Eidetic Sunshine

Eidetic Sunshine

Monday, July 28, 2014

Chapter 4


“Danny!” 

Danny winced and said a quick prayer.  “Dios I haven’t asked for too many promises but I’m asking for one now.  They leave tomorrow.  No trouble.  No hiccups.  Just let Tito and Joey go off to school and let it be good for them.  Help me to be able to pay for it and keep them there so they can have a real life.  Really, that’s all I’m asking.  Let me be able to give them this chance.” 

“Danny!” 

Danny hurried from behind the RV where she had her garden and fruit grove.  “Don’t shout Joey.  It’s vulgar and you’ll disturb the guests.  Now what is so …” 

She stopped and stared at a young woman that Nita was hugging like a lifeline.  The woman looked up and said, “Aren’t you even going to say hello?” 

Danny’s world swam and she reached out to grab a fence post to keep her balance.  She would have fallen anyway if Butch Pinder hadn’t come around the corner to take his horse to the corral and grabbed her arm when her knees started to buckle. 

Butch turned and then did a double take as he recognized the woman as well.  “Delia?  Delia Trespalacios?” 

In an overly polite voice the young woman said, “Hello Mr. Pinder.  And please, it’s Dunkirk now.  May I introduce my husband Mr. Emery Dunkirk?” 

The two men sized each other up.  Butch nodded before looking back at Delia.  “There’s not going to be any trouble.  There’s been enough of it.” 

“Of course not,” she said.  “I came once I got Daniella’s letter.” 

Butch looked the question at Danny and she answered, “I sent a letter a month ago.  I just … I didn’t expect an answer.”  Realizing that Butch still held her upright she straightened her spine and shook off his help but did manage to whisper a shame-filled, “Thank you.” 

He nodded and turned to say, “Tito, nothing late.  We head out at four in the morning and I’m going to need you awake and aware so you can help Joey.  Got it?” 

“You’re going to be there?” Tito asked with surprise. 

“I have depositions to take to the Leesburg prosecutor’s office.  They asked me to ride in with your crew.  You’ll board the train there and ride it the rest of the way to Gainesville.” 

Tito nodded and even if she wouldn’t admit it aloud, a weight fell from Danny’s heart.  Then she looked at Delia and said, “You came just in time.  The boys are heading off to school tomorrow first thing.” 

“Actually I just came for Nita.” 

“What?” 

“You asked in your letter and this is my answer.  Yes, I’ll take Nita.  Mr. Dunkirk’s sister runs a school for girls.  We live right next door.  And when she isn’t in school she can help me with the baby.” 

“What baby?” 

“Why my baby of course.” 

“When?  I never heard about a baby.” 

“I sent word when he was born.” 

“I … I never got a letter about a baby.  The last letter we got was the card for Joey’s birthday.” 

“There was a letter in the card.  A nice long one.  It hurt my feelings when you didn’t … well …” 

Danny put her hands on her hips and snapped, “Those blasted postal inspectors.  I wondered why you had the extra postage on it.  I figured maybe they’d jipped you for the cookies.  I’ll ring their tails.  Madre de Dios … should you even be traveling?  What are you doing just standing there?  Tito!  Joey!  Get a chair for your sister.  Now!  Nita, stop squashing her.  Move.  Delia sit down right this instance.  And you there … brother in law … what will you drink?  I’ll fetch …” 

Delia started laughing.  “God Danny … you’re still the same.  Bossy as ever.  You’d never …” 

Then she looked away trying not to appear guilty.  Danny though knew Delia.  It’s why she only mentioned Nita in the letter.  “Yes I’m bossy.  It gets things done around here.  And if you take Nita and make sure she gets some training she’ll be better off for it.  We butt heads too much.  She needs different handling than I can afford to give her … and if I’m honest that I’ve got the patience to give her.  Still … let me get everyone something to drink.  Mr. Maddox will allow me that.  Especially if I tell Mrs. Maddox who it’s for, you know you were always her favorite … and a baby … she’ll have a fit if I don’t tell her right away.” 

