Enduring on the Lake

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Chapter 11

“I was just so pleased to see you in church today.  Your momma mentioned you usually went when you lived with them.” 

Trying to turn my irritation into politeness I told Mrs. June, “They raised me right and it’s my job from here on out to keep doing it.  I see you brought Max Slowthower with you.” 

She turned a jaundiced eye in the direction of the boy who was desperately trying to avoid all of the attention being given to him by four girls that looked about his age.  “Well, he’s my grandson.”  At the confused look that I hadn’t been able to hide she said, “Why on earth kids these days have to complicate things I can’t even begin to guess.  Annie … Zane’s oldest sister … and my youngest son … well Terrance had no business … and she was barely eighteen.  Her father, God rest his soul, hadn’t been dead all that long which was part of the problem I suppose.  Even though he made a mess of things while he lived.  Annie’s mother got custody of Max when the adoption fell through after he was born with some health problems – since fixed praise God but still.  When Annie and Max couldn’t bond … so there was an adoption, just not like was originally planned.  Lucille is normally here but she’s visiting Jane, another Slowthower sister, who just had her first girl – thank the good Lord for His Mercy as she’s already got four boys, all stair steps if you can believe that – and it was by C-section and they tied her tubes at the same time.  She said she’d sue the doctor if he didn’t cut ‘em, tie ‘em off, and burn ‘em shut permanently.  Well I better get or the boy is going to mutiny.  By Sugar.  It really was so good to see you.” 

I realized two things right then and there.  Mom had her own people dogging me for her own reasons, and Mrs. June would bear careful watching as she was the kind of person that tended to regurgitate other people’s business at an alarming speed and volume. 

I headed to my car still trying to remember and file all the gossip I’d heard when I was hailed by Uncle Red’s son Lawrence.  “Yer ears sore yet?” 

I tried to hold off my impatience to be gone from the fishbowl and told him, “Hmm.  Just trying to keep things straight so I don’t accidentally create problems or hurt anyone’s feelings.  Last thing I wanna cause is a ruckus because I stuck my foot in my mouth.” 

He smiled and then got a little serious.  “Got something to mention.  I know our fathers have probably already given you enough do’s and don’ts to choke a mule but …” 

I sighed and said, “But you have a few more.  Look, I’m not a party girl.  I’m not going to …” 

He snorted.  “Whoa there.  I know you’re not.  I know the type and you’re not it.  And whatever our fathers may think I’m inclined to say you are more mature than they figure since you haven’t blown a gasket at everybody trying to get in your business.  That or you’re the most easy-going person on this side of the cemetery sod.  That said however, I’ve got more advice for you.  Your parents aren’t the only ones putting a ‘caretaker’ on their lake place.  Most of those types will clear out before too much longer and only stop by occasionally but there’s some on the Lodge side of the lake that seem to have settled in more permanently; and of those a couple are sketchy.  One of ‘em in particular has a rap sheet that says he’s partial to pretty young things and isn’t finicky about how he goes about getting them.” 

“If you’re talking about the chain smoker with the hairstyle left over from the 70s I already spotted him.  He’s definitely a creep but was pretty weirded out when he saw me shoot a timber rattler in the wood pile and then dress him out … or maybe it was offering the meat to him.” 

He got a pained look on his face.  “No more of that.  Dad might laugh, and I know for a fact a few others would too, but we’ve got a couple of new guys assigned by the state that wouldn’t.  You already met them I believe.” 

I blanched.  “Oh.  Well anything to avoid a performance like that again.  Can I ask you something?  You don’t have to answer if you can’t.”  He raised an eyebrow reminding me of Spock.  “What was it about me that set those two off?” 

He looked briefly uncomfortable before saying, “You did NOT hear me say this.  Don’t repeat it in any way, shape, or form.  But you’d best heed it.” 

“Uh … yes Sir.” 

“We’ve got a pretty good department.  We manage to keep out most of those that have no business being in Law Enforcement as they create as much work for us as our bad boys do; but, we have to suffer through politics the same as everyone else.  Those two, they’re appointees.  Some of us suspicion they were assigned here to keep tabs on people in our department even more than local troublemakers.  No proof of it, but plenty of circumstantial evidence.  I have no idea why they tried to bully you.  Coulda been as simple as you are young and female.  I do know they got their tail feathers smoked after word got around and have complained there must be something more to you for so many to be trying to push them off the scent.” 

“I didn’t say anything to anybody!  And I don’t have a scent … I mean … you know what I mean!” 

Lawrence gave a small smile at my expense but I didn’t begrudge him despite wanting to.  “Girl you didn’t have to say anything.  This is Harmon we are talking about and your people have been around for a long while.  If people stopped gossiping every building between here and the Chattooga would collapse as all the hot air disappeared.  And if you think Mrs. June is a pistol, you should meet those that gossip out of meanness.” 

