Monday, June 9, 2014

Arlissa - Her Story - Day 15-28

Granny lay watching through half-closed eyelids as the handsome doctor came striding back into the room. She reckoned to herself he would make a good catch for her Arlissy. 

Smiling guilelessly up at him, she asked, "What's yore name, doc?"

"Dr. Winston, Mrs. Hinton. I've been looking at your records, and it seems like it's been awhile since you've been attended by anyone. Can you explain the reason for that?"

"Well, now, Doc, I reckon maybe I ain't needed one until now. Ain't been sick." She fixed him with a clear eye and a straight as an arrow look, daring him to repudiate her words.

"I hate to dispute your word, ma'am, but you have been in need of attention for some time. Otherwise, you wouldn't be here with me. Let me help you sit up so I can listen to your back. Now, take a deep breath."

"Say, Doc, are you by any chance taken?"

"Sh-h-h. Don't say anything till I get through listening to your heart, please. Cough for me." 

He listened carefully, then placed her back down gently onto the bed. Taking her wrist into his fingers, he took her pulse and found it steady. This old woman could live a lot longer if she took better care of herself, he thought.

"Do you make house calls, Doc? My Arlissy and me, we don't have a lot of money to be takin' trips all the way into Amblin to see you. Now, don't get me wrong; we ain't askin' fer charity, or nothin'."

"Well, let's get you feeling better, then we'll talk about home visits, okay? Now, I've got to go out and talk to your granddaughter - I assume that is who I carried out of here while ago?" 

Writing notes on the papers on the clip board, and smiling at the old lady, he made preparation to leave the room.

"Wait, Doc!" The old lady raised up on one elbow. "You didn't answer my question: are you taken?"

"What do you mean? Taken where?"

"Married, of course! If you're not, well, I jist wanted to know. Are you?"

He smiled and said, "Engaged to be married. We've been waiting till I get established here." He was thinking, 'foxy old matchmaker! I'm onto you!' He left the room smiling.

Granny lay back, smiling - engaged didn't mean married. He looked like good grandson material to her. The way he picked Arlissy up was jist pure romantic. She smiled and drifted off to sleep.

As Arlissa sat waiting for the doctor to come back out from seeing her Granny, she watched people coming and going. It was like a parade of all kinds of characters in one of her story books. There was a very beautiful lady, all dressed up with a hair-do like she had only seen in the magazines at the check-out in the A & P Grocery store. 

"Wonder who she is, anyhow?" Arlissa said aloud, without realizing she had spoken. 

Just then the doctor came out towards Arlissa, intending to speak to her about Granny, only to be waylaid by the woman with the beautiful clothing. Arlissa's curiousity was even more on alert. As she watched, the doctor changed course and went over to speak to the mystery woman. 

"Hello, darling!" She was speaking to the doctor and giving him a kiss on the cheek, putting her hand up then to his face to wipe away the lipstick imprint she had left. He moved his face back slightly, as though seeing her there was an unwelcome interruption in his day.

"What are you doing here, Amalie? I thought you were in Frankfort attending a tea today, or some such thing."

(Arlissa leaned forward, straining to hear what they were saying to one another.)

"Darling, I simply had to come and consult with you about the plans for the wedding in December. There are some decisions that absolutely require your help, that must be made today, if we are going to stay on schedule." She pouted her lips and wiped an imaginary tear away from her eye.

"Well, it is just going to have to wait until this evening. I have a full schedule ..."

Just as he was answering her, the doors swung open and in came Hanson's with the boy who had been in the single car  accident earlier in the day. Following Hanson's was the Trooper who had stopped Arlissa. 

When she saw him, she crossed her arms in front of her, and glared.

He had not yet seen her, but was heading to the ER admissions desk with the attendants, and was soon speaking to the woman who occupied the desk. 

"Ma'am, this young man was just in a one vehicle wreck and I need to have him checked over to see how serious his injuries are. As soon as he is able, he's going to jail for drunk driving. He's got no business on the road driving like he does. I'll wait til after the Doc sees him."

"Yes, officer. We'll let you know."

Within minutes they had taken the boy past the desk and he disappeared among the curtains behind it. 

'Oh, no!' Arlissa thought. 'Here he comes! Now what am I going to have to put up with from him!'

Trooper Odom smiled down at her. 

"Well, now if it isn't Miss Arlissa Hinton in the flesh! As I live and breathe!"

"As far as I'm concerned, you can go live and breathe in some other place, mr. smart aleck trooper!"

 "Now, ma'am, is that any way to speak to someone who cared enough about what happens to you that he took the trouble to find out who you are?"

"O-o-o-h! You are just too ...too... awful!"  Turning her back to him, all at once she began sobbing as though her heart would break. Her Granny lay back there, maybe dying, and that handsome doctor hadn't gotten a chance to tell her how Granny was, and now this horrible trooper was here to pester her. 

