Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chapter Twenty-Six

Chapter 26

June 4th – Supposed to be a rest day according to my schedule but I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it. I know I should, if for no other reason than it’s the Sabbath and that is what Momma and Daddy would have expected, but I still can’t. I’ve got some leftover feelings about what I did yesterday. They are kind of rattling around in my head. I don’t want to talk about them and don’t want to write about them. I’ll just have to deal … but it’s awful hard finding things out about yourself that you don’t know if you like or not.

Sat down and had a good talk with myself. There are a lot of things I don’t know and there are a lot of things I figure I don’t know that I don’t know … but I do know that I’m not living with Aunt Wilma and Uncle Charlie anymore. I always complained – sometimes out loud and sometimes just grumbled inside me – that things were different than what my parents would have wanted. There were things that were important to them that they wanted to be important to me too (like the Sabbath thing). Now I wonder if what I’m doing is what my parents would have wanted or would my parents even like the person I’ve been or the one I’m turning out to be. That bothers me more than just about anything else that has gone on for the last few years.

I’m here, living off of what Momma and Daddy were building for themselves, their “retirement home.” Don’t I have some kind of obligation or something to do things the way they would have? I can’t see Momma ever being in a situation where she would kill a man. Daddy I can see doing it defending us; he was in the military too so he was prepared to do that kind of stuff if he had to. I just can’t see Momma being able to do it. But Daddy’s not here to do it for me in case it needs doing. I don’t have someone around to protect me. Rand and Uncle George and Mr. Henderson don’t really count ‘cause they aren’t around all the time and when they aren’t around I have to figure things out for myself. Besides, I can’t expect someone else to take care of me forever. I have to be able to do it myself. Isn’t that one of those responsibilities you get when you grow up?

So I guess that means I have to be prepared to be more like Daddy than like Momma. It’s just I had hoped that when I grew up I could find some way to be more like Momma on the inside than I’ve been. My plan had been to come live here and things would just fall into place and I could learn to be nice and sweet like her. I guess I missed out on that chance if it was ever anything more than a fantasy to begin with. Maybe if I had been more like Momma on the inside before I wouldn’t have constantly been tangling with Aunt Wilma and Uncle Charlie or with the people at school or the counselors (although I think even if I had been sweet I still would have argued with those crazy people). I could get along with people when I had to but sometimes I just didn’t want to. I was angry mostly, for a lot of different reasons, but I’m beginning to think that wasn’t always a good enough reason for how I acted. Now I don’t have that excuse anymore.

The problem is there are other reasons to get angry and upset and hurt and it is so confusing trying to figure out what person I am supposed to be. I want to make my parents proud of me only they aren’t here to see any of this. They’re gone. But I’m not, I’m here. Now I have to find out how to make me proud of me and I think that is going to be harder than it would have to just do it for Momma and Daddy who I know would have loved me no matter what.

The pops and bangs haven’t really let up. Only calling them pops and bangs isn’t really what they are. They aren’t just sounds, they are people trying to hurt each other. Sometimes you can tell they are far away, sometimes it sounds like they are closer. Sometimes the pops and bangs are close together and sometimes they are so far apart I think they – whoever “they” are - declared a cease fire, only to they start up again after a little while. It makes me angry that they won’t stop. Hasn’t there been enough of that kind of stuff already? Haven’t we got enough problems without people going out of their way to cause more? I wish there were still cops around so they could go arrest those people and throw them in jail. I wonder why the military people like Major Sawyer aren’t arresting those people. Aren’t they kind of like cops?

Fraidy wouldn’t leave the lanai except to chase a couple of lizards that she brought back to eat. That was gross but since I didn’t have cat food I just ignored it as much as possible. Later in the afternoon I stumbled across one of her hairballs and I heaved as I swept it out into the yard; there were little pieces of … things … in it. Ew!

I promised Rand that I would stay around the house and I have. Mostly. I went up the road just a little way to gather more berries after I had picked all of the ripe ones in the orchard and in the hedges around the home site but I didn’t go far and I came straight back. I canned berries all day long, mostly whole and juice but I made some honey blackberry jam to compare with the jam made with sugar and even tried out a couple of pints of blackberry chutney. It was kind of bizarre adding onions to blackberries but it is supposed to be good on meat if I ever get some. I threw the remains of the berries that I “juiced” into the compost pile.

