Enduring on the Lake

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Chapter 17


“Thanks for coming with me Max.” 

Max crossed his arms and stared out the passenger window.  “Yeah.  Right.  Gran and Grams just asked you to babysit me.” 

“Actually they did say something but only after I asked if it was ok to hire you away from Junior for the day.” 

“Sure.” 

I reached over and poked him causing him to jump before asking him, “Haven’t we agreed to speak the truth to each other?” 

He looked at me suspiciously then asked, “You really asked first?” 

“Yeah, I did.  I racked my shins day before yesterday carrying a basket up the stairs.  You saw the nasty bruise on top of the big knot.  But I’ve got to go picking apples today or I won’t get to.” 

“Why?” 

Sighing I said, “School is about to get ferocious.” 

“You go to school?!” 

I guess I had surprised him though I honestly thought he knew.  “Yep.  Online, same as you only mine is college.” 

“You can do college online?” he asked like I just got a whole breed of interesting. 

I explained, “Most of it you can.  I clep’d a bunch of classes – that means I took a test that let me skip some introductory courses – and dual enrolled some classes in high school too that I got credit for.  Last year I was in the classroom for a full load.  If I hustle I’ll have finished my bachelor degree by the end of the spring semester.” 

“Whatcha wanna be?” Max asked curiously. 

“I’m double majoring … Public Health and Nutrition.  Unless I have to pick up a couple of other electives and it will be Public Health and Biomedical Sciences.  And those degrees will help lead me into eventually being a doctor. 

“Sounds boring.  Why you wanna be a doctor for?” 

“I don’t.  At least not right now.  Maybe later.” 

“You don’t sound all that excited about it one way or the other.” 

“Why do you say that?” 

“When Zane gets started about electrical stuff and fixing things he never shuts up.  I’ve never heard you talk about … nutrition and the bio whatever stuff.” 

“It’s actually pretty interesting.” 

“But?” 

I looked at him and recognized a kindred spirit in the “feeling” department. 

“But … I don’t know.  It doesn’t make me wanna hula nekked in front of a stadium full of people.  On the other hand, I don’t know if anything should be that exciting.” 

“Probably not,” he agreed with wide eyes and red ears.  “What do you want to do?” 

“That’s easy.  What I’m doing right now.  One of the reasons Daddy asked me to come take care of the place is because he knows I love it and like … well he and Mom call it piddling around … cleaning, organizing, refurbishing stuff, things like that.  But these days you can’t make a living at that so …” 

“So you do stuff you don’t like so that you can do stuff you do like.” 

“I wouldn’t say I don’t like it.  I just like doing other stuff better.” 

“But why not do stuff you like better all the time?” 

“It’s complicated.” 

“Is it because your parents expect you to be a Nutrition bio whosiwhatsit?” 

“OK, it’s not totally complicated,” I admitted since he’d already guessed.  “Yeah some of it is about what my parents expect.  Some of it is I had expectations.  And some of it is just … some stuff has been happening in my life and it’s turned my expectations upside down.” 

“What kinda stuff?” 

I gave a very abbreviated and age appropriate view of the last eighteen months in my life and he got thoughtful before saying, “Well that explains why Zane told me he’d give me a swirly if I asked if you had a boyfriend.” 

“Zane’s a nice guy … mostly,” I told him with a wink.  “Though I kinda got the swirly threat myself if father talk came up with you.” 

“Oh.  I don’t got a father.” 

“Mrs. June’s son doesn’t …?” 

“Nope.  Don’t want him to either.  He’s weird.” 

“That’s not something that can’t be overcome.  Look at me, you think I’m weird.” 

“No.  You’re strange.  He is just weird.  He fried his brain huffing meth.” 

“Oh.  Sorry.” 

“I’m ok with it.  It’s Grams that feels bad.  She shouldn’t.  And she and Uncle Dirk try to do stuff for me that a dad would do.” 

“Who is Uncle Dirk?” 

“Grams’ other son.  He almost drowned when he was a kid so … they call it something, I forget what.  Uncle Dirk is kinda cool but he couldn’t be a dad because people have to take care of him.  He lives in a house with other people like him now because Grams says he needs more independence and friends his own age and interests.” 

“What about Josh?” 

“Eh … he’s all about his step kids.  They’re ok.  When they lived here we used to hang out a lot.  But they’re mom doesn’t like us anymore because she got tired of living feast-or-famine and wanted a man with a more stable income that Josh gets as a river guide in the summer and a trail guide the rest of the year.”  Then he surprised me by saying, “Zane would be a cool dad.  He knows stuff and isn’t as grumpy as he used to be.  As long as I get my school work done and get good grades he doesn’t mind if I go with him places.” 

“You’re a good helper.” 

“But he lets me come even when I can’t help.  Sometimes I just read.” 

“He must trust you to stay out of trouble.” 

“I’ll do anything not to have to go with Junior.  I don’t mind working at the shop, I just get tired of Junior bossing me all the time.  And Pattie is always hanging around and they do stuff Gran wouldn’t like when they think no one is looking.” 

“Ew.” 

He made a horrible face and then said, “You ain’t kidding.” 

“Well speaking of helping … here we are,” I told him as I turned into the U-pick farm and orchard. 

I was more grateful than I could express to have Max with me for the whole day.  We picked many boxes and bushels of apples of each kind that was currently available.  Golden Delicious, Red Rome, Rome Beauty, the tail end of the Winesaps, and a beaucoup bunch of Arkansas Black and Granny Smith.   

Winesap apples are tart and crisp and great for baking or snacking on.  Golden delicious are good for pies, making apple butter, and for eating fresh or in salads.  The Rome apples are also used for cooking because they are nice and firm and don’t fall apart when they are heated.  The Arkansas Black is a long keeping apple that tastes nice and tart when first picked and then mellows out during storage.  Granny Smith is the famous lock-you-jar green apple using for pie baking and fresh storage.   In addition to canning I planned on using a mixture of Rome Beauty, Golden Delicious, and Winesap apples for making several gallons of cider. 

Not only did Max help me with the picking he helped me get all of the apples into the truck and then from the truck into the house and down into the cellar.  In addition to a day’s pay – something he apparently didn’t know he was going to get – I fed him and told him to take home a box of the best apples.  “Make your grandmother happy, you might be surprised what she is willing to overlook the next time.” 

Max’s eyes widened and then so did his grin.  When  I dropped him off at the store Mrs. Slowthower came out and before she could say anything Max said, “I brought these for you Gran.  I made sure they didn’t have any worm holes or anything.”  He went on about the different kind of apples and that he always had thought she had the best fried pies.  “And Junior cain’t have these for the store.  They’re for you Gran.” 

Mrs. Slowthower looked duly impressed and then smiled at me when Max wasn’t looking.  I was invited to dinner but politely declined.  I had a ton of apples waiting on me back at the cabin.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful story Kathy always a treat to read.
    Wayne

    ReplyDelete