Leaning close to her, he whispered, "Please, Miss Arlissa, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you cry. Please stop crying. I promise, I'll leave you be.Just, please don't cry."

Arlissa took the handkerchief that Bobby Joe offered and said, "Thank you." then she hiccoughed. Oh, no! Hiccoughing again. She always did that when she cried. Wiping her eyes, she looked up into his face and her clear blue eyes reminded him once again of his good friend and mentor, Zeb O'Hanlon.

"Say, Miss Arlissa, would you please tell me something I've been curious about - are you by any chance kin to a fella named Zeb O'Hanlon?"

Looking at him as though he had two heads, she replied, "What a ridiculous question!! Now why in the world would you be asking me that?"

He noticed she didn't ask him who Zeb was, just why he would be asking her about kinship to him.

"Well, he's a friend of mine and he claims to be from somewhere in this part of the country. You and he have the same color eyes and hair. Now, they're not the run of the mill resemblance, either! You two are the only ones I've run into with such a strong resemblance. Are you acquainted with him, by any chance?"

She hemmed and hawed before finally telling him, yes, they were neighbors of her and Granny, but she wasn't any kin to them as far as she knew and she thought Granny woulda told her if she was. 

"So, Mr. Smart Aleck Trooper, whose name I still don't know, just mind your own business! And here's yore hanky. l don't need it no more." So saying, she tried to hand his handkerchief back to him.

"Awww, just keep it, you might need it again." He smiled annoyingly at her again and said no more, just leaned back in the hard metal chair and crossed his arms to wait for news about his prisoner. 

While he waited, though, he mentally reviewed the new information. His curiosity turned to the background of the girl next to him. Where were her parents? Did she live alone with her Granny? Maybe they were at work, but why wouldn't they be here if Granny was so ill?

One thing about Bobby Joe, he had a boundless amount of curiosity and he never let it lie for long. Just as he was turning to speak to Arlissa again, here came the doctor, heading for him.

"Trooper, the man who was just brought in has a concussion and we are going to have to keep him for at least twenty-four hours. He is not in any condition to be taken to jail at this time. You will need to file charges and then come back for him at the appropriate time. He's not going anywhere for awhile."

"Yes, Doctor. I'll be back tomorrow." He shook the doctor's hand and turning to Arlissa, he took her hand and said, "Miss HInton, it's been a pleasure. I'll be seeing you. Be careful driving home." 

"But.." she didn't get to finish saying anything; he turned on his heel and left.

"Well...I never!" She stared after him.

Dr. Winston looked at her and took note of the handkerchief she was holding and her watery, red eyes. 

"Why don't we just have a seat here, so we can talk about your grandmother's condition?"

"Tell me how she is, doctor. I've been so worried about her: I don't know what I'd do if she up and died on me." She twisted the hanky in her hand as though it was a lifeline she had to hold on to. 

"Your Grandmother is just worn out, and her heart is not as strong as I would like for it to be, but she still has a lot of life left in her. Do you have anyone to help with the farm work? I assume you live on a farm?"

"Yes, we live on a farm. We have a milk cow and chickens and a few hogs. We have a garden and I do all the heavy work. I may not look very strong, but I am." 

All at once, she looked down at her dress and work shoes, and felt ashamed of the way she looked. Her face did a slow burn of embarrassment and the doctor could not fail seeing her reaction. 

"Your Grandmother must be very proud of you! I know I would be in her place. You are quite a girl, and anyone would be glad to know you! Have you had any lunch? I have a break right now. Please let me take you down to the cafeteria and get some lunch for you, then you can go see your Grandmother. Okay? I believe she is probably resting right now."

Arlissa had the pride of mountain folk, and was reluctant to let him get her lunch, but she had no money and she was hungry. 

"Okay, but I'll repay you tomorrow."

"If you insist..."

They headed to the cafeteria downstairs; the tall doctor and the little 98 pound wisp of a girl. 

From the shadows near the door, they were observed closely by someone...she pressed her lips together. 

'How dare he pay such attention to that little nobody in the frumpy dress and horrible shoes! He is certainly not getting away with it. He is going to pay dearly, believe me!' she thought to herself.

Flouncing out the door, she headed for her new car that Daddy had bought for her just a couple of weeks ago as a wedding gift. She started the engine and listened to it purr, smiling, as she thought of what she could do to punish the faithless doctor.

She was still fuming and threw the gear shift into first, spewing gravel as she hit the road, and soon was flying down the road at top speed. About a mile later, she heard a siren and looking in her rear view mirror, saw the blue lights flashing. 

'Hmph!' she thought. 'I'll soon set him straight. He has no idea who he is dealing with.'

Trooper Odom came up behind her, ticket book in hand and writing down her license tag number.

"Ma'am," he spoke kindly. "I'd like to see your license and registration, please."

"Hello, officer! What ever is the matter? Did I break some kind of rule?" She batted her long fake eyelashes in his direction, her brown eyes automatically producing fake tears.