I guess I should be scared but I’m not. A little something or other – I don’t know exactly what to call it – from thinking about the stuff I’ve been thinking about but not out and out scared like I suppose some people would be. I’ve got things to be worried about, like the crazy Harbingers coming back or some other of those people that were with them deciding me and my stuff are ripe for the picking, but all of that seems kind of far away. That part of it is almost like being in a movie about my life rather than it being for real. Mostly right now I’m wondering if I’m changing in ways that are good or not or if maybe this stuff I’m feeling has been part of me all along and I’m just now finding it out.

June 5th – Wood gathering was the chore of the day and I certainly need it after all the canning I have done. It was also kind of nice to be so busy that I didn’t have to think about stuff too hard. The little wood just doesn’t cut it for prolonged cooking or boiling. It’s not bad for frying or for heating a small amount of water, like what I put in my thermos to make rice with later in the day, but to get the boil I need for canning I need bigger chunks of wood that make good coals and lots of heat.

I was trying to see if I wrote down how I’ve been saving my matches. I think I must have forgotten to. I don’t have many matches left and having to restart the fire yesterday didn’t help. At the end of the day I don’t really put my coals out, I just cover the holes with the sheet metal. In the morning, even though the coals are going to be well burnt down I can usually get a fire going from them if I use something for tender and use a lot of patience. A couple of times it hasn’t worked out but the majority of the time it does. I can’t believe I had Rand right here and didn’t ask him if he knew how to work the fire starter I found in my father’s gear.

The first bit of wood I picked up was all the tree trash within the home site, there was more than you would think. Some of those oaks drop small limbs like birds molt feathers. But I need bigger wood. There was a dead cedar tree that I thought I could tackle not too far from the backside of the barn. It didn’t have any green left on it and was so dry that I could just crinkle the outer limb and remaining needles with my hands. I tried pushing it over but the thing was twice as tall as I was and still had a decent root ball I guess. That left me two main choices. I could go after the easier wood at the fallen tree thereby breaking my promise to Rand to stay near the house, or I could try and cut the cedar down. I opted to try the cedar first.

OK, I’ll admit that I know nothing about chopping a tree down. From watching a TV show I know vaguely that if I chop it down wrong that it can fall on me but I figured the cedar wasn’t that heavy, just tall. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Long and the short of it, next time I try and bring down a tree by myself I’ll stop and just get someone else to do it. Trees on the ground are fair game; trees still standing I’m going to steer clear of.

I chopped and chopped and when the stupid thing did start to fall I must have done something wrong because it twisted and I had to jump out of the way. It still grazed my shoulder and snagged my hair pulling out what feels like a good hank of it. A few scratches on my ear and cheek complete the clueless dork look. On the other hand in compensation by a little after lunch time I had a neat stack of sawn logs that helped keep my fire going so I could can more blackberries. It could have been worse but I guess “live and learn” is something I did today or may that should be “learn and live.”

For dinner tonight I had rice patties. They are similar to the rice cakes I fixed for Rand but more flavorful. You start with one and a half cups of cooked rice and then add the equivalent to two eggs mixed with two tablespoons of water. To that mess you add two teaspoons of instant onion soup mix and one-quarter cup shredded sharp cheese. The instant soup was out of a box of stuff that I salvaged from one of the houses and the cheese was another one of those Swiss Family gift pack items. Once you have all of that gunk mixed together you form it into patties and then fry the patties in a skillet. You are supposed to use oil to get crispy edges but I just used the not stick spray. I made enough patties for dinner and should have enough for a nibble for breakfast. I may scramble a little powdered eggs to go with the patties but maybe not; it is awful hot in the mornings now.

I guess I’m a little lonely. Not too bad but I didn’t even have the pops and bangs for company today, but I shouldn’t complain about that. I thought for sure that would mean that Rand would come by to check on me but … oh who am I fooling, this is my journal and I can say what I want. I bet Julia has shown up and he’s all torn about what he is supposed to do … help his uncle, try and work out his relationship with Julia, or babysit me. Guess this is as good a time as any to make sure I understand that I need to be independent.

