Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Making Finding Out About Updates Easier

Due to the number of story blogs that I have I decided to create an update blog.  Yeah, I know it sounds redundant but in reality I hope to make things less confusing and time consuming for readers.  Instead of having to subscribe to umpty dozen different blogs you can subscribe to Mother Hen's Story Blogg at http://motherhensstorytime.blogspot.com/ and get all of the updates in one location.

There is also a full listing of all of the story blogs on the right hand side of the page and several different subscription choices ... email, readers, google, etc.  Near future during the editing and clean up process I also hope to put a contact link so that if readers have any questions I'll get a direct email.  For now a comment on the blog should get to me.  I'm also going to finally get on that blog that will house all of the recipes that appear in the stories in one location.  I hope to tag those so that you can search them by ingredients, cooking methods, etc.

As always thank you for all of your encouragement.  It is greatly appreciated.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Updates and Announcements

In the coming weeks there is will lots of updates to my story pages.  I've looked back at some of the blogs and they need major editing including updating the "story list" and other links.  To get the whole ball of wax started I'm posting Rain, Rain, Rain.  The story is complete but was badly in need of proof reading so it is going to take me a day or three to get all thirty-something chapters posted.  But for those that would like to read it I have it started at http://rainrainrainelizabella.blogspot.com/

In addition to the current story list on blogspot I'll be posting some other stories that haven't made it to the blog-o-shere yet.  Some have been posted in line, simply at other locations, and some have never seen the light of day outside my computer.  I'll also be finishing some that are "in progress" in various locations.

Sorry I've been away so long but I'm baaaack and plan on completing some much needed story time housekeeping.

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Fel By the Wayside" is complete

The story Fel By The Wayside is now complete and can be found at http://felbythewayside.blogspot.com/

I am currently working on completing the stories one by one. "And the Geek Shall Inherit the Earth" is an old one that I never finished and it is the one that I am currently working on. I will get it posted to blogspot as soon as I can and you will be able to find the link in my profile as soon as I do.

Thanks for everyone's patience. I had too many open threads in my hand at one time and working on all of them wasn't working so I've decided to work on them one at a time until it is finished and then move on to the next.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Update ...

The following stories are now complete:
A Will To Survive
Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men
Forsaken Harvest (completed as of 11/14/11)
Over the Mountain and Through the Fire
This Is Me Surviving

Stories Currently in Progress:
All Roads Lead Somewhere
Carry On
Gurl
Mom's Journal of the Zombie Years
To All Things There Is A Season
Il Agita Di Amore
And the Geek Will Inherit the Earth

I plan on a very short break and then will begin to try and complete another story. I hope to have at least two more completed before the end of the year.

Chapter 48 - The End

Chapter 48
EPILOGUE

“Daddy, why do Uncle Daniel and Aunt Pauline live in a hole in the ground? Wouldn’t it be better if they lived in a house like us?”

A little dark skinned boy runs up behind the little girl and taps her hard enough to make her stumble and yells, “You’re it!” before running off. The girl just rolls her eyes and continues to walk beside her father as her siblings dart this way and that between the trees.

The father looked down and thought just how much she had turned out like his own mother, even her looks, which caused him a twinge. Since she was waiting for an answer he said, “I grew up in that ‘hole in the ground’ … or at least until I was about six or seven.”

“Is that when Poppa finished the house where we live now?”

“No, that was only a little place. Poppa tore that down when he built the big house we all live in now.”

“But why don’t they come live with us now when Poppa and Mawmaw are gone? Aunt Leena lives with us now.”

“Aunt Leena and Uncle Adam are only visiting until they get their place finished. Now that Uncle Adam is finished with all of his training he is going to start his own medical practice on this side of the ridge while his brother keeps the one going that his dad started over in A-Town.”

“But doesn’t Uncle Daniel want to live with us anymore? He used to. Did we do something wrong? I miss him.”

The father smiled. “No Sweetheart. My Uncle Daniel is … well he needed his own place. All the noise and ruckus up at the big house doesn’t always set too well with him. Aunt Pauline is the same way. And out here they are closer to the plants and animals they like so well.”

“’Cause Uncle Daniel and Aunt Pauline are special?”

The man asked abruptly, “Where did you hear talk like that?”

“I heard a lady at church say it. She said it real funny like she didn’t mean the word like the word is supposed to mean.”

“Now you listen here young lady. Uncle Daniel and Aunt Pauline are a little … different … eccentric maybe … but God made them just like He made us and I better not hear another thing about it.”

Properly subdued the little girl said, “Yes Daddy.”

The father, regretting how forcefully he’d reacted added, “I know you don’t mean anything bad by it Vickilynn but words have power and using the wrong words can be hurtful to people. Folks like Uncle Daniel might take the long way around to get someplace or they might have a totally different way of looking at things, but that doesn’t make it wrong.”

Reassured the little girl said, “Yes sir.” After a pause she asked, “But why do we come out here every day? Why don’t they come to us sometimes?”