"Your license and registration, please, ma'am? You know, I believe that you were doing 70 in a fifteen mile an hour zone. I think maybe you just left the hospital about two minutes ago. I saw you leave, just as I was getting on my cycle. Hand them over, please."

"Very well, here they are." She handed him a hundred dollar bill folded between the two items, hoping he would take it and forget about the ticket. Her father had promised to take away her car if she got one more of them. 

She watched as he wrote the name and registration information on the ticket pad, then handed all three items back to her.

So she tried another gambit. 

"Do you have any idea who my father is, Trooper?" She was furious by now, and spitting saliva with her words as she bit them off, one by one. 

"Miss Gardner, I don't really care who he is, but I feel right sorry for him." 

Touching his hand to his forehead in a mock salute, he handed the ticket to her, and walked back to his cycle, started it up and took off, turning his cycle back in the direction from which he had come.

Amalie Gardner sat fuming for a few minutes; just wait till she told her father - no, wait - she couldn't tell him about her latest ticket - he had promised to take her car until after the wedding if she got another one. Now she had two people to get even with; and if Miss Gardner was good at anything, it was getting even and making people pay. 

She pulled out, plotting her revenge. 

Meanwhile, in the hospital cafeteria, Arlissa looked at the choice of lunch foods on the bar in front of her. She didn't want to get overmuch, but her stomach rumbled all at once. Oh, no! She quickly glanced up at the doctor, but he seemed not to have noticed. 

He decided he would choose for her and began pointing to foods and the lady behind the bar dished them up when he said, "The young lady would like this plate and then you can fix one just like it for me."

Arlissa looked up at him in bewilderment and a touch of chagrin. How dare he order for her? She started to refuse, and then thought better of it. She didn't want to cause a scene; she already looked bad enough. 

As she walked to the table to sit down, she heard the slight jingle of the car keys in her pocket. It reminded her that her purse was still at home and she still had no license with her. What to do? Well, she would cross that bridge when she came to it. 

She looked at the doctor's lab coat and noticed his name on an ID card attached to the coat. It identified him as Donald Gardner, MD. Then she looked up into his face and asked him, "Why are you being so kind to me, a stranger?"

He quietly unfolded his napkin, placing it in his lap, as he seemed to ponder the question. Then he simply smiled and said, "Because I want to. You looked like you could use a friend, and I decided that was me."

"You mean you felt sorry for me. You took one look at me, and said, 'she looks pitiful and in need of charity'". 

She started to jump up, and he caught her arm, preventing the action. 

"Please sit down, Miss Hinton! Don't you like to help others? Would you deny me the pleasure of helping someone who could use the assistance? Now, why don't I ask a blessing on our food, and we can eat. You can tell me about life on the farm and maybe about where your parents are."

"Oh, you think buying my lunch gives you a right to know about my personal life? I don't think so."

This made the good doctor even more curious. What was she hiding? 

The doctor looked at Arlissa with kind, but obviously curious eyes. He knew she was suspicious of his motives and so he quickly thought about what he could say to allay her fears.

"I'm only interested in my patient and how she lives. Perhaps knowing that can help me in my care for her."

"Oh, I see. Well, okay. It's just Granny and me. I think I told you that already. My parents are gone; my Ma died having me, and my Pa disappeared before I was born. That's the truth, and all I'm going to tell you. Ain't nobody's business nohow." 

She gazed up into his face defiantly, daring him to make any more comments.

"Okay. I understand. I won't ask any more personal questions for the time being. Please, let's just eat. I have to get back to work soon."

She decided to get personal, too, with some questions of her own.

"I saw the beautiful lady who was a' talkin' to you earlier. Are you gettin' married to her some time soon?"

"Well, yes, I guess my questions deserve some questions of yours in return. She is my fiance and we are planning to be married in December." He smiled at Arlissa and she noted the dimples in his cheeks.

She felt more at ease with him by now; enough so to ask him such questions. She certainly felt entitled to after he asked her such personal things.

"Where is she from? I don't remember seein' her before today. Is she from somewhere else?"

"Yes, her family and mine live in Frankfort. Her father is an important man in politics there."

"What about your pa? What does he do?"

"He is a doctor, as well." He frowned slightly, remembering how his father wanted to take him into his practice. However, Donald had other ideas; he wanted to make a difference here in this rural area with these people who couldn't afford good health care. The frown made Arlissa wonder, but instead of remarking more on that, she asked him if he had met his fiance recently.

"No, we grew up in the same area, and I guess maybe it was just assumed we would get married some day. Our families have always been close. Does that answer your questions?"

She blushed furiously because she realized she had gotten much more inquisitive than he had been.

He realized her discomfiture and said no more.

It wasn't long before they had finished their lunch and he was pulling her chair out as she got up. She opined to herself that here was a real gentleman, not like that awful trooper. 

