complain ... most of the time. I don't live in some ridiculous fairy tale waiting for a nonexistent fairy godmother to come along with her nonexistent wand and poof make everything perfect. And for the record ... I don't have any magical powers either ... like reading minds. If there is something you don't want me to touch or look at then say so. You wanted me to get to know you well I'm trying ... but I can't do it if you play pretend until I do something wrong then decide to have at me because I didn't know whatever it was I did was going to set you off. Now let me go. I've got a lot of work to do and none of it is getting done while I'm stuck to this wall like a bug."

I pushed his shoulders but he didn't budge. He and I were both getting mad because neither one of us were having our way. Looking back and seeing it for what it was I can see Gram shaking her head at us and saying we were both acting like a couple of surly two year olds but I could never have seen that then. I was too close and it was too personal. Looking back I can see I had less reason to be as self-righteous as I felt and Sloan didn't understand half as much as he thought he did. Maybe had I been able to see it then I might have been able to take a different path but deep down I think no matter what path I took that I would still wind up exactly where I am right now.

A voice bellowing from the kitchen shouted, "Teaghan??! Can Silas and I have a cookie? You said we could."

"Coming!" I called up to them.

I pushed one more time on Sloan and he finally turned loose. I went up the stairs without looking back and after I'd given the boys a mid morning snack I started on lunch which was basically just a big pot of soup because I hadn't expected it to rain anymore than anyone else had.

Charlie and Duncan I learned were doing basically the same thing except they asked if I'd make an extra pan of bread when I did my baking. I offered them an alternative. "How about cheese crackers ... if I can't get the wheels to market we might as well see the use of them. And instead of a dessert that is just going to make more work, how about I slice some cheese and fruit and they can deal with that. It's almost too muggy for much else anyway. I can make cottage cheese, sliced tomatoes, pickles and a big relish tray and have cold, sliced ham as well for supper."

The two men nodded in relief. Even people who like to cook, even get paid to do it, get tired of it now and then, especially when they have to do it in bad weather. Duncan said, "And if they're still hungry after that they can go catch a squirrel and roast it on their ownsome. Those tree rats are getting into the supplies anyway and need to be thinned out."

Lunch came and went and I kept plugging away going through the house, grabbing up the personal stuff but leaving whatever might be useful to someone else. Family pictures came down but I left the landscapes where they were ... that sort of thing. The downstairs was finished though I planned to go over it again but I wanted to make a first pass upstairs before I stopped for the night. When I finished with my room it looked as sterile as a ridiculously pink room could look. I stepped into my parents' bedroom then shook my head and stepped back out. I might have sounded brave to try and hide the hurt from Sloan but I just wasn't ready to face that room. Hannah's room had already been cleaned out ... the boys and I did it so Dad wouldn't have to. I think that was harder on them than it was on me. That stuff was in the attic and would have to be dealt with another day. That left my brothers' rooms. Oh joy.

Hating that I had to, I walked downstairs and stuck my head in the office. Sloan and Dan were sitting in there going over piles of paperwork. "I hate to bother you but I need a favor."

"Oh so now you need me for something."

One look at his face and I knew it was hopeless. "Never mind. Sorry to have disturbed you."

I turned and went straight back the way I'd come. I heard Dan mutter something and Sloan snapped, "None of your damn business."

"No it isn't," Dan said. "But I'm just wondering if you blame her because she isn't Chaundra or if you blame her because she's not like Chaundra."

Sloan's curse followed me up the stairs but it also gave me something that I hadn't had before. I now had a piece of the puzzle that was Sloan ... a piece maybe he'd been hiding behind that salesman's smile. And that piece was named Chaundra.

I wasn't stupid enough to jump to any conclusions and think I had things all figured out but it sure made me lean in a direction that I was more hurt by than I had any right to be, especially back then. I gave myself the proverbial shake and told myself I was being beyond an idiot to think a thirty year old man hadn't had relationships before I met him. Heck he'd already admitted to having been married. But the question was whether this Chaundra was his ex-wife or someone else. Not that it was any of my business. None at all.