“’Cause Uncle Daniel is real busy this time of year and your Mawmaw made me promise when she went that I’d keep an eye on them just in case. Besides, this is your Uncle Daniel’s and Aunt Pauline’s anniversary, they’ve been married five years. Your momma will skin me if we don’t get this cake delivered and get back to the house to help with the garden and J. Paul.”

“Daddy, is J.Paul like Uncle Daniel?”

The man paused and then nodded, “A little bit. Your Mawmaw swears he’s quieter than Uncle Daniel was at that age though.”

The little girl looked completely unconvinced and asked, “You sure?”

The man laughed and reminded her that her grandmother was never one that liked being questioned so if she said Uncle Daniel was noisier than J.Paul is they’d just have to believe it.

The man stepped into the clearing and looked around at the place that hadn’t changed much since he’d been a child running as free as his own small children were doing now. Uncle Daniel and Aunt Pauline were sitting on stools he’d made them for last Christmas shelling beans, something they seemed to have endless patience and energy for.

He watched each of his children begin to settle down as they knew that if they wanted their Uncle Daniel to show them some new and interesting thing he’d found in the forest they’d need to play by his rules of staying calm or he’d get fed up with them and tell them to come back some other time. They also knew not to startle Pauline and he was grateful that they were careful with her even if they didn’t know the whole of it.

Pauline had been a slave during the Starving Years and had nearly died before being rescued by the militia in that area. Then several well meaning people had paired her up with a man that had turned out to be an abuser. By the time he’d died – been killed in a brawl actually – Pauline was like she was and there was no changing it. Uncle Daniel had met her one time when they were taking some goats to market and for some reason known only to God and Uncle Daniel it was love at first sight for both of them. The man’s mother had done what was necessary and Pauline had come home with them and the rest as they say was history.

He leaned against the tree and thought about his own childhood and about his sister Leena … and about his other siblings as well, all of them seeming to have outgrown the wanderlust and finally decided to return to the home they couldn’t seem to wait to escape when they were young and raring for adventure. He was the youngest and the only one that had never seemed to feel the need to see what was “out there.”

He looked up to see Aunt Pauline quietly waiting for him to notice her. He took off his hat and said, “I beg your pardon. I was wool gathering.”

She gave a small smile and said, “You miss them don’t you Jeff.”

He nodded, “Yes ma’am. I sure do. But it had to be the Lord’s work that they were able to go together. There’s no other explanation for how things happened the way they did.”

His parents had been gone three months and it still caused him a twinge but he knew where ever they were they were happy just to be together.

*****

On the other side of the world the old woman stopped to empty a stone out of her shoe. The hike had been lovely but tiring too, especially on the heels of the big ceremony dedicating the memorial to the men and woman that had left Spain at the behest of the UN and never returned. “Reckon the children are doing all right?” she asked the man at her side.

“Jeff will have things well in hand Querida. And Daniel is there to help if need be.”

Dacey nodded. “I know, I know. Time I cut the apron strings. Just he’s the youngest and … well, as much as I’ve had fun seeing your old home Abel, I miss the noise of our own around us. I’ll be glad to start back tomorrow. It was nice that you found some of your cousins still alive but, I feel like such a stranger around here.”

Abel smiled and said, “Yes, me too. It is so quiet here. I thought …”

“Thought what?”

His shrugs were still as eloquent as ever. “Perhaps to find a piece of myself I had left behind.”

Curious she asked, “Did you?”

A rakish grin partially hidden by a mustache and well-trimmed beard preceded his cocky swagger in her direction. “No Querida. I realized if you had not come with me that would have been the piece that was missing.”

Dacey smiled realizing age didn’t change as much as she thought it would. “So, did you like the ceremony?”

“Eh, it was all right. Too many in the audience didn’t seem to really understand what the memorial represented. I saw very few people our age except in the special visitor stands and of them, I saw very few who seemed happy to remember only that they survived. It was a spectacle. I am glad my cousin got us those passes so that I could tell the story of those that had died with honor but I’m not sorry to be returning to where I now belong.”

“To be expected I guess. Not a whole lot of us old timers around, or at least not in any shape to do a bunch of gallivanting around like we’ve been doing.”

The swagger had drawn him very close and he whispered huskily, “You still … gallivant … quite well.”

That caused Dacey to laugh out loud. “Honesty Abel, that ceremony was supposed to be serious and here you are … well … acting like you’re acting.”

Abel smiled and then leaned against the tree while his wife finished tying her boot. “I can think of no better affirmation of life than that and a prayer of thanksgiving. We’ve already said our prayers, so why not now the other? We lived through seven long years of the Heart Rot. To have survived it was a miracle, a blessing from God above. And the recovery afterwards was just as long and nearly as hard as the Starving Time as the world tried to find its way. Then the war … but it is all done … at least until the next crisis and there are children and grandchildren and hope.”

“Why Abel Montoya … there’s always hope.”

“Si Querida, there is always hope,” as he swooped in for a surprise kiss that had her laughing all over again.