Meanwhile, that awful trooper, as she called him, was patrolling the roads in the area, wondering about the O'Hanlons and where they lived. Maybe he could ask a few questions if he saw anybody as he was riding along. The roads were kind of untraveled in this remote part of Kentucky.

Wait! There came somebody driving an old John Deere tractor and going mighty slow. He could stop and ask him the way to the O'Hanlons.

Trooper Odom approached the man on the tractor and rode along side of him. Both brought their vehicles to a stop.

"Pardon me, sir, but can you tell me where the O'Hanlons live? I understand they live somewhere in this area."

"Yep, sonny; as a matter a' fact, they do. Whatcha lookin fer 'em fer? Have they broke the law? They don't seem like the kind to do anythin' like that."

The old fellow was a bundle of curiousity and it seemed he wanted answers before he was ready to give any directions to Bobby Joe. 

"Well, no sir, they haven't as far, as I know. I just wanted to know for my own reasons. Can you help me?"

The old man eyed him closely. Was the trooper trying to make trouble for the O'Hanlons? Were they really in some kind of trouble, and the trooper just being shut-mouthed about it? Well, he reckoned they could just deal with whatever it was; after all, the trooper looked like a nice fella. He sure wasn't telling the old farmer any more, it seemed. He might as well tell the fella; he didn't want to be in any trouble for not co-operating.

Bobby Joe had learned enough while playing poker to read the old fellow's thoughts by the facial expressions, so he just waited. 

"Well, sonny," the old man chuckled, "they live about five miles due west - as the crow flies - from where we're settin'. Jist keep on going in the direction yore headed, and look fer the name on the mailbox; they'll be another name on it, Tunstall,  as well You keep lookin' and you'll find 'em. Oh yeah, there's a little dirt road that runs off the highway to their house. Their house is kinda hid behind some trees. Good luck, boy!" 

Chuckling to himself, the old man started up the tractor again and left, thinking to himself that greenhorn would never find the farm. But, after all, he had given him explicit directions.

 Meanwhile, Arlissa was heading back to her Granny's hospital room, accompanied by the doctor. It seemed to Arlissa that this doctor was being extra kind to her. Was it because her Granny was dying and he felt sorry for her? She wasn't sure. 

 She didn't realize that he was fascinated by her simple honesty and openness. He was entranced by the way she showed her every emotion on her face. It was like reading an open book. Without realizing it, he was comparing her behavior to that of his fiance`.

He had not really told her that much about Granny's condition, and she was most curious to know. 

"Kin you tell me how my Granny is really doin'? Is she dyin'?" She looked up earnestly into his face, searching it for answers.

He was giving nothing away to her, she thought to herself, deciding to try a new tack. 

"Will she be going home soon? We can't afford a long hospital stay..." She began thinking of the fact that she didn't even have her purse with her, and if even if she did; their money was in short supply. She would need gas money for the car; money for food was necessary, too. All at once, it all seemed too much to bear. 

As she thought about it, the color drained from her face, and the good doctor thought she was going to faint. He put his arm around her and led her to a chair nearby. They had gotten back up to the emergency room. 

"Are you okay, Miss Hinton? Nurse, get her some water!" He sat beside her and rubbed her arms to improve the circulation. What had just happened? He thought back to what they were discussing. All at once, it dawned on him. She was worried about finances. 

Dr. Gardner took Arlissa's face in his hand and turned her to face him, looking into her eyes.

"Arlissa, I mean, Miss Hinton, are you concerned about how you and your Grandmother are going to pay for her being in the hospital?"

His kindness brought tears to her eyes once again, telling him he had hit the nail right on the head.

"Don't be concerned; don't you know about the medical assistance provided by the federal government?"

"Oh, my Granny wouldn't never take no charity offn' nobody!"

"it isn't charity, Miss Hinton. It is provided by law by the government. Everyone 65 and older is entitled to it. It has been available for a few years now. Were you not aware of it?"

The unbelieving way he asked her,  he suddenly realized  he  was making her feel like an idiot. He couldn't win for losing.

"We ain't signed up fer no social security."

"That's okay. Your grandmother is automatically insured because of her age. The hospital will take care of it.  I'm sure she has a social security number; if not, we can help you fill out the application for one."

"Maybe we better get on to see my Granny and she might be wantin' to see me now."

"Of course. Are you feeling better by now?" He smiled at her.

"Yes, doctor. Is she going to get to go home soon?"

"I'd like to keep her for a few days, if she will. Can you manage without her?"

She returned his smile. "I reckon maybe so, since I do most all the work these days. I do have a job during the week though, at the drug store in Hickston where I live, not here in Amblin."

They entered the room to find Granny awake and attempting to get out of bed. She looked up and saw them; suddenly she lay back down and looked at the two of them smiling at her.

"You two gettin' along with one another okay? No fussin' er nothin'?"

"Why wouldn't we be, Mrs. Hinton?"

