I went out into the cold, searching for my grandpa, walking carefully in the dark, trying not to stumble over anything. Seeing a light shining between the timbers of the barn, I headed for it.
Slowly opening the big barn door, I saw my Grandpa sitting on an old bench and smoking a cigar, whittling on an old piece of wood that looked like it had been smoothed down over a long period of time. His head was bent over the wood.
I looked around in the glow of the lantern, and saw a wood-working shop that had a piece of half-finished bookshelf sitting over against the wall. Apparently, he had a knack at making furniture, and I had not known of it. It seemed there was a lot about him that I wasn't aware of. The shadows were almost ghost-like that surrounded us.
Going over to him, I put my hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Grandda," I told him gently. "I didn't mean to hurt your feelings; I was just curious about you all as a family." The 'Grandda' just came out effortlessly and seemed more right than Grandpa. He was my Da's father, after all.
He looked up at me, wonder shining in his eyes. "Do you know, boy, that is the first real apology I've ever had from a child. It sounds kinda strange to me. Oh, my own kids apologized to me many times cause their Ma made them, but they weren't heartfelt like that one. Thank you, Zebulon. I appreciate it. Now, you said you'd like to hear about your aunts and uncles. We don't talk about them too much. They were kind of a disappointment. I'll tell you about them sometime, just not tonight."
That made me wonder even more. What had happened to them? Where were they? Did they live in town or on another farm? Did they even live anywhere nearby? It was something to think about and to wonder about. Just one more mystery.
"Okay, Grandda. Do you make furniture? Are you making that bookcase over there? Can I watch you sometime?"
"You're jist fulla questions, ain't ya? Now, you get on into the house. Your Grandma will be out here looking for us both. I gotta put out this cigar. I don't smoke 'em in the house, cause they bother her and we don't wanta do that, do we?" He spoke almost conspiratorially to me.
I smiled and said, "No, Grandda, we don't." Maybe my stay here would not be so bad. I still didn't know.
That night in bed, Les and I had a chance to talk. The night before we had not, because I was in the cellar.
I knew we had to whisper, because it seemed like my Grandma had ears that would pick up the slightest sounds.
"Les, tell me what has been happening since you and Marie got here. How did she get you all to come here, anyway?"
He edged over as close to me as he could get and said, "She told us she was going to take us to get some ice cream and then to see lots of fun stuff. We were going to ride on a big Streamliner train, and then we would come back home. It sounded exciting, and we wanted to call home and let Ma know. Then she told us that she had already talked to Ma and got her permission to take us, so we thought it was okay. Then. what seemed like a long time later, we got to that town where we met you and Rosie, and then we came out here with them. We were so scared when we got here and knew we couldn't get back home." He began to cry softly, sniffling.
"Shh, shhh! It's going to be okay, Les. I promise. Just keep on behaving the way you have been. Rosie and I will take care of you and Marie, now don't cry. Let's go to sleep, okay?" I put my arm around his shoulder.
"We spent some nights in that dark, cellar, too, Zeb. It was so scary. We knew we had to do whatever they said to do, then."
"It's going to be okay," I reassured him. Inside, I was burning again with righteous anger against my grandma. My sympathetic tears flowed with Len's, as I said a prayer for assistance in dealing with this latest information. Then I thanked God for bringing Rosie and me to this place and taking care of us, then drifted off to sleep.
In my restless dreams, my Grandma was chasing me with a butcher knife, threatening to cut me to pieces, and then I dreamed I was floating up, up into the skies and out of her reach. It was heavenly sleep that followed, and I wakened the next morning refreshed. Les was still curled up against me, in a safe haven for his sleep.
A new day began. What would it hold for us? (To be continued)