THE END

Chapter 47

Chapter 47

The rag tag end of my cough was finally gone and I needed some air, some sunshine. I knew what natural sunlight I got over the next few weeks would likely have to hold me all winter and I wanted to soak up what I could. I wrapped Leena in her blanket and climbed out of the sink. I didn’t have to have help doing it anymore and I glad to not be tied down to someone else helping me all the time.

As I finally reached the top of the stairs I saw that Abel was chopping wood; he swore we wouldn’t run short this year like we had last and he never let a spare moment go by that he didn’t at least add a stick or two to our supply of fuel. Daniel, who had been growing so fast you could almost see it the few times you could catch him standing still, was bringing in another basket of forage to sort and dry or can as we needed.

I told him, “Hand me some of those and I’ll help.”

“Nuh uh … you handle Leena. This is my job.”

“What? You think I’ve forgotten how?”

He looked at me and grinned mischievously and said, “Maybe.”

I stuck my tongue out at him and said, “Razzle frats on you.”

Daniel laughed but didn’t bring me any of the forage. It was a good thing because Leena picked that moment to start squeaking. I picked her up and slid her under the poncho I wore a lot because it was just too hard to constantly run and change my shirt so she could get fed.

It’s a strange thing. When Leena is eating I feel like I go off to Lala Land. I mean it is one of those things I imagine if you could bottle people would pay a lot of money for – assuming people still use money some place in the world – but it is kind of freaky as well.

Leena and I were all comfy on the blanket when the forest got quiet. I was about to sit up to see what had caused it when Daniel rushed over and covered us with a couple of branches and then hid behind it. “Stay quiet as a mouse Dacey. Two people are coming I … wait, that’s not a people that’s Josef.”

I could tell he was about to jump up. “No!” I whispered. “Not until Abel gives the all clear Daniel.”

A little chagrined he said, “Oh. Yeah. Good thinking Dacey.”

My back had been to the direction the men had come from and I couldn’t move without unhooking Leena and if I did that she wouldn’t be real happy. She wasn’t big and she really wasn’t all that loud but she could let her feelings be known that’s for sure.

Daniel went to stand up. “Daniel?”

“It’s OK Dacey, Abel told me to come over. But you stay put ‘til I check it out.”

Oh my Daniel, I wish Dad and Mom could see him. Despite all of his issues he’s more mature now as a young teenager than many of my older friends were before they were forced to grow up due to Heart Rot.

In no time Abel ran back over and carefully moved the branch off of me and then helped me to sit up. It was Josef all right but I didn’t recognize the guy with him.

Abel walked up and said, “Dacey, this is Louis. I met him on the trip. He is a good man.”

I nodded but continued to hold back. I was looking at Josef who was looking at me. He tried to hide his shock but I could see it behind his stoney face.

“I know what I look like Josef. Pretty pathetic huh?”

He knelt down and said, “I came over not knowing what to expect. Frankly I’m surprised we found you so quickly. I just went by the little bit that Daniel had said about you living near your parents’ house and took the same trail I saw you take each time.”

I looked in consternation at Abel who had a carefully blank look. “You didn’t.”

“Querida, there were a few times … I needed someone that would come to care for you and Daniel.”

I was outraged and very upset and then suddenly dizzy. “Dacey!”

I wanted to be mad at him but just was too busy trying to keep my brain from spinning. The man named Louis said, “I swore a blood oath Missus Montoya. Wouldn’t ever break one o’ those … more than my soul is worth.”

I looked at him and realized he talked kinda funny. He spoke good English but there was something strange about it. “Got me a Granny what Abel here promised to look after should something happen to me.” He wasn’t Amish either ‘cause he said he’d sworn an oath and that was something they didn’t do.

Then I realized why he sounded so different yet familiar. “You’re from West Virginia.”

He looked surprised but somehow pleased. “Sure am Missus.”

I wanted to ask what he was doing here but Josef was trying to take Leena from me and I wasn’t having any of it. “Dacey, let me check the baby out.”

“Her. Her name is Leena and don’t you dare take her blanket off, she’ll catch a chill and she’s too little to drink tea.”

I realized as soon as I said it that it sounded strange and the concerned look on everyone’s faces made me realize it sounded worse than that, it sounded crazy. I was getting upset and that only made the odd feelings I was having worse. Abel bent down and picked me up and then turned to Josef and Louis, “You swear by all you hold dear that no one else is with you or followed you?”

Josef looked offended but Louis stuck out his hand and said, “Made sure to lose the couple of young rascals that wanted to follow us and then came up behind ‘em and put a scare into ‘em. They left off after that. Nosey peckerwoods but no real harm in ‘em but the both of them learned the hard way not to push me too far.”

I could feel Abel nod and then turn to Daniel who he told, “Run ahead and clear the way.” This must have been a secret between the two of them because when we finally entered the cave the pocket door at the end of the hall that led to all of the various storage are was slid closed and a book case stood in front of it.

Abel noticed me noticing and kissed the top of my head and I relaxed some. He might have told some, might have had a good reason for it, but he didn’t tell all and didn’t intend on telling all either from the looks of it.