"Well, Arlissy kin be kinda cantankerous once in awhile, iffn' she gets riled up."

"Granny!" Arlissa was embarrassed.

"Well, child, you know it's true! Ain't nobody crankier than you if you get all in a snit about somethin'"

"She's been very agreeable, Mrs. Hinton."

Granny Hinton looked at the two of them with eyes that seemingly missed nothing; they were eyes full of wisdom and she saw more than anyone could ever suspect. There were sparks between those two young people and she intended to fan it into flames. 

"Granny, what fer are you lookin' at us like that? What's wrong? Do I have food on my face or somethin'?"

"Oh, no, child. I was jist a layin' here a thinkin' about what was goin' to happen to you after I'm dead and gone. How you goin' to survive?"

Arlissa ran to her Granny, crying, "Now don't you be a talkin' like that, Granny! You goin' to live fer years, ain't she, Doc? Ain't she?" She turned to look at him and saw the flash of sympathy passing over his face, which he quickly hid. 

"Of course, you are, Mrs. Hinton." He smiled reassuringly at the two of them. "We're going to be keeping you for a few days, til you are feeling better. I'll write up instructions for you all to follow, with some prescriptions for you."

The old lady gave a sly grin; but began thinking about how they were going to pay for the bill and the prescriptions. How could Arlissy take care of her and work at the local drug store as well? 

He could see the worried look come into Granny's eyes and Arlissa had no trouble seeing what she was thinking. The money...where were they going to come up with the money they needed. Maybe she could sell some vegetables - no, that was out - everyone in the area had gardens and raised their own.

As proud as Granny was, she'd never take no money from the government - she never had - never would. Pride was an awful thing. It made you do things you didn't want to. She remembered what the Good Book said about Pride and how it always goes before a fall and how it's one of them sins. 

Arlissa determined that they would do what they had to do; and she would go ahead and apply for the Social Security, even if she had to do it behind Granny's back. She'd just look in the Bible records in the front to see how old Granny was for sure. Nobody knew her exact age. Another matter of pride, she reckoned. 

"What you thinkin' about, Arlissy? You're up to no good; I can see it on yore face, plain as day!"

"Nothin', Granny, jist thinkin' about how it's gonna be when we get you home. Don't you be worryin' about it none."

The doctor had been standing back watching the scene play out between the two women, marveling at the way they understood each other so well. 

It made him think of his own parents and how they were often at odds with him; in fact, he didn't think they understood anything at all about his wishes. He often wondered if his parents had any idea of what he wanted in life. They certainly would look down their noses at these two sweet ladies and their situation. 

Right now, the doctor wasn't even sure he wanted to get married to Amalie - she would want the kind of life his parents had. He could see that when he stepped back from his situation and looked at it honestly. 

How had he wound up engaged to her? Had he just been so busy with thoughts of coming to practice medicine at this little backwater town in the mountains that it just happened?

A feeling of dread washed over him as he compared her sophistication with the sweet simplicity of the girl standing near her Granny, holding her hand. 

Perhaps he needed to do some more thinking, later. 

"Well, ladies, I'm going to leave you two to visit for awhile. Miss Hinton, don't stay too long and wear your grandmother out. She needs plenty of rest for now, so she can feel better."

"All right, doctor. I'll leave soon. Thank you fer lunch; it was mighty tasty." 

He turned on his heel and left; he had work to do and ideas to ponder as he worked.

"Hmmm - so the good doctor bought you lunch, did he?" The old lady smiled like the cat that just ate the cream. 

"Now, Granny, don't you go imaginin' nothin'! He is just a very kind man. He saw I was in need of food and didn't have no pocketbook, so he bought my lunch. He was jist bein' kind."

"Okay, child. I get the picture. I've warned you about goin' too long without food. You got faint, didn't you?"

"Yes'm, I did. But I'm fine now. Do you want me to stay the night with you?"

"No, Missy. You jist get yoreself right on home now. They is chores to do, you know. That old cow ain't gonna milk herself  this afternoon, and you jist take care of things, so's I don't have to worry. That doctor is gonna take good care of me." 

The old lady smiled knowingly, and sent Arlissa on her way after getting a kiss from her. 

Arlissa left, hoping she wouldn't run into that horrible Trooper Odom when she headed back home. She would certainly not go tearing down the road the way she had earlier. 

Unknown to her, he was having troubles of his own. 

Bobby Joe was finding out that five miles as the crow flies was quite a bit farther than five miles on the road. These mountain roads curved around and sometimes the curve became a switchback curve. When he had traveled about ten miles by road, he began to think he was going to miss the O'Hanlon farm completely. He had gone down many dirt roads only to find they were the wrong ones.

"Did that old farmer send me on a wild goose chase?" He was asking himself, when he saw yet another dirt road taking off to the left. He almost missed it, because he was thinking about Arlissa and wondering if maybe she would go out with him. She sure was a cute little gal. Maybe if he took her some candy or something and tried to apologize to her, she would forgive him.