Listen to me, sounding like I’m having a pity party. I’m not, just you can get used to stuff and I guess I got used to Rand being an exclusive friend to me. But that’s a pretty selfish thing. There are other people in his life who need him for real and not just for company. If he is working out things with Julia then I should wish him … both of them … good things. Of course I don’t really know that is what is keeping Rand from coming over. It could be something totally different. I’ll admit that I hope … oh, I’m going to bed because I’m getting silly.

June 6th – You know, the nerve of some people. I had the distinct displeasure of meeting Mr. Winston Sr. today. I was picking berries when Mitch Peters led some men down my road. I was up at the hay field, a little further than I know Rand meant for me to wander, when men on horseback came through … and I am going to figure out some way to lock those gates if I have to build the locks from scratch. I had my rifle with me and seeing as how I guess most of the men had heard the story of me shooting Rick Harbinger and then going up against the elder Mr. Harbinger they didn’t exactly crowd me.

Mitch’s horse was prancing a bit and he had just said, “Hello Kiri, have you … “ when a man about Uncle George’s age cut him off and said, “Girl, you better not be holding my daughter someplace around here.”

OK, apparently there is something in the water in Live Oak because I swear I just can’t figure out why people are always looking at me like I caused something. Mitch introduced me and the short explanation is that Julia is still missing and somehow since they had searched “every blade of grass in the county” that meant that I had to be hiding her since I was jealous of her, blah, blah, blah.

I’ll admit my head isn’t always screwed down tight and when I’m being verbally attacked for no reason my mouth usually goes into overdrive. I said, “Well, she isn’t around here and I haven’t seen her since she and her mother were being nasty to me the morning of the distribution area riot. Where’d you lose her at?”

Mitch rolled his eyes and looked like he wanted to swat me. I have that effect on people for some reason. The story as I got it is that Julia and his wife had made it home safe and sound but that Julia was gone the next morning. One of the other men there … turned out to be Julia’s brother … let slip that she had a habit of disappearing out her bedroom window when her parents weren’t giving her her way. And apparently she had wanted something and her parents refused to cave to it.

“Um, don’t take this the wrong way Mr. Winston but if I was Julia and you were my Daddy I’d be worrying about how long it would be before I was able to sit down after I got caught for sneaking off without permission, especially if I did it during something as dangerous as what was going on then and caused him to be worried sick.”

Julia’s brother snickered at that but a glare from his father silenced him … sort of. As soon as his Daddy turned away he started smiling again. “If I was your Daddy girl I’d … “

“Well you don’t have to worry about that do you? My Daddy was a good, upstanding man and didn’t go accusing people of things there was no way they could be part of.”

Mitch broke in, “Now Kiri, Mr. Winston is just … “

“I know what he is just. He’s worried about his daughter and I don’t blame him but that doesn’t make his worry justification for attacking me. Now look, have you even thought about this from a girl’s perspective at all? Hmmm? I didn’t think so. Does she have any girlfriends around town that she is particularly close to … maybe one that has helped her out of trouble before? Does she have someone that she could talk into hiding her until things calmed down and she was less likely to catch heck for going out without telling you?”

Mitch Peters was just sitting there rubbing his mouth like he was trying to hide a smile. Mr. Winston was sitting in his saddle grinding his teeth and breathing so hard his nostrils flared. Suddenly Julia’s brother goes, “Cindy Travers … I bet you anything … she hid Julia … “

“That’s enough!” Mr. Winston roared at his son who must be dumber than a stump because as bad as I can be I still would have shut up if my Daddy hollered at me like that unlike the brainless wonder who said, “Well, geez, I was only trying to … “

“Listen you little (I refuse to write the nasty word he called me), if I don’t find my daughter unharmed by nightfall I will be back at first light with as many men as it takes and I will pull your house apart and … “

I’d had enough. “Mr. Winston, you come onto my land and to my house uninvited one more time with violence in mind and I will treat you to the same kind of hospitality that I gave the Harbingers and the gangbangers that have come around.”

I’d meant it as a bluff … I think … but as soon as the words left my mouth I knew it could be true, that I could do what I threatened. I’d done it twice already; the more you did it the easier they say it gets. Some of the men weren’t sure what to think of me. They’d heard how I had responded to the Harbingers but I don’t think any of them had thought anything about the others I may have had to defend myself against and all of them had already had dealings with the gangbangers. Even Mitch was looking at me a little different.