I tried to think about what the rest of the place must look like and remembered that the kitchen was bare of everything except the forage that Daniel had been so faithful in gathering and if I had to guess the pantry door was being covered by the stand that held Mom’s cookbooks and such. Abel gently laid me on the bed and then took the squeaking Leena from my resisting arms.

“Let go Querida. She won’t go far, just right here on the bed … beside you, si?”

I started having trouble breathing again and Josef took charge. “Dacey, look at me. You’ve known me for years. You know I never hurt Daniel and I never would. There’s no need to panic here. Just try breathing slow and steady.”

He was right, I had known him a long time and he’d always been good with Daniel. Dad and had liked and trusted him. I tried not to think about the fact that Dad had liked and trusted the men that had come that day he and Mom had been killed but it was a tough battle barely won. Finally I said, “Right here where I can see what you are doing.”

Daniel and Dog picked that moment to stick their head in the door and asked, “Abel, you want me to bring in some water?”

Since I knew for a fact we never had to bring water in it must have been some simple signal and Abel’s answer of, “No Daniel, the barrel is full” must have been the answering one because Daniel grinned so big that it didn’t make sense. Abel led Louie out and must have been taking him to the kitchen but I saw by the shadow on the wall that Daniel and Dog had parked themselves outside the door.

Josef noticed too. “He’s different.”

Since it was obvious who he was talking about I said, “He’s growing up. It’s to be expected. Abel counts on him a lot and so do I.” I made sure it was loud enough for Daniel to hear. I wanted him to know I was proud of him.

Josef nodded and then looked around. “These work?”

“The solar lights? Yeah, we just keep them turned down low to save battery.”

“Makes sense. That’s how they do it at the farm too. We’ve been blessed that a lot of the people were already set with solar … one of the few things the Amish had over the Townies. Now let’s take a look here.”

He unwrapped Leena who did not like it at all. He looked at me and asked, “You keep her swaddled all the time?”

“She doesn’t seem to like it any other way. She gets all fussy if I don’t.”

He nodded and I couldn’t tell if that was a good thing or bad thing. Beginning to get anxious at his silence I burst out with, “She might be small but she’s a good baby.”

He looked at me and said, “It’s all right Dacey. I’m just measuring her and checking her reflexes.”

“Fine. But what is that telling you.”

He wrapped Leena back up but rather than give her to me he said, “Your turn.”

“No … way.”

“Dacey, why do you think Abel took Louis off.”

“I’m fine.”

Daniel stuck his head in the door and asked, “Dacey you want me to hold your hand like Momma used to hold mine? It might help.”

I sighed, knowing I was beaten. “No Daniel, it’s all right. Just don’t you peek you hear me?”

“I didn’t peek when Abel was taking care of you did I?”

“No, so don’t go doing it now.”

Josef sighed and shook his head but that’s the only sign he made that he thought I was over reacting. He really didn’t do all that much but he asked questions that I really resented having to answer.

“You know, I don’t know that it is any of your business,” I told him after a particularly embarrassing question about me and Abel.

“You are about the most hardheaded girl I’ve ever met.”

“Thank you, it’s a gift I’m pretty proud of.” I heard Daniel snicker.

Josef snorted but it seemed he was at the end of his questioning anyway. “Dacey, you’ve had a close call. You still aren’t completely come back from the birth. From what you’ve told me you’re lucky you didn’t develop a fever, infection, or worse. And given it was you telling me and not Abel that means you probably aren’t even telling me the whole of it and I’ll be asking him a few questions too. Now you’re obviously anemic and some of that is affecting the baby.”

That stopped me. I whispered, “I’m … I’m hurting Leena.”

“No, not hurting her. If anything its probably the other way around. A woman’s body naturally puts the best in her milk before the mother gets it. Leena is probably syphoning off a lot of the nutrients you need for yourself.”

Relieved I said, “I don’t care. All I care about is her growing up.”

He nodded, “Which is what I figured which is why Abel is going to need to watch and make sure that you get what you need.”

Not being the idiot he must’ve took me for I said, “Don’t even think about telling me I need to eat liver. If I eat more liver I’m gonna turn into one. Chicken liver. Pork liver. Venison liver.” Sighing remembering the sight of Abel and Daniel with my mother’s books out and making a list I added, “Egg yolks, leafy greens, fish, chickweed, catnip, burdock … and I have to have blackstrap molasses in my tea instead of honey.” That was a real grievance for me. I liked molasses but I preferred honey when it came to my tea.

Josef looked surprised and then said, “Oh … your mother would have taught you.”

“Yes and her books are still around and Abel has gone over every single one of them. He’s got this long list of what I’m allowed to eat and what I’m not and what I’m allowed to do and what I’m not.”

I was running out of steam and trying not to show it. Daniel must have noticed because he came over and said, “It’s all right Dacey. Why don’t you take a nap. I’ll take Josef over to the kitchen.”

“No. I’m getting up. If we have company …”

In the end my stubbornness only took me so far. I walked as far as the kitchen but all I was allowed to do was sit in the rocker and “decorate the room” as Dad used to call sitting around doing nothing.