Whoa! There it was! He was sure this time. It looked very well traveled. The cycle kicked up the dust as he rode down the short path and saw the mailbox with the names O'Hanlon and Tunstall on it. Two names - now that was interesting; there had to be a story there. 

As he pulled into the driveway, he saw a little kid maybe two or three years old, with dark brown eyes and chocolate colored hair playing in the gravels.  The child jumped up and ran to the screen door shouting, "Mama! Mama! Cycle! Polizia!" 

The screen door opened and out came a woman who could be Arlissa's twin sister in looks, except she was a bit larger. The hair and the eyes were the same, but she looked at him with some suspicion. 

She pulled the boy to her side and told him to go back inside.

"But, Mama. Cycle!" He was pulling away from her; she was pushing him inside the house and stepping inside as though protecting him. She locked the screen door and almost had the back door closed before he got to it. 

"Wait! I just want to talk to you, Ma'am. Are you kin to Zeb O'Hanlon?"

"Why are you asking that? Who are you? What are you doing here? Did Alberto send you?"

"Ma'am, I don't know any Alberto, but I do know Zeb. Are you Marie?" 

"No-o-o." She drew out the word in several syllables. "Who are you and how do you know Zeb?"

"Is there anyone else here? Maybe your Ma?"

Just then a lady that was older came to the back door, and when she saw his uniform, her curiosity was roused as well.

"Young man, can I help you? What are you doing here? Aren't you a little off the beaten path?"

He smiled, "To tell you the honest truth ma'am, I had quite a bit of trouble finding the right beaten path. Are you Zeb O'Hanlon's mother?"

"Why? Is he hurt? Has he had an accident? Why is a state trooper coming to my home asking about Zeb?"

"Oh, no ma'am! He's a buddy of mine from police academy back in Tennessee. I didn't realize he might live close to where I am today patrolling the roads until I met a young woman this morning who looked a lot like him. A Miss Arlissa Hinton?"

"You know Arlissa?" the young woman asked. 

"Well, yes, I had occasion to stop her this morning when she was flying down the road, kinda weaving all over it and bawling her eyes out, with that red hair flying out the window. I realized when I met her that she sure looked a lot like Zeb with those blue eyes and red hair. Just like you have, ma'am."

"Wait a minute! Why was Arlissa crying, anyway? What happened?"

The young woman seemed agitated, so he knew she really cared about Arlissa. 

"Her granny was being taken to the hospital over in Amblin. She apparently had a spell with her heart. Miss Arlissa was following the ambulance and she had forgotten her purse; well, it's a long story."

"Did you give her a ticket?" The young woman looked more irate than even Arlissa had, and that was going some. Apparently these people took a dim view of the authority of the police officers. 

"Ma'am, I am not the heartless person you people seem to think. I did not give her a ticket but kind of gave her a follow in all the way to the hospital, and apologized to her."

"Well, you can go now. We'll see to her. Ma, you want to go see what we can do to help out? I need to stay here with Benny. I'll tell Jake when he comes in after while."

"Let me call the hospital first and check on her Granny. Oh, my!" 

"Wait! I wanted to tell you my name. It's Bobby Joe Odom."

She turned to him and said, "Of course! Zeb told me about you. I'm so glad he had such a good friend as you. Rosie here is his sister." Turning and looking at Rosie, she smiled.

"Ma, I'd just as soon you not broadcast the fact that I'm here. Okay? For right now, anyway."

That comment, along with the earlier reception raised a red flag in Trooper Odom's mind. This woman was hiding something. Hmmm. Interesting. Bobby Joe had an inquisitive mind, much like his pal, Zeb's. 

He decided to ask a few questions, it being his nature and all. 

"Say, Miss Rosie, that's a mighty handsome little fella you got there! I must say he don't look anything like you, though. He your little boy?"

Her temper flared and she grew so pale her freckles stood out on her face. 

"Of course, he's mine! Why would you even ask such a question?" Tears sprang to her eyes and a wild look came into them. "Why are you here?"

"I just told you, Ma'am, I was trying to find out if you all were kin to Arlissa Hinton. She favors you all in looks so very much. She sure is pretty, too." He smiled, remembering Arlissa's temper and what fun he had had verbally fencing with her. 

"Well, we ain't no kin to her, far as we know. She just happens to have that color hair. I reckon it's a common color."

"Ah, no ma'am. Maybe the hair, but that particular shade of blue eyes? Uh-uh. Gotta be more than co-incidence, far as I'm concerned. If I were you, I'd be checking your family history, especially since she comes from round here. Um - what can you tell me about her background? You know her pa's name? Is her Grandmother's name the same as her daddy's name?"

Rosie just looked at him like he had two heads and slammed the door. 

Hmmm. thought Bobby Joe, now that was an interesting reaction. Little did he know that Rosie had often wondered the same thing herself about kinship with the Hintons. 