They left after that and I made sure to close the gates and tighten up the thumb lock on each gate chain. I thought when I escaped Tampa I had escaped the person I had been and could be the person I wanted to be. I mean I didn’t shoot people in Tampa but I could be mean when pushed. There people had learned to leave me alone and that suited me. Here I thought I’d be able to be … nicer or calmer or something … but I’m learning that isn’t going to be as easy as I had thought it was going to be. Figures.

June 7th – Mr. Winston didn’t show up today so I guess he found Julia. Part of me hopes he blisters her rear bumper but she is nineteen so I don’t guess that is really all that likely to happen. She should get in some trouble though for making people all upset like she did.

My big accomplishment of the day was to get the treadle sewing machine fixed. It didn’t take me near as long to get it hooked up as I thought it would. The wheels squeaked something awful but I kind of fixed that with some olive oil dripped onto where the metal was rubbing the wrong way. The moving parts inside the sewing machine were also dirty so I cleaned them a little bit too.

I only canned two full loads of blackberries today; that’s 18 pints. I have way more than I probably need at this point and I have got to save my jars for the other stuff that is coming in. I give a couple of the plum trees another week and I can start picking from them. One or two may be ready to eat before then but I’m not sure. They sure aren’t as big as the ones that I used to see at the grocery store but I guess those big, fancy ones were grown someplace special or on special farms.

While I waited for each load of jars to finish I worked on the treadle belt. I finally figured out what to use as a staple to hold the two ends of the belt together. I took a metal coat hanger and cut a piece out of it. I used an awl … it is like a really sharp screwdriver … and poked a hole in one end of the “belt.” I made a hook from the clothes hanger wire, put it through the hole, and then pinched it flat with a pair of pliers; nearly pinched my finger too. Then I wound the belt around the wheels of the treadle and sewing machine like the print off showed and got the two ends to meet. Actually I had to cut off a couple of inches because I had mis-measured the length I needed. Then using the awl I made a hole in the other end of the belt, threaded the wire through that hole and mashed in flat too. It works.

I had the belt jump off the wheel once but I fixed that by taking another quarter inch off the belt and snugging the wire down a little better. After I did that it ran really smooth. The sewing machine was real easy to use too. The bobbins look a little different from what I’m used to but nothing that I couldn’t handle. I snagged up the thread twice before I figured out how to adjust the tension. And I broke one needle which is probably the biggest tragedy, I only have a few packages of those in Momma’s sewing chest.

I celebrated fixing the treadle by making a blue jean skirt. That’s how I broke the needle, by hitting a seam and straight pin too fast. It was actually just bent at first but when I tried to straighten it broke. If (when) I bend another needle I need to figure out how to unbend it the right way. I know how to fix a dull needle but not a bent one.

The skirt was super easy and a good first project for me to get more confidence. I wasn’t having to start from scratch and most of the work was already done once I had ripped out the inner thigh seems. I pinned and sewed together the two legs to close up the front of the skirt. That left the back all open but I put a fabric panel in there I cut from a cotton lace table cloth that I found while salvaging. The skirt comes down to the top of my feet and hides the scars on my legs. It is pretty cool but I don’t know where I’ll ever wear it. Maybe I’ll just wear it for myself around the house sometimes.

Speaking of my legs, I never had shown them much except when forced to … I even wore tights when I had to wear a skirt for something … but I’m getting a little grossed out at how hairy my legs are getting. Tomorrow I’m calling it a day early and giving myself an “End of the World Spa Treatment.” I mean a bubble bath, a new razor, the works. It’s not primping, who else is going to see and notice that I shaved my legs or not?

June 8th – Oh gosh, I feel so good. I soaked and soaked and soaked in a nice, hot bubble bath. Of course I can’t step outside for the mosquitoes … I forgot that mosquitoes are attracted to perfumes. But I should be back to my regular smell tomorrow and the bugs should leave me alone.

I did as much grungy work today as possible. I scrubbed the barn floor. I scrubbed some algae that had started growing on the side of the house that got the most shade. I cut out all of the dead lantana and weeds from the flower beds on that side of the house too. I moved a rain barrel out to the orchard to make it easier to water my container garden. I scrubbed the bottom of a couple of pots that were getting blackened from the camp fire style cooking I was doing. I used Spanish moss and some sand just like they taught us in Girl Scouts. Gave me a great scouring action but left me wet and dirty. And I cleaned out Pretty Boy’s rooster run. He didn’t like me messing around in there and ran out into the yard and he gave Fraidy fits for a while but once I was through he came back inside to inspect my work and then hopped up on his log and crowed which I took as a good sign. Maybe I’ll let him out more if he’ll go back in his run at nigh where he’ll be safe.