Abel had gotten pretty efficient in the kitchen but he was wily too. We had intended to start culling more of the flock before it turned too cold so he just did one of them early. It was a gimpy ol’ hen that wasn’t laying anymore and was starting to get picked on so it was really putting her out of her misery sooner rather than later. I told Daniel which herbs to use to season the hen and then they roasted it while we all sat and talked. Or rather they talked, I went to sleep after I fed Leena.

I woke up realizing she wasn’t in my arms and jumped. Abel got up and it was only a few steps before he was beside me. I wasn’t awake all the way and after he let me know Leena was in her little box beside me and then he put an afghan over me I started to sleep back into sleep but not before I heard Josef ask, “How often is she like this?”

“She is much better than she was.”

“This is better?”

There was a pause and then Abel said quietly, “This is much better. For a long time … I thought I would lose one or the other of them, perhaps both. I … I thought about … but Dacey would have never forgiven me and I could not have forgiven myself. So, I helped Dacey to … to care for Catalina. It … it slows her getting better. Yes?”

Josef sighed and said, “As you said, I doubt Dacey would have forgiven you if you haven’t tried and there’s no way a baby that size can go on any kind of milk even if there was some. You’ve done good to do what you did. Do you have any of those pre-natal vitamins left?”

“No. I ground them up and put them in the water we were feeding her hoping they would help.”

“Probably more than you knew from what I’ve seen and heard from you both. They’ll both remain delicate through this winter. You’ll have to be very careful even if she gets stubborn. I’m not sure what is causing those spells you say she has, it could be any number of things; lack of a vitamin or mineral her body is craving, the anemia she is experiencing, simple fatigue, maybe a form of stress driven panic, who knows. But Abel, you’re going to have to face facts. You said you had to perform CPR a few times; the spells could be a direct result of the loss of oxygen and may be a permanent fixture from now on. Are you prepared for that?”

“I … I have thought of that. I had a cousin who had asimientos, what you call seizures. They did not stop her from having a life, a family, she simply had to take care once she learned to recognize when they were coming. As for the rest, we have spoken of her need to take care and she has agreed; she does not wish to leave us.” He continued to talk but I was just too tired to listen.

I woke again when I heard the oven door open and smelled the chicken. I wasn’t exactly hungry … not in it was a pleasure to eat kind of hungry; but my body craved the food, sometimes so much it hurt. But I was embarrassed. The first time we had company since my parents were alive and I was barely moving around more than a slug.

Louis noticed and told me matter of factly, as if he had somehow read my mind, “Don’t fret on it Missus. My Granny is the same way but there are just days when God deems her to have a Sitting Day and on them days it’s just best to do it ‘cause that’s what He wants. Reckon He must have something mighty fine planned for that little peanut o’ yours what with all you’ve been going through to keep her and raise her. Reckon there’s a reason for it and for the way you’re feeling. Best let God do as He sees fit and stay outta His way and mind Him.”

I was beginning to understand why Abel had trusted the man. He grows on you in a weird way very quickly. Abel asked him to say our dinner prayer and Louis seemed pleased to be asked. The men tried to take only meager portions but I told them, “Eat. The sooner that carcass is cleaned up the sooner it can be put in the pot to make broth with. And eat your share of the greens, no one wants to eat reheated, wilty greens.”

I didn’t have to tell them twice and soon enough dinner was over with, the dishes were cleared away with all of them helping to clean their own plates – that was another embarrassment and I hated imagining what my mother would have said about it – and then we all went into the living room where Daniel heated up a pot of acorn coffee for the men. The “coffee” was really just roasted acorn meats that were then percolated in an old coffee pot but Abel liked it well enough and Josef and Louis seemed to as well. I stuck to water. I was always thirsty it seemed.

Abel asked after their families and then once the formalities were out of the way he asked what we’d both been wondering, “What of the seeds?”

Both men grinned, “Nearly forty percent germination. And almost all of those produced something; not anything approaching normal but they did produce. The A-Town voted to save everything for seed though we did give each of the children something.”

Abel asked, “And everyone was willing to do that?”

Josef shrugged but Louis said, “Most. Got some real knotheads even in a place like A-Town. But feeding the kids like we do they didn’t have a whole lot of support for what they wanted.”

“What they wanted?”

Louis snorted, “Wanted to use the seeds like gold, try and trade for more solar or fuel so that we could get some of the big tractors up and running.”

I said, “What’s the sense in having tractors if you don’t have seeds to plant?”

“Good question Missus. They said them soldiers would bring us more in the spring. Bird in the hand is worth two in the bush says I.”

Abel asked, “How is the town set for winter?”

Both men became grim. “We’ll squeak by. We’ve got teams that will watch everyone better this year. We’ll lose a few but not to outright starvation if we can help it. Most everyone that was going to go that route already has, now we just need to care for the weak and less able bodied, the widows, and the orphans. Seeing the crops this year has bolstered those that were weak in spirit as well.”

The men continued to talk and when they wound down I asked Josef, “How’s Monica?”