An hour later Delia said she needed to go lie down with the baby as she’d been up most of the night and Danny needed to finish cooking corn cakes and some other things for Tito and Joey to take with them on their trip and to get them through the first week of their new living arrangements.  She put Nita in charge of helping Delia mind the baby if he woke up – might as well start her the way things were likely to go – and she left “Mr. Dunkirk” to Tito and Joey to entertain. 

She walked over to the laundry area to find that the boys’ clothes were dry and ready to be ironed and folded so she pulled them off the line, set them to the side and then restarted the laundry fire to heat up the cast iron skillet that had belonged to her mother and grandmother before her.  She had things well in hand when Tito called, “Danny?” 

“Yeah?” she said as she looked up.  “Oh.  Hello.  I’m sorry, did … did you need something?” she asked addressing her brother in law that had accompanied the boys. 

Tito looked at her and said, “Mr. Gifford stopped by and … well … he’s offered to take Joey and me across the ramp and buy us both belts from Danner’s store.  As like a going away present.  And we’re to take one for Thomas too … he sent home that he was on the last notch of his.” 

Danny’s pride briefly prickled but she knew that Mr. Gifford had always been good to the boys, letting them work in trade and after they had proven to be hard workers, in scrip some of the time.  Danny nodded, “I don’t need to tell you to say thank you but make sure that Joey does.  Belts with real metal buckles aren’t cheap.  And make sure there is plenty of growing room with extra notches.” 

Tito grinned.  “Mrs. Gifford already told him the same thing.  We won’t be too long.” 

“Just mind what Pinder said.  You’ve got an early day tomorrow.” 

Tito looked at his brother in law, unsure what to say when the man surprised them all by smiling and saying, “You better git while the gitting is good.  My sisters always made me wait forever before I could take off.  Still do when they get the chance.” 

Tito grinned in relief and nodded for Joey to follow him.  Danny was left uncomfortably alone with a man she didn’t know.  She looked over to the tavern kitchen and saw Mrs. Maddox give a nod letting her know that she’d keep an eye on things. 

“You can call me Emery … or Em if you like … prefer Emery though.” 

“All right … Emery.  Can I get you something to drink?” 

“Naw, I’m practically floating now.  You can do something else for me though.” 

“And that … would be?” 

“Explain things.  Tried asking Tito but I got the feeling he was afraid of saying something he shouldn’t.  You don’t need to worry about making things hard for Delia.  I figured right quick what she’s like but that’s ok.  I got sisters that make her look like an angel.  Was a little rough for both of us at first but turns out we suit each other just fine.” 

“Hmm.” 

“And furthermore, in case you ain’t figured it … about the only kinda speaking I can do is the plain kind.” 

Danny snorted and before she could stop herself she said, “That must have gone over well with Delia.” 

Emery gave a small grin and said, “Like I said, was a little rough at first for both of us.” 

“If you have Delia figured out and things are ok what do you need explained?” 

“The whole of it.  Delly … I gave up trying to get it out of her.  She … she just …” 

Danny nodded understanding the unspoken need that so many people seemed to have to know where the other person was when the flare happened and how they survived afterwards.  “She can’t or won’t tell it … the days leading up to and after the flare.” 

Emery was relieved that his sister in law seemed to be plain spoken as well.  “Right.  That.  Something … nags at me.  Like I won’t ever understand her all the way until I get that last part of the puzzle.” 

Danny sighed.  “Well if you don’t mind me working while I talk you can sit on that bench and I’ll see if I can untangle whatever it is that Delia has left out.” 

So Danny told it … 

“Our family was heading out on our annual camping trip up to Georgia.  I have … had … don’t know which for sure these days … an uncle up there that owned a hunting track.  He was my mother’s brother and usually there was a big family reunion and from what I remember of them they were … fun.  We worked but the reunions were just fun, the whole family thought so.  My dad’s job at the time was in Riverview … you know where that is?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Well Nita was two and had just gotten over being really sick so instead of driving up and camping like we normally did Dad rented an RV … the very one Delia is resting in now … and we attached a trailer with most of the stuff the movers didn’t take.  Oh, forgot to mention that we were supposed to move to Georgia to be nearer my mother’s mother as she had started to … slip mentally is the way Momma said it.” 

“Is the trailer here just like the RV?” 