The work was dirty but not really hard and that’s about all I did. I could have picked more blackberries … the more you pick the more the vines seem to make … but I just couldn’t get excited about it. I did eat a bunch fresh and gave some to Pretty Boy who went nuts for them. I also made another “friend” but I doubt he’ll hang out long. I didn’t even bother naming him (or her). It was a box turtle or a gopher tortoise or something like that. He ate a bunch too before heading off into the underbrush.

Rand said that with all of the blackberries I have all over my land that I probably have deer (was nearly run down by some the day I met him), wild turkey, quail, and foxes. All of those eat blackberries. He said most omnivores like the berries and will eat them when they can. I guess that means I have to watch out for raccoons too … beastly pests. They used to get into the dumpster behind the diner all the time and get stuck. They could be mean little freaks too when they’d been trapped for a while.

I decided to splurge and use one of my cup o’ soups for dinner and for dessert I’ve been enjoying a thermos of cold blackberry lemonade. I left the window and shutter open as long as I could up in the dormer room to air it out up here but the sun is just about set and I think I’m going to catch a little extra sleep. The work today must have wiped me out worse than I thought.

June 9th – Supposed to be a cleaning day today but I didn’t get much cleaning done. I’ve got a cold. And I’m going to bed. Not even the chicken noodle soup I ate for dinner helped.

June 11th – Why is it that company shows up right when you don’t expect them to? I’m up and moving around a lot better but not feeling one hundred percent. I didn’t have any choice yesterday but to wash out some of my under things so I did that and hung them on the line outside and then laid down in the lounge chair on the lanai. I hadn’t meant to go to sleep but I guess I did.

The next thing I know I wake up to see Uncle George leaning over me with his hand on my forehead. It just about scared me to pieces ‘cause I couldn’t figure out if I was for real awake or dreaming. I blinked my eyes straight and saw Rand poking at the fire pit fussing to his uncle that he should have come back sooner.

As soon as I could convince them I just had a cold, probably from washing my hair and sitting in front of an open window at night, they left off fussing enough that I could catch my breath. I couldn’t believe it but it was close to lunch. I knew Rand’s stomach would start making noise soon so I got up to try and figure out what to do about it but then he got cranky and told me to stay put and turned into a fuss budget all over again.

Uncle George hemmed and hawed about whether I should go to the clinic … what if it was the flu and that sort of thing … but I told them about having the flu during the second and fourth waves so they didn’t need to worry. That surprised them and I told them the first time I’d been sick a week and the second time less but I’d been helping with the other sick kids where we were warehoused so didn’t know for sure how long or how bad. They both hate the flu because Janet nearly died and is still really frail and I guess I had scared them.

Uncle George hadn’t heard about the warehouse part of my life, he thought I had just “run away” or something. It made me tired telling the story all over again. Rand plunked a glass of Tang in front of me and the look he gave me dared me not to drink it. I don’t know what his problem was, it’s not like I got a cold on purpose just to ruin his day.

I know they were talking to each other but I was pretty groggy. Uncle George came over to me and said that Rand was going to stay for a couple of days until I was better. I told them that it was just a cold and that I’d be fine, they didn’t need to go to the trouble but that only made Rand crankier.

For some reason Rand getting cranky was funny to Uncle George and he gave me a smile and told me not to worry about it. Rand needed a break from what was going on at home anyway. I tried to get interested by that statement but for some reason I couldn’t. I know Uncle George left and then Rand told me to go inside and lay down and I was just too tired to fight about it.

I woke up a few hours later and smelled something so good it actually made me hungry. I felt all weak and wobbly when I got up but after I tidied myself up and took care of the necessities I felt a little better. I followed my nose and Rand was leaning over a big pot stirring something. I coughed and that brought him around fast.