He gave the barest of smiles, “About like you would expect.” That about covered it and we both knew it. I’d already heard the baby had been a little boy and they’d named him Adam. He’d been born at only six pounds but apparently that was a good weight these days. They had a higher than normal number of stillbirths and miscarriages and it was being put down to poor nutrition and stressful living. Remembering that had me cuddling Leena closely to my chest.

Abel must have noticed because he changed the subject to something less upsetting. There was a little more talk but I was busy caring for Leena and then we all went off to bed. When Abel and I were there together, after making sure our guests were cared for, he asked, “Will you forgive me?”

I wasn’t going to fool around and pretend like I didn’t know what he was talking about. I sighed, “I told you when you first came that this was your home too. I just wish you would have given me some warning or we had talked about it. My parents always talked about the big stuff before they went and did it.”

“Si Querida, but it was a battlefield decision. We were in a bad spot and … and I did not want you to wonder if I never came home. I saw what Jeff’s disappearance made you feel. I could not do that to you.”

Looking at it from his perspective I suppose I might have done the same. “I’m not … not angry Abel. Just … I don’t know … I don’t know if I feel so safe here now.”

“You forget Querida.”

I asked, “Forget what?”

Abel’s voice got still and as hard as I had ever heard it. “I know where they live too.”

The threat was implied and I believed him. That didn’t exactly make me feel any more comfortable with someone knowing but it reminded me as nothing else could exactly where Abel put us in his life. We were the top priority and something in me told me we always would be.

We both were quiet a moment then I asked, “What do you make of the seed germinating?”

I felt him shrug. “It means there is hope, but there was always hope. We just need to go through the fire and trust that we will outlast it. It will be next year that tells whether this year was really important. Will the seeds continue their viability or has the Heart Rot programmed them to self destruct? One year is not enough to see the direction the road is leading.”

“I suppose.”

“Now, did Josef tell you anything I should know about?”

It was my turn to shrug. “I don’t think he knows any more than we already figured out for ourselves. Did he say anything to you?”

He was quiet for a moment and said, “He said that we should wait a long while and not risk another pregnancy until you are fully recovered from this one. He spoke of a few … suggestions … that might help with that.”

Indignant I told him, “That’s none of his business.”

“I made it his business by asking. And he is right. I understand you do not like … er … speaking of certain things. But soon we must. We are man and woman, not beasts of the field that breed for no reason but instinct.”

The way Abel put things sometimes seemed a little crude, but it was true nonetheless. I shook my head and my hair snapped and crackled from the static electricity in it. “I don’t mind talking about that stuff with you. What I don’t like is someone else making like it is their business and they can tell us what we can and cannot do. Whether we have leventy-dozen kids or only Leena that’s between us and God and isn’t anyone else’s say so.”

He kissed my temple. “Querida.” He kissed me again and then put some distance between us. “I am not a rutting bull. I can do this,” he mumbled to himself in Spanish. I don’t think he thought I understood but I did. I understood something else too.

“You’re not the only one that misses the … er … closeness Abel.”

He stopped and then said, “No?”

“No. But I guess we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do. I’m feeling a little better every day. Maybe some days it doesn’t look like it but I am. I’m determined about it. This past year has been hard … for all of us. I don’t think I ever imagined a time would ever be so hard. But we’re getting through it and some good things have come out of it. We just need to hold onto that part of it. I don’t know what this winter will bring … or even next year; probably good things and bad just like life always seems to bring.”

He scooted back to my side and we spooned up together for warmth and mutual comfort. He sighed in pleasure. “Si. But we can do this yes? Daniel is growing. Leena is growing. And we are growing too. Each of us in our own way. It makes me eager to see what tomorrow will bring.”

I rolled to face him and snuggle up under his chin, “Tomorrow’s good, but let’s not forget about right now. Right now seems pretty good too. We just need to think around the problems that might come up. No reason we can’t get er … creative.”

His voice took on a husky note and in agreement he said, “Si … right now seems pretty good too. May God help us find ways to be creative for the rest of our days.”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chapter 46

Chapter 46

Seventeen. When my parents were alive it seemed so far off, like it was never going to get here. Then after they died it was no longer important; acknowledging the passage of time only seemed to mean that I was further and further away from them, from the good things my life had been and no closer to the end of the suffering I felt. Time certainly wasn't important to Daniel and that seemed the best way for me to handle it as well.

Then Abel came into our lives and our friendship turned into something so much more. I started to measure time again. When was the last time I had seen him. When would I see him again? How much time did we spend together? Then the winter illnesses that brought back all of the horrible memories of my parents' deaths, of being alone. My fear of being pregnant battled with my fear of spending all my time alone.

Finally they get well then I get “sick” and then well and while I’m still confused and trying to figure out where everything is going my conscious mind finally acknowledges I might be pregnant. I accept the reality of being pregnant and then Abel going off brings back memories of Jeff disappearing from our lives. I was scared that I was going to be left alone to take care of Daniel and even more scared that Daniel might be left alone to take care of my baby and what a disaster that would have been.