“No.  We’ve still got some things from the trailer but only some of what was in it.  Let me explain.  There were six of us, plus Poppy and Momma.  Eddie was 13, Delia was 11, I was 8, Tito was almost 6, Joey was 3, and Nita was the baby and was 2.  Though … Momma was going to have another baby.  That was another reason why we were moving.  That day we pulled off here in Wildwood at the truck stop … what’s now the tavern.  We gassed up and then pulled around back so that Dad could check all the fluids and take a look at a tire that looked like it was getting low.” 

“I didn’t know … about another baby.” 

“Yeah well, probably because Delia had nightmares about it for a long time afterwards.  You remember what it was like that day?  Everything worked and then nearly everything didn’t.  And then a lot of people stopped working … the people that had pacemakers and medicine pumps that kept them going.  That happened pretty fast.  Then came the people that depended on medicines that needed refrigeration … like insulin.  That’s what happened to our father.  He had what they used to call Type I Diabetes – he’d had it since he was a very young boy - but it was under good control because Mom made sure that no kind of food came into the house that might tempt Dad to take a walk on the wild side and mess up his sugar.  But he was still insulin dependent and the kind that came in a pill didn’t work for him.  So Dad just kept getting sicker and sicker no matter what we did.  Then he fell into a coma.  Momma was …”  Danny stopped and thought about it. 

“Momma was a strong woman and I think if there had been time she would have been ok.  But there wasn’t time.  Everyone remembers the chaos that followed the flare.  It wasn’t nearly as bad here as it was in places like New York City, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas, Kansas City.  There it must have seemed like the whole world was coming apart at the seams.  Here the flare hadn’t been quite as bad … I don’t know why.  Some things stopped working, some people stopped working, but small devices that hadn’t been connected to anything still worked.  We had a wind up emergency radio, it still worked.  The problem was that there weren’t a whole lot of places still broadcasting.  But the news we did hear was terrible.  People were just plain crazy all over the world, even the parts that hadn’t taken the full brunt of the flare.  But even for those places it was like dominoes falling.  Cities and towns were going quiet, then states; around the world whole countries were going quiet.  But we were sort of ok in this little part of it.”
 
“But then something happened?” 

“Yeah, just like something happened in lots of places.  People going crazy, that was only the start of it.  Florida was able to get a hold of things before they got impossible.  It was really bad, but not impossible; plus the state still had an agricultural base to fall back on and we didn’t have the really bad first winter like they did up north that killed so many people.  Georgia survived too except for the part they gave up around Atlanta and let burn.  Miami burned too for a little while until people finally got it through their heads that no one was coming to fix things.  But then the people from those places that were used to other people taking care of them and enforcing the rules used up everything in their area and started branching out.” 

Danny thought, now comes the hard part. 

“Momma was … she was really big and pregnant.  Poppy … that’s what we called our father when we were little … Poppy was really fading and Momma was with him in this little building that stood right there,” Danny said pointing to an empty place that was little more than crumbled concrete filled with scrubby weeds.  “It’s where they had what they were calling the terminal people.  Us kids, we stayed in the RV.  Eddie was big for his age and for a long time we let on that he was our uncle and 18 so that they wouldn’t try and ‘do’ something about us kids.” 

“But what happened to your parents?” 

“I told you people left the cities looking for more.  More food, more drugs, more drinking water, more anything you can think of.  A lot of them were looking for leaders who promised them whatever they wanted.  And some of them found them.  They said some people weren’t being fair, they had more than they should; or, they’d say things like survival of the fittest, we take what we want.  They justified it a lot of different ways but the end result was always the same … people got hurt and people died.  And that’s really what happened to Momma and Poppy.  Poppy would have died in a day or two more without the insulin but Momma … she would have been ok except …” 

“Except?” 

“Well you see the Interstate … or what’s left of it.  They just came plowing through here and … and they … they took and destroyed so much.  There was this one group … they didn’t even wait to see if you would fight or surrender.  Their strategy was that they’d come through and soften places up.  The truck stop … it was a hard nut to crack.  They thought that must mean that there was good stuff here.  There wasn’t, we just had good people here.  Truckers are tough and a lot of the people that were here had guns even though they were tourists and stuff like that.  Well … they … they softened us up by setting fire to the terminal building even though it had a big Red Cross symbol on it to protect it and by blowing up a few things on both sides of the ramp.”   