Just as he was getting ready to leave on his cycle, an old truck pulled up into the yard and a dog jumped from the truck bed, and barked at him furiously. 

Naturally, he had to wait until the owner of the truck emerged and walked toward him. It was an older man, probably in his seventies. 

"What is the matter, young man? Why is a state cop off the beaten path, out here at the Tunstalls? Somethin' happened to one a' them?"

"No, sir. I was just lookin' to find out if they was any kin to someone I know. I'm getting ready to go." 

He reached over to shake hands with the old fellow. 

"Name's Bobby Joe Odom, sir. And you are...?"

"Never mind who I am. I jist come by to check on them. Heard a trooper was nosin' into their business. We don't take too kindly to strangers out here."

"Yes, sir. Well, it was nice meeting you. Sorry to have troubled you. Nice dog you have there. He don't bite, does he?"

"Only strangers he don't know, if they hang around too long."
The old man grinned and spat tobacco on the ground. Then he called his dog to his side and walked toward the house.

Bobby Joe climbed on his cycle, started it up and went on his way, more curious than ever. What were they hiding? His friend Zeb was one of the most open people he knew; why were they different?

He took off and turned his head once, only to see the old fellow stopping outside the house and looking back suspiciously at him, watching him drive away. 

Bobby Joe soon figured out why the old fella had showed up when he did; it must have been the neighborhood telegraph. When he stopped the old guy on the tractor and inquired about the O'Hanlons, the old guy passed on the word to another neighbor and pretty soon, it became common knowledge. By telephone perhaps? 

It certainly gave him food for thought. He headed back to the road to continue his patrolling. Seems he was really getting caught up in the lives of these people here in the Cumberland Mountains. 

At the O'Hanlon's, Rosie was sitting at the kitchen table talking to her Ma. 

"I wonder if he was really telling the truth about why he was here. What a flimsy story he told about Arlissa looking like me!"

"Honey, when was the last time you really looked at your face and hair in the mirror? You know, he was right about the resemblance, it's uncanny. And what about your friend? You haven't been around to see her at all since you've been back here."

"Ma! You know I can't get out and take the chance on word getting back to Alberto! He would try to take Benny from me and I couldn't bear that! He may be little Benito's father, but he'll never get him. I'll die first."

The child looked up at his mother and said, "Mama cry? Not cry, Mama! Me not let him hit you again!" 

He stood fiercely at her knees, clinching his little brown fists, in his protective mode, looking up into her face earnestly. 

"Oh, Benito! How could I ever live without you? Please don't worry. Mama is going to be okay. You are the sunshine of my life!"

"Me sunshine?" He giggled. "Me not be able to shine from sky. You so funny, Mama!"

She hugged him close to her, so tightly that he squirmed, but when she relaxed her hold a bit, he snuggled into her shoulder, sitting comfortably in her lap.

Grasping his face between her hands, she kissed both his cheeks and hugged him to her again. 

"Now, you go to your room and play awhile with your cars, okay? And don't worry about your Mama! We are going to be fine." 

Giving him a pat on the behind, she set him down to run and play. Then she sat back in her chair, and asked, "Mama, what am I going to do if he finds us?"

"Now, Rosie, we'll make plans to protect you both. Now here's what we'll do if he shows up." 

Putting their heads together, they made contingency plans and then leaned back in their chairs. Maybe it would work; they'd never know until the time came. 


Arlissa was almost home when her tire blew out and it simply went flat. 

"Oh, no! What next? I don't know if I can deal with it all! What am I going to do now?" she wailed.

The car was sitting at an angle on the side of the road, and the man behind the wheel of an oncoming truck saw her plight. Pulling over, he rolled down his car window.

"Arlissa! What are you doing out here at this time of day? Oh, oh! You have a flat, I see!"

Looking up, she smiled through her tears. 

"Oh, hello, Mr. Tunstall!" She got out of the car and looked at the tire. "Can you help me fix it?"

"You got a spare?"

"No, this is the spare. I had to have it put on a couple of weeks ago. What am I going to do?"

"I think maybe I've got a cold patch here in my tool box. I can fix it for you temporarily. Let me get my jack and take the tire off, and then I can put the cold patch on it, and inflate it for you."

"Oh, thank you! I didn't know what I was goin' to do!"

"Now, tell me...what are you out here for?"

"My Granny's sick and in the hospital and I was jist comin' home to take care of the animals and all."

"Ah! I see. Well, I'll be sure and tell the womenfolk at the house. Say, did you know Rosie is at home now?"

When Arlissa got home, she immediately went into the house and sat down to think about all that had happened that day, along with her situation. What was she going to do? How could  she take care of Granny and go in to work next week? 

'Rosie is home! I've got to go see her as soon as I do my chores around here! Oh, I can hardly wait to see her and find out where she's been and why she left so sudden...We were so close and then... she was up and gone, like overnight!'

