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.
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.
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.
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.)
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
"Well, it is just going to have to wait until this evening. I have a full schedule ..."
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.
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
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!"
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?"
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
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."
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
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?"
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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."
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?"
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.
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?"
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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,
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.
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."
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.
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?"
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.
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?"
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
"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
She blushed furiously because she realized she had gotten much more inquisitive than he had been.
He realized her discomfiture and said no more.
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.
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.
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."
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
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?"
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
Joe had learned enough while playing poker to read the old fellow's
thoughts by the facial expressions, so he just waited.
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!"
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."
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?"
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."
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."
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'?"
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?"
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.
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."
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?
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.
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
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."
doctor had been standing back watching the scene play out between the
two women, marveling at the way they understood each other so well.
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.
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.
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?
feeling of dread washed over him as he compared her sophistication with
the sweet simplicity of the girl standing near her Granny, holding her
Perhaps he needed to do some more thinking, later.
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!"
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.
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?"
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?"
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.
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
"Wait a minute! Why was Arlissa crying, anyway? What happened?"
The young woman seemed agitated, so he knew she really cared about Arlissa.
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."
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.
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."
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."
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."
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.
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.
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?"
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."
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
Rosie just looked at him like he had two heads and slammed the door.
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.
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
he had to wait until the owner of the truck emerged and walked toward
him. It was an older man, probably in his seventies.
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...?"
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
"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.
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?
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
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?
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!"
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."
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
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!"
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."
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
"Now, Rosie, we'll make plans to protect you both. Now here's what we'll do if he shows up."
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
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.
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?"
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?"
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?
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!"
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.
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
"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?"
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.
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?"
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.
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
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.
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."
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."
What kind of trouble was Rosie in? It seemed trouble just gravitated
toward her naturally, thought Lissa. She had some questions to be
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.
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.
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
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?"
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.
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!
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)