Danny paused only a moment before continuing.  “It was the middle of the night and … and things were crazy.  Eddie … some people helped Eddie get Momma out but …”  Danny stopped and closed her eyes briefly before continuing.  “She was badly burnt and started miscarrying.  The baby didn’t survive.  It … it took a long time and the pain was so bad at first that she was out of her head.  But it was worse when the pain went away … at least for us … because … because that’s when she became lucid and started … started explaining how things were going to be.  She made Delia write down a bunch of instructions on how to do things … how she expected her to be the new mother.  And she expected Eddie to be the new father … the new Poppy.  And I love my parents and would never desecrate their memories but … but it was … it was too much to ask.  They tried but it was just too much to ask of them at the age they were.  They weren’t … equipped … to handle it.  We’d had such an easy life up to that point.” 

“You talk … different than I expected.  Delly sometimes acts like she’s from different than what she came from but mostly she … she forgets except when company is around that she wants to impress.  You talk … like you are, like it isn’t an act … like the way you are with the blokes in tavern, that’s the act.”


Danny chuckled.  “Oh I can be a shrew … and worse.  Ask anyone around.  But even after I had to quit school after Delia left there was a man here that was always on my case.  Father Brannigan.” 

“The one that delivered the letter?” 

“Well, he did then.  I thought he might send a Nun or someone else to do it.  Father Brannigan … well …” 

“Yeah, I got the feeling he didn’t approve too much of how Delly had left things.” 

“Oh, don’t let it bother her.  I’m not mad at her … not any more.  Might not have said that too long ago but having the boys settled, that’s more important than holding a stupid, worthless grudge about something that can’t be changed.  Delia is Delia.  She’s always been Delia even when Momma tried to force her to be something different.  She’s family.  Besides, I have a feeling she’ll get it back with Nita.” 

Emery blinked and then said carefully, “Now ain’t that a wicked sorta grin.  That’s all I need.  My sisters are all wishing my son turns out to be just like me so I get some back too.  You wanna curse us both?” 

Danny was surprised to see that Emery was actually laughing about it.  She smiled and said, “OK, maybe not … you seem like a nice sort of man.  Different but still nice.” 

Suddenly Emery was serious and said, “You don’t know anything about me.” 

“No … and yes.  I’ve been a barmaid here since I was fifteen and helped around the place and in the kitchen before that.  Just to stay out of trouble you learn to read men.  You’re capable of being a rascal, may have even been one at one time, but you’re older now.  You don’t need to be a rascal as much as you used to be.  Probably the same for Delia … she was … what she was for a long time and now she’s something different.  But not completely different.  There’s still enough of the old Delia in there that she and I can’t live together so stop looking like you are trying to figure out how to change Delia’s mind.  It wouldn’t work and I’ve no interest in it.” 

Emery crossed his arms and leaned back in the bench.  “She said you’d say that.  Apparently she knows you.” 

“She knows who I used to be and there’s still enough of that girl left in me that my opinions on that subject are the same.  But she doesn’t know who I am now and even if I could live with her she wouldn’t be able to live with me.  Trust me on this.” 

“What’ll you do?  My sister Lauren will expect an explanation and I’d like to have a nice easy answer for her.  Preferably with words of one syllable so she can’t use it to trip me up or make Delia miserable.” 

“Whoa, that type is she?  Well tell Sister Lauren that I intend to keep working until the boys are set up in work of some type.  If Joey needs something more than military school, or if he gets to the end of it and decides that’s not the life for him, I want to have enough saved to get him going.  Same for Tito though he’s old enough to know his mind and if it isn’t the militia for him it could be that he comes back to Mr. Gifford.  Mr. and Mrs. Gifford have always had a soft spot for Tito and Joey.  They almost adopted them except Eddie …” 

“Whatever happened to the brother named Eddie?  Delly says she doesn’t know … and doesn’t seem to be interested in finding out.” 