Shaking my head firmly I said, “No thank you.  I’ve met too many of those type in my life already.” 

He nodded.  “Good.  Then you know what I’m speaking at.  Avoid drawing attention to yourself.  Some people will talk anyway; they always do.  Just don’t give them anymore to say than you can help.  Hopefully the two we’re referring to will find someone else to get curious about.” 

“Whoever it is will have my sympathies I’m sure.” 

Lawrence nodded and said, “Yours and mine both.”  That conversation, as well as others that had been thrown at me all morning long, occupied my mind until I pulled into Dog Belly. 

Dog Belly really isn’t a town although it appears to be one during the tourist season.  It is part RV and camp ground, part carnival, part pit stop, and part flea market.  The flea market is only open on Saturdays and Sundays this time of year and since I’d been so busy this is the first day I’ve had the chance to go. 

Three quarters of the flea market is junk by almost everyone’s standards but it is the rest of it I hoped to have time to run through before people started closing up shop.  I heard a lot of complaining about prices as I walked from the parking lot to the head of the first aisle but by the time I was done – having filled to overflowing the two-wheeled grocery cart I’d brought with me – I wondered where those people were shopping ‘cause I found the prices better than they were at the stands nearer home … even the ones that set up on the weekends near school that catered to starving students. 

I hit the scratch-n-dent grocery stands and found them smaller and more thinly stocked than they had been in summers past but I still located a few good deals.  I hit the bulk candy stand and got enough that I could piece out and feed my monthly sugar monster.  Bought some dark colored rags and towels that could be used more than once before I had to wash them and then several packs of bar rags that would stand up to hard use and being boiled clean.  I also stocked up on socks, something I didn’t have enough of since at home I was barefoot or in sandals most of the year. 

From linens I wandered into a dollar store type set up and bought a back scratcher, some plastic shower caps, and an obscene number of off-brand permanent markers to label cans and jars with.  This place also sold off-brand seasonings and I grabbed several of the ones I used the most.  Next I helped clean out a couple of ethnic cooking stalls.  I got good quality rose water, rose syrup, sirachi sauce, ghee, and peanut and olive oil in large cans.  I was really surprised that several of the booths weren’t getting any business but figured out soon enough that some “good ol’ boys” were trying to scare people off from shopping in them.  I heard the bad mouthing and ignored it.  I learned the hard way that when people want to be fools there isn’t much of anything you can do to stop them.  Plus, their loss was my gain.  I got some really good deals.  One of the Spanish ladies told me to go see her brother at the farmer’s market and I was more than happy to take most of their “dollar bags” off their hands. 

The whole aisle was shutting down and I got some great deals all up and down it all things considered.  Bananas are on the dehydrator and canned up as Banana Butter.  I’ve got bags of lemons and limes to preserve as well.  I’m up late – like that’s something new – and the house smells like cabbage, but I can live with it as one of the things Mom wanted was a few dozen jars of is sauerkraut.  I also got a few bushels of things on their last legs that I’ going to have to do tomorrow to keep them from going to waste.  Pole beans, cucumbers, corn, peaches, English peas, some melons, several quarts of blueberries, and plums.  I almost got apples and pears but the tourists had cleaned those out.  It doesn’t hurt my feelings too bad I suppose.  I will just try the u-pick farm near the winery; their prices are usually decent if you are buying in bulk and willing to take less than pretty fruit. 

Last place I stopped was the building where they sold packaged meats.  It isn’t a butcher but where they sell name brand meats that are a little strange … like their packaging is misprinted or the weight is off or something like that.  But what I had come after was bulk sausage and bulk burger.  They sold it in these long plastic rolls that looked like logs of meat.  The burger was the cheaper stuff but for the price I could deal with that.  The bulk sausage came in mild, medium, and burn-the-hair-off-your-tongue.  They’d also started selling fresh chorizo since I’d been in there last.  I got some of everything and hoofed it to the truck so I could put the meat and fresh stuff in the coolers and get back to the cabin before it got any later.  I’m going to make up a few freezer bags of the meat but the rest of it is going to be browned up and canned as quickly as I can get it done. 

As soon as the canner cools down enough for me to open it and take the jars out I’m going to bed.  Morning is going to get here way too early.  Zane is supposed to fix the cellar stairs first before moving the chicken coop.  In less than a week I’m taking delivery of some laying hens, a rooster, and some chicks I agreed to give a new home.  A family that had posted a sign at the Dog Belly trade-or-sale board and I came to an agreement.  They wanted a secure place to store their boat for a month until the woman’s father could pick it up as they were moving out west to look for steady work.  I said they could back the boat into the end pay of the old barn so long as we got Uncle Red to witness it.  They were more than happy to do just that as they already knew Lawrence because their daughters played softball together.
It’s going to mean being responsible for the boat for a while but it also means I get chickens – laying chickens – faster than I thought.  I just hope there’s no hold up on getting the chicken yard set up.