Calling myself all kinds of a fool I went to work. I emptied my brothers' dressers and clothes rods in their respective closets and hauled it all down to the laundry room for sorting. Their boots went down to the mud room and lined up under the bench. I stripped the beds because they needed it and took that to the laundry room as well. My brothers were minimalists so there wasn't much else obvious to deal with - they'd cleaned most of their old stuff up before leaving for basic training. But next was the more difficult part. I should have secured them right off but I hadn't so all I could do was be thankful Sloan's nephews hadn't taken to being so bored they started snooping. The guns weren't especially heavy but they were awkward. Carrying them as well as some of Jeremiah's old military gear down the stairs made me feel silly. And when I walked into the office and both men jumped up and back, knocking over their chairs, all it did was irritate me more.

"Very funny. Ha ha. Pass me the keys to the gun closet."

"Uh ..."

"Oh for ... the black, antique looking one next to the old brass key that opens the lock on the desk drawers."

I was juggling guns, gear, and key when Sloan took the guns. "Where did these come from?"

"Jeremiah's room. I have to bring Jason's down and that rifle has an even bigger scope on it so don't lock the closet back up. And the ammo cans need to come down too but no way am I going to be able to lift them."

Dan, still wide eyed with surprise, asked, "Anything else like that around here?"

"No. Dad and the boys' personal carries and shot guns were taken away by the mob. I don't know what happened to them. For all I know that's what they were murdered with." I turned and trudged back up the stairs to get Jason's guns but by the time I got to his closet Sloan was right behind me.

"Where are the ammo cans?"

I opened the door and pointed. It would have been funny in almost any other situation but when Sloan's mouth fell open all I could do was say, "Now you know why I said ammo cans."

"There's over two dozen cans in here."

"Jeremiah has more." I rubbed the place between my eyes feeling a headache coming on. "Look, I'm not trying to tell you your business but if it were me I wouldn't mention these to Mr. Burdock on that report thingie. I'm not so sure the boys were supposed to bring this stuff home from the war. They kinda took it in lieu of the discharge pay they were promised but never received."

It took more than a few trips to bring everything down even with Dan helping. I caught the two of them muttering together more than once but refused to try and decipher what they were saying. After Dan went off to get some catalog or other out of his truck I turned to Sloan. "Look, I really do need a favor."

"What now?" Sloan asked like he couldn't take much more.

"Just forget it." I said determined to deal with it myself.

I grabbed a bag and a box and headed back up the stairs. I stared at my brother's foot locker and then just sat on it and put my head on my knees but jumped back up when Sloan came in. "Teaghan I shouldn't have snapped at you like that. What is it you need?"

I wanted so badly to throw it back in his face but I just couldn't do it. I pointed to the foot locker. I don't know what Sloan expected to find inside but if his relieved laughter was any indication it hadn't been something nice. I could hear him rustling through them and a few whistles before he said, "Your brother has some ... er ... interesting ... "

"Don't. I know exactly what those are but they aren't interesting they're just plain indecent. I think it was some show girl he met overseas. I overheard Jason and Dad talking about it a couple of times, both saying they were glad Jeremiah hadn't actually been dumb enough to marry her and bring her home. But obviously he was ... er ... enamored of her."

He was still laughing and said, "I should say so. What exactly did you want me to do with this stuff?"

"Bag it up and take it to the burn barrel? Please? I found it ... well I found it when I started trying to set things the way they were supposed to be when you took over only ... a couple of those make me ... ill. Please just take them away. Some of those are of my brother and that woman together," I added desperately hoping he'd do the deed for me.

Without another word I heard him scoop the stack of magazines and pictures into the box and then heard him closing the lid. "I think it is dry enough that I can get this going long enough for it to be disposed of. That OK?"

"Oh yes ... please!"

I watched from the kitchen window as he did what he promised. By the time he came in I had supper almost ready, all except for slicing the ham and Charlie had said he and Duncan would take care of that with the deli slicer they had in their kitchen trailer. And speaking of, they arrived right after that and said, "Trade ya." As they handed me a plate of ham.

When they left Sloan said, "Just cover everything and leave it on the table in here. No need to go to the trouble of setting the dining room table. And we can eat on paper plates too."

"Uh ... you sure?"

"We're getting spoiled. This isn't a restaurant where we need to be waited on at every meal."

I took that as a sign that maybe we weren't going to be upset with each other anymore so nodded and said, "It's no trouble but thank you for the night off. I might actually get most of the things marked off my list."

I started to walk off but he stopped me with a gentle hand on my arm. "Teaghan?"


He looked like he wanted to say something then shook his head. "I guess you're right, there's just some things that can't be changed."



  1. for all their talking, they sure ain't communicatin'! thank you! I think this is my current favorite (until I go read more on another story, lol)