Arlissa hurried with the rest of her chores. Then, grabbing her purse she ran out to the car to drive over to the neighboring farm, but then decided she could use the walk. After all, it was only a little over two miles and she could really use the exercise after sitting around all morning and half the day at the hospital. 

She decided she might even run part of the way, so taking off at a gentle lope, was soon well on her way.  

The wind felt good blowing over her face and her hair streamed out behind her. She felt free and began to be excited to be talking to her best friend for the first time in several years. Remembering about the last time they had talked, it came back to her about how dissatisfied with life Rosie had been. Oh, yeah, she wanted to get away from the restrictions of the farm life. 

When Arlissa thought about it, she realized that Rosie seemed to have a wild streak that couldn't be tamed "living out in the sticks" with no big shops and city streets. Come to think of it, Rosie hadn't really been happy since Lissa had known her. 

'Lissa' was what Rosie had nicknamed her and Arlissa found she kind of liked the sound of it. It seemed that her friend liked short cuts to a lot of things. 

Before she knew it, she had reached the farmhouse and was knocking on the back door. She saw the curtain being pulled to one side over the door window and Mrs. Tunstall's face appearing. Rosie's mother flung open the door.

"Oh, Arlissa! It's so good to see you! I've missed you lately. Come on in and sit a spell. Here, take this chair at the kitchen table. We were just getting ready to eat."

"Rosie, look who's here!"

Rosie came in from the bathroom where she had been washing her son's face and hands. When she saw Lissa, she ran and hugged her fiercely.

"Oh, Lissa! It's so good to see you again! Let me look at you! Ah, you've gotten thinner since I saw you. What have you been doing? Starving yourself?"

"No, just stayin' busy on the farm. That was goin' to be my question for you! What have you been up to, bein' gone all this time and not writin' nobody?" 

Just then, she saw a little boy peeking around the doorway of the bathroom, looking at her. In reaction, she cast a puzzled look at Rosie. 


Her friend noticed the look on Lissa's face and turned to see her son watching them. 

"Well, hello, little one! I haven't seen you before. You must be Rosie's little boy; how adorable you are! My name is Lissa. Won't you come and shake my hand?"

"You look like my Mama!" declared the child.

"That's just a co-incidence, little one."

"My name not little one; me is Benito. You call me Benny."

"How old is Benny?"

He held up three fingers very carefully. It wasn't long before Lissa was sitting with Benny in her lap and he was chattering away with her like an old friend. This worried Rosie; she had cautioned him about talking to strangers. It seemed this just didn't apply to Lissa.

Looking at Rosie, she began to form a question, only to be cut off by her friend. Rosie shook her head in a negative manner as if to say, "Not now! Later."

"Listen, why don't you all come over and visit me tonight? My Granny is in the hospital and it'll be lonesome over there by myself. Bring Benny and have supper with me. Then he can play and we can talk. Please?"

Rosie sent a questioning look in Jake and Anna's direction.

"That is a good idea said her mother. Benny needs to get out and you could do with some time away from here. I'll call if anything comes up here while you are there."

"Okay, Ma. If you think so. But don't answer the door to any strangers, okay? If you have any trouble, don't hesitate to call the Sheriff."

Uh-oh! What kind of trouble was Rosie in? It seemed trouble just gravitated toward her naturally, thought Lissa. She had some questions to be answered alright. 

Arlissa picked the child up and the three of them left the farmhouse and headed home. She ran lightly with the boy in her arms. 

"You don't weigh any more than a peck of feathers!"


"Yes, chickens have feathers. Do you like the chickens?"

They chattered on as they went; Rosie looking about them anxiously, as though watching for someone to jump out at them.

That settled it, Lissa thought. Someone was after Rosie and her baby. Where was the boy's father? Why were they here as though in hiding? All questions that she wanted to know the answers for.

Within a very short time, they were inside the farm house. She had been seeing heavy clouds building in the sky. A storm was headed their way and she needed to make sure the animals and chickens were in the barn and chicken house. 

"Rosie, how about helping me get the cows and the chickens in to shelter? I need to close the hen house for the night, and maybe feed them a bit first. You want to help feed the chickens, Benny?"

"Yes, feed chickens!" He jumped up and down with joy. "Me feed chickens?" 

Taking Lissa by the hand, he began pulling her out the back door. She laughed with delight and looked at him enviously. One day, she would like to have some little boys of her own, but wasn't sure at the rate she was going that it would ever happen. 

Looking down at her brogans, she was sure that in her present state, no eligible courtier was going to even glance her way. Oh, well! It was something to dream about! 

Out the door they went, laughing and giggling. She picked up the chicken feed bucket from the back porch table and down the steps.


(To be continued)


Anonymous said...

He's in for trouble lol. Nice to hear the old girl has a chance for a lot longer life.

Grammy said...

Yeah,me too. I hadn't actually decided until I was thinking about it last night.