Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Part 58


The two men in question had been coming up the trail - aparently the rock hitting the hard oak had sounded close to a gunshot from their position - as I turned and Mr. Carter was chuckling.  "Well Brother, she's got you there."

I sighed, uncomfortable with someone thinking that I was trying to get something over on an adult.  Mr. Owen must have read my face and said, "Knock it off Carter.  Girl has a brain in her head I'm thankful to see.  And yes, I've got a few more questions."  The last sentence was directed at me.

We all walked back toward the cabin and I was surprised to see a lot more wood than I had expected.  "Benny brought the mules up here with the cuttings from that tree that fell across the road.  You remember Benny?"

That was just politeness I suppose.  Benny was "special" and the family had always looked out for him.  He was the son of one of the regular camp workers.  He was about my age but had been born really sick with something and forever afterwards was what you would call learning disabled though that was just something else that was polite to say.  He rarely talked and when he did it didn't always make sense unless you were used to the way he associated things.  People barely existed for him, only some animals, but he'd developed a passion for the camp mules when we were very little and was most happy when he was taking care of them.  The mules in turn took care of Benny.  I was ten the summer a rabid bear showed up in camp.  Those mules, as terrified as they were, kept circling Benny and in general making a horrible mess as they kicked out at the bear until someone shot it dead.

Back to the then present I responded to Mr. Owen, "Yes sir.  What were your questions?"  He gave me a stern look.  "I don't mean to be rude Mr. Owen but ... I'm not the girl I was.  I'd rather you just tell me what you want to know, give me a chance to tell you, and then find out if you are going to run me off or not.  If you are I need to make plans and figure things out.  If you aren't I still have plans to work out and I need to start practicing how to fish."

All the men, Jamie included, gave me various searching looks like they weren't sure what to make of me or how to take me.  In the end Mr. Svenson reached over and patted my shoulder and then went to sit on a tree stump left over from the cutting of a tree from who knows how many seasons ago.  He looked tired and a lot older than I remember.  My eyes followed him and when he was out of earshot - his hearing not being what it used to be which was why Jamie was able to sneak up on him - I asked, "Is he OK?"

"Age and cantankerousness.  And Aunt Ava being under the weather doesn't help.  She sent him out here to see you hoping you'd perk him up."

I sighed.  "I don't have much perk left but what I've got he can have."

"About that, I have to admit that I find it strange that a young girl has made it this far on her own."

I gave an even more abbreviated version of my story, leaving it up to Mr. Svenson to fill the rest in, and then said, "However I got here, I'm here.  I made a mistake assuming that I could just get here and everything would be there for me to settle into.  I guess I wanted it to be so much that I didn't plan for it not being.  But that's changing.  I just need to know if you're gonna run me off."

Mr. Owen shook his head.  "Where would you go?  Probably into a cauldron of trouble.  We don't have any room at the camp but I won't let anyone run you off from here as long as you don't bring trouble down on us."

I made a face so he'd see how much I meant it when I said, "Last thing I want is trouble.  I've had enough and don't want no more."

"Good," he said nodding.  "But not wanting any and avoiding it isn't necessarily the same thing."

"Mr. Svenson kinda talked like there were other people around.  Are they puss brains?"

"By puss brains you mean the infected folks?"  At my nod he said, "No, though there are some wandering about even now so watch your step.  We do what we can to spot them when they come up this way and send them on to the Maker.  You should have some relief from that worry in a couple of weeks.  Last winter we saw that by the middle of December the constant cold pretty much sends them into a ... well ... it looks a little like hibernation though a lot of them die during it for lack of whatever it is they need to keep 'em going."  He sighed again.  "No, the kind of trouble I'm speaking of is the kind caused by some of the other groups in the area."

"So there are other people around here."

He nodded.  "About six groups left.  They leave us alone for the most part but every so often they come around wanting something or other either by trade or by theft.  Dad put you at the furthest point away from the other groups but they could still come around the other side of the lake and run up on you.  You definitely don't want what kind of trouble that could turn into.  Now stay put while Carter and I go make sure that the creek is fit and not been contaminated."

4 comments:

  1. Great post Kathy. Something tells me the character Benny was introduced for a reason.

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  2. Thanks for more of this great story.
    Wayne

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  3. Enjoying the re-read. The winter pics look a lot like my cold weather campouts.

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