Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Chapter 36

Chapter 36

I gingerly sat up and then had to wait for the blood to stop draining from my head. “What time is it Daniel?”

“Time to say good bye and go home.”

I know his reply sounded funny, like he was making a joke, but that was literally how Daniel saw time. It was measured by events, chores, the things in nature. It was my own fault for not being more specific.

“Daniel, what dime is it on the clock?”

Looking out in the hallway where I remember a grandfather clocking stood, he told me, “The big hand is on the five and the little hand is on the eleven.”

Immediately upset that I had slept so much longer than I had meant to I spit out, “Oh gollywobbers! Daniel, where are my clothes?”

“Hangin’ on the clothes line.”

I wanted to say something worse than “gollywobbers” but didn’t dare. I was saved by Monica who came in carrying some clothes – not mine – and shooed Daniel downstairs. “Grandfather Isaac is looking for you. His arthritis is acting up and I bet he would like you to help catch the rest of the chickens that got loose.”

Daniel started to run but looked at poor Dog and slowed down so she could keep up. Monica watched him go and then said, “He’s better than he used to be. Josef expected him to be a complete mess after yesterday. Even some of our kids are traumatized and uncommunicative this morning.”

Curious I asked, “Your kids?”

“Josef and I, we take care of kids that haven’t found a place in the community yet or who are too injured or … or out of it to be able to cope yet.”

Finally getting myself untangled from the covers and voluminous night gown that had my legs trapped I said, “So this place is in Amish Town.”

“Uh huh,” she confirmed. “Look, are you really ready to get up? If you are maybe you should go see Abel. He’s getting a little frazzled around the edges.”

That had me hitting the floor. Bad idea. Moving too quickly made the room spin and one of my legs buckle.

Monica grabbed my arm to keep me upright but luckily had the presence of mind for it not to be the arm with the stiches in it. “Whoa. I said frazzled, not dying.”

She put the clothes in my hands and then pointed me towards a screen in the corner of the room. I walked behind it, forcing the kinks out of my body as I went. I noted the details of the modest, no-fills nightgown I was wearing; so different from the large shirts I normally wore. Then I looked at the serviceable, dark blue dress in my arms.”

“Monica? Am I taking someone’s stuff?”

“No. It is from the church clothes closet. Brother Clayton takes care that … um … that …”

Understanding her hesitancy I asked, “Am I being shunned?”

Her immediate response reassured me that she was telling the truth. “Oh no, not at all. It’s just Grandfather Isaac is in town and he’s a bit of a stickler. We’re all trying real hard to get along and work together so we just do what we can to keep things comfortable for everyone.”

I snorted and asked, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”

A small chuckle preceded, “Better on some days than on others.”

I stepped from behind the screen so I could sit on the bed and pull up the black knee socks she had given me and put my boots back on. Monica couldn’t resist saying, “That’s a new look for you. With your hair braided like that you could pass for one of the Old Order kids.”

I sighed and tried to picture of myself since there were no mirrors around I told her dryly, “No kidding.” Then I asked, “Besides the obvious, why is Abel frazzled?”

She got a concerned look on her face and asked, “Do you really know he is a UN Peacekeeper?”

“Was. Was a UN Peacekeeper. He turned in his membership card when Hakim – that guy you called Almanzor – killed his cousin for spreading the truth that the UN wasn’t delivering on their promise to take care of the families of people that signed up.”

Still unsure she said, “So you know he’s really Abelardo Montoya.”

I shrugged. “Yeah, that’s he’s given name but Abel is shorter and easier to say.”

As we left the room and walked down the stairs she said in something like fear, “He’s The Montoya.”

Wondering at her tone I said, “No, he’s Abel Montoya. My friend. Daniel’s teacher. Our … protector I guess you’d say. Well, at least when I need the help with protecting Daniel anyway. Mostly we lived and work together and help each other because we want to.”

A man’s voice from the front of the house asked, “And nothing more?”

Ignoring the invasion of personal business of the question I smiled and responded, “Brother Clayton! Wait, did Benji and the boys make it back OK?”

I heard from outside, “We’re men now Dathey, not boyth.”

As I pushed open the screen door to step outside I said, “Benji, just because ya’ll have the wherewithal to grow fur on your face these days doesn’t make you a man. And if you don’t stop glaring at Abel like he’s some kind of pervert I’m gonna do something that makes it take that much longer for you to earn your man-status.”

Monica hissed, “Dacey! Totally inappropriate!”

I rolled my eyes and said, “Sorry Granny.” I knew for a fact she was being a hypocrite because I remember some of the stories that Jeff used to tell.

I could see Abel wanted to be shocked at my behavior but his lips twitched proving the other side of him was winning. “How are you feeling?”

He shook his head. “Should that not be my question?”

“Fine, and thank you for asking. Now are you gonna tell me what’s hurting you or not?”

All the while I had been talking I’d been trying to get close to him but he’d sidestepped and backed up anytime I came close enough to touch. Frustrated I told him, “You aren’t really going to make me chase you around this yard are you? All I want is …”

Abel interrupted me and tried to get all proper. “Day-cee, these are the men of your community. They have every right to try and protect you.”

“Uh actually, no they don’t.”

“Yes they do.”

“No they don’t.”

“Si.”

“No.”

Daniel chose that moment to stroll over. “She’ll wear you down Abel. You know she will.”

I looked at Abel with a smug smile. Abel blathered a string of Spanish so fast I couldn’t even catch one word. Then in English he said, “Fine. If you will not let them protect you then I must. I give them the right to say whether I am good enough.”