He grinned so I must have looked better than I felt. Well, I finally got a chance to taste squirrel stew. It was my turn to bite into something real easy but it was actually good. I mean really, really good. I told him I didn’t know he could cook and he said he could when he had to. Apparently he hadn’t even had to leave the home site to get enough squirrels for the stew. I hadn't even heard the shots even though they were so close because I was sleeping so hard.

He said something about using some of the canned veggies I had in the kitchen but I wasn’t really listening. The stew had filled me up and made me feel good enough that a nap sounded like a great idea again. I slept again but I don’t remember going to bed.

I woke up the next morning with my laundry on my mind. I had forgotten to bring it in but when I sat up I noticed it sitting on the dresser. I got dizzy from being so embarrassed. Rand not only saw my under things, he took them off the line and brought them inside. I could have just died. I’m still trying real hard not to think about it because every time I do my ears feel like they are going to catch fire and light the rest of my head up.

The sky was just getting pink when I made my way to the kitchen but Rand was already up and making pancakes. He’s really funny to watch when he cooks; he’s so serious about it. He told me there was juice on the counter and it was apple juice made from some of that apple-flavored stuff from one of the #10 cans.

I felt better, just kind of hollow. The drink helped but the pancakes helped even more. I tried to convince Rand that I was fine and that he didn’t need to babysit me and that’s when he said, “I don’t mind if you don’t and if you want to know the truth it’s a lot easier to be here than to be at home right now.”

We sat after breakfast and got caught up on what had been going on. He apologized for the problems with Mr. Winston and I told him not to worry about it because it wasn’t his fault that Mr. Winston was a donkey’s behind. He nearly snorted coffee out of his nose over that one but it was nice to hear him laugh even if I did wind up having to wash mocha java off my pants leg.

The reason I didn’t see more fighting over here is because of Mr. Henderson. He and his men patrol this whole area pretty much. He and Momma O and her family are about the only ones left … aside from me … in this general area and even though we are spread out the gangbangers have learned that Mr. Henderson has no tolerance and even less mercy for them. Of the three my place is the closest to US90 which is probably the only reason I’ve run into the gangbangers that I have.

Where Uncle George’s place is though is another matter. And it wasn’t the bangers that caused the most problems, though they instigated their share. All those factions Rand had told me about that wanted to be “in charge”? Well they started fighting. It was like the stories of the Hatfields and McCoys. Any little imagined injury became an excuse to try and get back at one another. The fights started out with fists but a lot of them ended with blood and guns.

And the Supply Depot was attacked several times. Yesterday they finally got word by way of a patrol that Missy was just fine but that Major Sawyer had been hit twice; the first one didn’t do much but make him mad, but the second one has him laid up for a while. All non-essential off-base excursions have been cancelled so it may be awhile before anyone gets to see them.

“It was after the worst of the fighting was over though that my problems started. I didn't cry over the Harbinger brothers ... Ron is still alive by the way, just bad off ... which made some people suspicious again. Julia was still missing and her dad and his friends came over to the farm and searched it. Uncle George didn’t mind at first because he said we didn’t have anything to hide and thought it was the best way to humor them, but they started tearing things up and we wound up putting them off at gun point. Clyde and a couple other of the neighbors on our side of the road came up and helped and they made a bunch of threats. I thought it was best that I stay and help but if I had known you were sick … “

I tried to tell him that it was OK but when Rand is bound and determined to feel guilty about something you can’t stop him.

“Then Julia was found hiding out at her friend’s house and the … uh, ka-ka really hit the fan. It’s been a mess. She keeps running away from her dad and coming over to Uncle George’s place trying to force me to take her back, saying it was all a horrible mistake; that she didn’t know what Fred was really like, stuff like that. At first I believed her but then something … I don’t know, she was trying to ... well, never mind what she was trying to do, but it made me uncomfortable. I had actually gone over to talk to Mr. Winston when I heard Julia and her mother talking. Julia’s pregnant. It can’t be mine because we haven’t … well, not since last summer when we decided we … there was this Bible Study at church … anyway, it can’t be mine which means she’s been fooling around with someone since before she broke up with me to go with Fred. And I don’t even know who it is and … “