Death from disease, starvation, and violence surrounds us on all sides. We may be insulated from it but that doesn't mean it isn't there. It doesn't mean that it might not strike any one of us at any time.

Thankfully Abel returned to me … to us. Thankfully I didn’t have to face it all the time and responsibilities in front of me alone. But as the days passed the shoe was suddenly on the other foot. Now I worried about leaving Abel alone; leaving him alone to take care of Daniel, of the baby and everything else. I saw the fear lurking in his eyes as well. I even saw a certain confusion and fear begin to lurk in Daniel's eyes. And I could do nothing to allay their fears no even my own.

I ate the best I could; both Abel and Daniel saw to that. But it seemed like my body, once so easy to care for, doing anything and everything I asked of it, had suddenly developed a mind of its own. Sometimes what I ate would stay down, sometimes it would not. Sometimes I felt good after I ate sometimes I felt worse. I craved sleep yet when I did it only seemed to make me crave more. No matter how I tried to hide it by the end of July there was no denying my condition was getting worse.

I had to get up in the middle of the night and wound up spending more time in the bathroom than I had meant to. When I came out I was shaking. I found Abel standing there like the wrath of God.

"I am going for Josef before first light. He will come."

Shaking my head I told him, "Um, it's too late for that."

"No. Do not say that," he demanded as he helped me back to bed. "It cannot be too late. I won't hear it."

I sighed. "I need you here."

Frustrated he said, "And you need a medico. None of my aunts and cousins were like this. Something is not right."

"Abel listen to me. None of that matters right now. I need you here because the baby is coming."

"Si soon. That is ... why ...". He trailed off suddenly understanding what I had been saying. "The ... the bebe ... comes ... now?"

"Well, maybe not right this second but certainly it seems to mean to be born today."

I didn't even try and translate the slew of Spanish that fell out of his mouth at that point. I don't think I could have anyway. It was just one long string of syllables full of guttural sounds with the occasional squeak thrown in for good measure.

We had prepared for this. Abel knew about animals being born as I did, we'd both been raised on working farms. Human babies were different but not that much. It was what came after that was different. I wouldn't be licking my baby clean. Nature would only go so far to help. We'd have to cut the umbilical cord ourselves. We would need to make sure the baby could take its first breath. The baby would need diapering and swaddling. It was going to be completely helpless. And by the time the noon meal came and went, that is exactly how I felt as well.

I once heard a lady at church tell Mom that having a baby was like trying to push a watermelon through a drinking straw. Another lady said it was worse than trying to pass a kidney stone. Another lady said it was like the old joke of trying to take your bottom lip and pull it up over the top of your head. Personally I'm not sure it is the pain so much as it is you have no control over what is happening. There is no time out when a baby decides to be born. There's no stopping to catch your breath or taking a moment to think. And eventually you don't want anything other than for it to hurry up and be over with.

I gave up being in the bed; all it did was make me miserable and uncomfortable. For a while I sat in a rocking chair and basically just zoned out. For a while I even thought I had the labor thing down but all of a sudden – zap! – things started changing.

The books call it a transitional period. Yeah right. More like a period of going crazy trying to figure out just how uncomfortable things can get. I walked, I bent over, I kneeled, I tried lying on my side, I tried getting on all fours … I felt like a pretzel that was trying to escape being twisted. I felt pain in places I wouldn’t even talk to Abel about. Eventually it settled into waves and I just survived from the peak of one until the peak of the next. Then the valleys disappeared and I was riding a wave of pain that didn’t seem to want to end.

Trying to remember the tail end of it all makes my head hurt. Things got fuzzy and the lights started going in and out. Eventually I felt this big … well, kind of goosh and then it was like this slithery … ok, I give up. There isn’t really any way to describe it if you’ve never done it. Basically the baby came out.

That’s when things got scary. It didn’t cry. I remember Abel praying and Daniel crying and it seemed like a long, long time and then there was this strange squeaking noise. The sound made me happy but in a far away dreamy sort of way. I was floating away … just drifting … and not much seemed to matter.

I vaguely recall my chest getting pounded on and then something being forced into my mouth. I wasn’t all there anymore but a part of me knew what was going on, I couldn’t do anything about it. I knew I needed to help but I seemed to have forgotten how. Then it was like a big electric shock and everything went black.

_____

I can’t tell you how much later it was but there was this squeaking and I knew, absolutely knew, that it was for me and me alone. And something told me I had a choice. I could listen to the squeaking, do something about the insistent tugging, or I could go back to sleep and never wake up.

The temptation to go back to sleep was pretty big. I was tired, not just from the baby but it seemed like from a bunch of stuff that I hadn’t realized was weighing me down. I was ready to just let go then behind the squeaking and the tugging I heard a voice … deep, gravelly, so full of sorrow that it was almost too much to bear. I knew I knew that voice and then I remembered and it became much easier to tell the temptation to take a hike.

I couldn’t open my eyes, they seemed glued shut but I could sigh. It seemed important that I let him know I was there. I must have done it a couple of more times, trying to form the letter A but barely making a difference.