“That last part is probably not true.  She and Eddie were real close when we were all younger.  Close like Tito and I are close now or Tito and Joey.  When Eddie left … like I said people thought he was 18 when the flare happened but he was only 13.  He grew up way too fast and it … did something to him.  He got wild.  Bad wild.  He was still the head of the house and still tried to be the Poppy but away from us he was … different.  Only we didn’t know about it because Eddie was very careful and very protective … he shielded us from a lot.  If he had really been 18 maybe … but he wasn’t, people didn’t know, and he … lived the life of a man when he was still just a boy.  Four years ago it all got to be too much for him.  This older woman was chasing him, expecting him to … to be older like he said he was.  She wasn’t a nice woman and she got him involved in with people … well there was trouble.  Eddie wasn’t a part of it but he could have been.  Butch Pinder … you sorta met him today …” 

“Yeah.  Seemed kinda familiar with Delly.” 

“No need to be jealous if that’s what you’re thinking.  Butch … let’s just say girls like Delia and me aren’t his type.  Butch … he’s been here as long as we have.  And by here I mean here … at the tavern when it was still a truck stop.  Mr. and Mrs. Maddox keep a room ready for him when he is around which isn’t always all that often lately.  He was traveling with a bunch of friends the day of the flare when their car died and they walked to the truck stop on their way home … only eventually Butch was the only one left because Butch found out he didn’t have a home anymore … he was from near Miami.  But see Butch really was about the age that Eddie was only playing at being.  And somehow or other he figured it out and tried to look after him, keep him out of trouble, but Eddie is … was … as hard headed as Delia has ever been and was just as determined to go his own way.  After the trouble, even though Eddie could prove absolutely he didn’t have anything to do with it, he was going to be named as a … co-conspirator or something like that.  Butch told Eddie and Eddie chose to leave.  He’d been making noise about it for a while and … and he left.  And a part of Delia probably hates him for it.” 

“She ain’t let on she’s got too many fond memories of him that’s for sure.” 

Danny snorted.  “I imagine not.  Imagine being seventeen and then barely eighteen and suddenly being the only one responsible for four younger siblings.  She and I already butted heads, it got to be really bad and then … then suddenly we didn’t.  I didn’t realize it at the time but she was … she was preparing me to take her place.  Then she sat me down and explained how things were going to be … in a way it was like what Momma did to her.  No ifs, no ands, no buts … she was going away, she’d accepted a position as a mail order bride.  There was no discussing it, that’s just the way things were going to work out.” 

“You left out the part where she was going to send for you when she got settled.” 

Danny looked at him in surprise and Emery said, “Yeah, it came up when I read your letter asking for Delly to take Nita.  Can’t say I was happy about it.  Oh not you asking if she’d take Nita, but that Delly had made a promise and broken it.  We’ll have to work it out between us.  She was just going to send a ticket to put Nita on the train but I wasn’t having none of it.  My sisters can be rough as an old corncob but they’re still family, if one of them needed me … really needed me and wasn’t just yanking my chain … the hounds of hell wouldn’t stop me from helping them.  Delly … she needs to get passed whatever this block is she has.  My sister Clarice said she has abandonment issues or some sort of rot like that.  Clarice was a child psychologist before the flare and is the biggest pain in the backside you ever want to meet … but she means well and is right more often than not which just makes it all worse.” 

The look on Emery’s face made Danny laugh out loud despite the subject under discussion.  “You are just so perfect for Delia.  You are exactly what she needs.” 

Emery nodded.  “And she’s what I need.  She makes me feel like a man … and treats me like one which is something my sisters never can seem to manage.  Which is why I … she doesn’t ask for much.  She’s careful like that.  The only absolute she’s ever given me is that she was going to send presents to you bunch at Christmas and a card on your birthdays.  It’s even in our marriage papers.” 

Danny looked momentarily surprised and then supposed she shouldn’t have been.  “Delia … it’s Delia’s way.  Makes her feel better about leaving … and it was stuff that I never could have afforded.  And before I forget I want to say thank you as Delia had said that you always picked out the boys’ gifts, they were always well-received and very useful.  They both still have the pocket knives you sent and wouldn’t put their pants on without them.” 

Emery seemed very pleased to find it out and that’s when Delia showed up.
 

2 comments:

  1. I wonder what Danny is gonna do when everyone is gone! lol! Thanks so much!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great story Kathy. Thank you.

    ReplyDelete