Wow, guys hurt too. I mean Rand was really hurt. Oh he didn’t cry or anything like that but I could tell all the same. But he was angry too. Then he said, “On top of that Uncle George has finally agreed to let Laurabeth go ahead and marry Jonathon after saying for months now that she was too young. That’s meant trying to figure out who is going to be sleeping where. The girls all share the big bedroom while Brendon and I share a room and Mick has always had the little under the stairs room to himself. Jonathon fixed himself a place up in the barn loft when he first moved over but now everything is getting turned on its head. Now let’s add even more ruckus … Brendon apparently has been hiding that he and Alicia Morrison from down the road have been seeing each other since middle school but didn’t say anything because Alicia’s family was … well, they were weird if you want to know the truth … and Mr. Morrison and Uncle George had taken a dislike to one another from the get go for some reason neither men ever said. Only now Alicia’s family is dead and there is just her and her baby brother who happens to be a friend of Mick’s. Brendon is asking Uncle George if they can come live there.”

I asked him if he thought Brendon was being honest and he said, “You know, I wanted to wonder that but you just have to see Brendon. It’s like the person he really is comes out when Alicia is around. He’s the young man Uncle George always wanted him to be and not the goof ball we all think he is … was … you just have to see him. It’s … it’s bizarre!”

“You said ‘when Alicia is around’ like the decision has already been made.”

“Yeah. Yeah, I guess it has. Having her move in has actually helped. They combined the two households and Alicia’s parents still had a lot of food. It’s weird organic this and all-natural that but it’s food. And Alicia can cook. Brendon told me her father was pretty brutal and a whack job, practiced his own made up religion and that her mother was no help, just sat around all day like a shadow agreeing with everything her father said regardless of how out there is was. She and her little brother look so relieved that the dude’s gone that … never mind, that kind of stuff is best left unsaid. The man’s dead and he’s getting his reward one way or the other.”

Poor Rand. I guess coming to my place really is a vacation compared to what is going on at his. We fixed lunch together … fried cornbread and mashed potatoes with a little bit of canned beef and gravy poured over the top of that and then he asked me if I felt like walking a little bit.

I did but he only meant around to the front of the house. There was a pile under a tarp on the front porch.

“I saw this drawing in one of your dad’s books and it gave me some ideas. I had time on my hands hiding out in the barn to avoid Julia. All I need to do is find some screens and we can see if it works.”

He’d built a solar dehydrator … one with a plexiglass front. I couldn’t believe it. He finished setting it up not too far from the house on the sunny side. “You’ll still need to protect the plexiglass out of season or during storms but I put a lock on the doors … see this latch? … so animals shouldn’t be able to get in to get to whatever you are drying.”

I still have a hard time believing he’d go to all of that trouble but he said that if it worked maybe I could dry extra fruit that he could take home to his family. You know I agreed. In fact tomorrow I’m going to try a batch of blackberries. It was too late in the day after he got the screens from the salvage houses and stapled them to the frames he had already built.

I asked him where he had gotten the plexiglass and he said that it was left over from a project his Uncle George had done a couple of years ago and that I wasn’t to worry because his uncle knew all about it and thought it was a good idea and that if it worked he wanted Rand to build one for them too.

It was getting late in the afternoon and I was winding down again. I asked Rand if he minded if I made dinner a little early and he offered to make it but I told him no since he was working on the fruit dryer. Besides I wanted to try making something that I’d seen in one of Momma’s cookbooks.

First I started some rice soaking and while that was going I set up the box oven and got it heating to 350 degrees. After the rice was cooked I added two eggs (made from powdered), some minced onion (from dry), and some butter (a little powdered butter mixed with a little olive oil). You pretend that mess is your pizza “dough” and pat it out into a twelve-inch circle on a flat pan. You have to bake it for about twelve minutes to set it and then you take it out and top it with pizza sauce, pepperoni, and cheese and then cook that just like you would a regular pizza.

You should have seen Rand’s face, it was hysterical! We both wound up laughing and I felt a lot better. He asked if he could look at some more of Daddy’s books and I showed him where they were on the shelves in the bonus room. Maybe I should show him Daddy’s other files in the dormer room … but, I don’t know if I’m ready to share that secret yet. While he’s been doing that I’ve been writing in my journal.

He’s been making a ton of notes so I guess he is finding some good stuff. I’m glad someone else besides me gets to appreciate the work my parents did. But now I’m getting so tired I just about can’t stand it. I’m going to bed but Rand said he’s going to stay up for a little longer using the lamp if I don’t mind. I’d stay up too but I really am tired.

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