“Querida?” The incredulous tone of voice told me he still wasn’t sure he was hearing what thought he heard. I tried a few more times but I was so tired I wasn’t sure if he understood before the darkness claimed me again.

I woke up again to tugging and a deep cramp. I must have moaned loud enough that Abel heard me and finally believed me. The tugging continued with Abel’s gentle assistance and then I heard him directing someone to do something and there was a sudden burst of taste on my tongue as a very strong broth was spooned into my mouth.

“Easy Daniel, remember she may not be able to swallow.”

His reply made it sound like he was concentrating every cell of his body on the task before him. “She’s swallowing it Abel! She’s really swallowing … it isn’t just dripping down her throat this time.”

“Good … good …”

“God did do it didn’t He Abel! You said He would and He did!”

“Si Daniel, but quietly now. The baby must concentrate so that she can drink.”

“When’s she gonna grow? She’s still puny. If she’s eating shouldn’t she be growing?”

Normally such a question would have made Abel laugh, smile at least, but instead I heard nothing but extreme control. “It will take time, that is all they need. Time and for us to take care of them.”

Time seemed to pass but I can’t tell you how much. I do know that when I finally opened my eyes it was to find the room quiet except for Abel taking care of things for me that had me so upset that my chest hurt.

“No,” I moaned in a nearly silent whisper.

What little sound I made startled Abel and his eyes flew to my face and he saw that my eyes were open. He was so shocked that he didn’t understand I was just about dying of embarrassment right there

He leaned down, trying to hear me. “Are you in pain? Tell me Querida. Can you tell me?”

I could barely form the words and struggling to make him understand was draining me but he finally got the idea. Rather than embarrassment though he gave me a gruff answer I hadn’t been expecting. “I will do what needs doing. I am your husband and it is my right to do these things for you. When you are well you can do them but for now …” Then I heard him sigh and he was less gruff. “Dacey, you took care of me when I was ill and I … I understand what it must cause you to feel. To feel like you are made helpless and a child. But just as you did for me, I do these things for love. Si? Comprende Querida?”

I didn’t but the idea behind it seemed to ease what I was feeling somewhat. The next thing was … “Baabeeeee.”

I could see he still looked very serious as he finished what he was doing and drew the covers over me. “She sleeps.”

That could mean a couple of different things, some of which were too hard for me to bear. “Slllee ..?”

“Easy Querida. She is in a little drawer right here. She is too small for the bed we made. Daniel and I must be careful, she is nearly lost in the drawer.”

“Small? Too small?”

He licked his lips and brushed the hair out of my eyes and I saw he hadn’t shaved in a while but it was hard to tell how long because his beard always grew so fast. Finally he shrugged. “She is small. Very small. I … I do not know if she is too small.” Then he leaned over and picked up a bundle that looked about the size of my mother’s best dress up purse; big enough to hold but not big enough to put much in.

I was absolutely scared to death. I’d had dolls bigger than the tiny thing he placed in my arms. Then it started making noise and I realized what the squeaking had been. Next I realized what the tugging had been as Abel unbuttoned my night gown.

“Easy Querida.” He gently moved me onto my side and then fixed it so that the squeaking stopped and the tugging started.

I didn’t have a clue what to do but apparently my body did and what I couldn’t figure out, Abel helped me with. It didn’t take long before the baby went to sleep. He gently nudged her and she woke up again and started feeding some more. Eventually though she just wouldn’t wake up to eat and he picked her up and patted her a little until she made this strange little bubble sound and then he changed her and laid her back in the drawer. All during this time all I could do was watch and it made a very deep and horrible ache in my chest. I remember crying but I don’t remember going back to sleep but I must have.

My days flew by like that but eventually I was awake most of the time and the bleeding had stopped. I was very weak but I wasn’t in danger of dying. From that point I improved every day until finally I was able to get up and get around. Abel and Daniel didn’t stand constant guard over me as they had and I was able to take care of Leena myself … as in Catalina after his grandmother. Victoria was her middle name … Daniel named her after our mother. Catalina Victoria Montoya but the name was way too big for her so we all called her “Leena” for short.

July became August and August became early September and we should have been preparing for winter … and Abel and Daniel were. But underneath it all we held our breaths. Leena stayed small. She squeaked, she didn’t really cry though I thought lately she had seemed stronger and louder. She filled up her handkerchief sized diapers as often as I remember Daniel doing and her poo stunk which meant that what was going in was definitely coming out all right.

The first time she smiled I nearly screamed and went running to Abel so fast he thought something was terribly, horribly wrong. When I explained and Leena did it again we all started prancing around the cave like a parade of crazies; me with Leena, Abel, Daniel, and even Dog joining in.

My energy came back but not the way it should have. I knew it. Abel knew it too. I rarely left the cave except on the warmest part of the day and only in the best weather. Still I managed to get a cough that took a while to kick. Then the first cool breeze blew and I worried that we hadn’t done enough. That winter was coming and it just wouldn’t be enough.