Upset I said, “Oh no you don’t. You’re not getting out of this that easy. Now I want to know where you’re hurt, how bad, and then I want to know what all I missed. Then we’re going home. Where we belong.”

Abel said in a growl that had a bit of desperation in it, “Day-cee …”

“What?”

Abel pinched the bridge of his bruised nose like he had a headache coming on. “I am fine Day-cee. My ribs are bruised and that is the worst.”

Trying to be helpful Daniel added, “Better tell her about the cuts. You know she’s gonna find out soon enough and then she’ll get mad and make you do extra chores.”

I saw Abel’s lips twitch despite the situation but all I heard was “cuts.” “What cuts? Where? How bad?”

I came at him again intending to look for myself but he evaded me by stepping behind a couple of austere looking older women. “I am find Day-cee. Josef, he has made them better.”

Frustrated I looked around for Josef to ask him myself and saw him over in a knot of kids younger than Daniel, several of whom were disfigured in some way. I knew I couldn’t confront him right that moment. Then Benji’s expression caught my eye. “Leave your mouth hanging open like that and something nasty is gonna fly in.”

Benji shut his mouth with a snap but it was his father who spoke. “My child, I believe most of us share my son’s feelings. It is very difficult to reconcile the stories of The Montoya with the young man you are … are … er … handling so … er … deftly.”

Trying to remember my manners I said, “Please don’t take this the wrong way Brother Clayton but I’m no child. That was over the day the people of the town didn’t step up and stop my parents from getting killed. That was over when the grownups didn’t stop the kids from being rounded up and put in a reeducation camp. As for the rest of it I don’t know what stories you are talking about but more than likely that is all most of it is … stories. Just like that Hakim fella had to make himself out to be bigger than he was by calling himself that stupid name Almanzor, he made Abel out to be an even bigger baddie so he wouldn’t have to admit what a scaredy cat he really was. Abel has done some things that aren’t very nice but I reckon plenty of us have by now, I know I have. But the bad stuff that happened isn’t what defines who he is.”

Abel finally stepped over and said, “I told you Querida there would come a day when I would have to pay for what I have done.”

I said, “You already have. And God has forgiven you. You’re the one that has the problem and won’t forgive yourself.”

Abel got a pained look on his face and shut his eyes briefly. “I hear your words but … it is not so easy as you say.”

I shook my head, “I never said it was easy. We’ve both done things that are going to be with us for the rest of our lives. Sometimes you have to accept the consequences for doing what you know to be right. I don’t claim to know everything. But what I do know is that I prayed for some help and God practically had you fall in my lap. Nothing that you have said or done has changed my belief that you’re my answered prayer. Now let’s get our stuff and go home.”

He shook his head. “As you say, it is not so easy. Before there was no one to object to me staying with you and Daniel but now it is not right.” He looked at me and said quietly, “You are not a child anymore and I cannot pretend to just be a big brother to you.”

Daniel joined the conversation and said anxiously, sensing that we were losing Abel, “Grandfather Isaac knows all the Bible words to say.”

Caught off guard I asked Daniel, “What?”

“Abel keeps telling you he wants to say words in a church with you and you say Bible words in a church. Grandfather Isaac knows lots of Bible words. And there’s a church,” he added pointed to a small chapel down the road.

I don’t know who turned redder me or Abel. I mumbled to Abel, “Sorry, I didn’t think he’d been listening.”

Still red but smiling, “Si, Daniel is very smart. I would like very much to … uh … have Bible words in a church with you.”

A sober looking old man limped forward. “The chapel is unfit for anything for now. The roof leaked and the floor is unsafe. But … if you are sincere and wish to join together I am sure that Brother Clayton and I can do it properly as it was done for my grandson.”

He had been speaking directly to Abel when he said it. I didn’t want to flub anything so for once I kept my mouth shut. Abel looked at me to make sure it was really what I wanted and I nodded. I wasn’t worried about who said what so much or where it took place or even if there was a ceremony but I knew that Abel did and sometimes compromise can be a good thing.

Josef’s grandfather and Brother Clayton led Abel over to a building across the road and I was left to stand there. Daniel had gone over to an older woman and from there followed her over to a table filled with greenery. I joined them and saw that it was forage. As I went to warn the woman about one of the plants that was mixed up in a small pile Daniel beat me to it.

I left my brother to do what he was good at and felt all at loose ends. Monica and Josef were shepherding the knot of children over to some benches and I knew I’d be intruding there. I looked over and saw a group of people I used to go to school with so I walked over but several of them left when I got there.

“Geez, do I smell or something?”

“Thomething,” Benji admitted.

“Fine. Whatever.”

“Ith Montoya really not … not …”

Sighing, “Look, stop trying to turn it into something it isn’t. I don’t know what Hakim – Almanzor – said about Abel but he had to come up with some excuse as to why he was so afraid of him. Abel isn’t a saint but he’s no demon either. I’m sure you guys did a few things to get back at that guy Sevmire and Hakim.”

Benji shrugged. “Thure¸but that’s different.”

“Why? How? Hakim killed his cousin.”

Benji shrugged again. “OK, tho maybe it ithn’t different. Thome people are thtill thcared of him though.”

“Hopefully they’ll only be that stupid for a little while.” Sighing I asked, “Anyway, what happened. Things have been moving so fast that I can’t find the time to catch up.”

4 comments:

  1. I guess in that kind of a world it is not a bad thing to have a lot of people afraid of you. Great story Kathy.

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  2. Thank you very much for the timely new chapter, love it.

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  3. I keep this open and hit refresh quite often.

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