I started back to the farm, and I checked my rear view mirror frequently to be sure Larry wasn’t following me.
The farm was empty, and I walked around to take it in one last time. I couldn’t remember if I’d ever been there by myself before. It was absolutely silent. The boys from St. Anne’s had seen the last of the livestock off, and the
bank was waiting for the last of the “personal effects” to be removed before auctioning the land.
It was good to take Jennie away from everything. Going back to Minneapolis was going to be best for both of us.
I wandered into the back yard and waded my way through the apples that had fallen to the foot of the apple trees. There were four big trees in the yard, enough to supply apple heaven, but neither Mama nor Molly ever did
that. We would grab an apple to eat from time to time, but the house was not filled with pies and apple crisp, and sauce. We would give some of the apples to Denny’s mother so she could make her famous apple pancakes, but the rest my Daddy used to make his cider; cider that was supposedly well hidden, but we found it in the cellar, in the far corner of the yard.
The cellar was nailed down, and for all I knew the cider dumped by Molly, but I was curious enough to kick away the leaves, and find a crowbar in the barn to pry it open. With Jennie’s horse and the cows gone the place
smelled even more like the gasoline Molly had spilt. I got my tool as quickly as I could and went to work on the nails, hooking and pulling until the door came open. There were still a half-dozen gallon jugs down there, and I
grabbed one and brought it to the kitchen. This was my nostalgia.
I called out to Denny’s to tell him I was fine, or at least that I’d gotten back safely. I told him to take his time. He and Jennie needed the time together before we headed up. He told me they were playing cards, and Denny
assured me the game was “Go Fish”-not poker. You couldn’t find a man in Leifton that didn’t play cards. There was a deck handy in every tackle box and hunter’s first aid kit.
There was a reason why I hadn’t been alone on the farm, and why I was alone as little as possible when I was home. I wasn’t good at it. I tried to call Frank, but there was no answer. The cider beckoned me. I took a tumbler out of the cupboard and filled it to the top.
Over an hour passed before Denny brought Jennie back, and I had polished off that tumbler and had started another one. I was excited and relieved to see them, and I waved my glass in the air.
“I went on a treasure hunt. Remember when we used to go on treasure hunts, Denny? It was right where my Daddy left it. Molly nailed it up, prob’ly to keep Satan out, but I found it! I found the treasure!”
“I remember, Lucy,” Denny said. “I think you’ve had enough treasure. Come on Luce. I’ll help you to the front room. You can lay down on the davenport. You’re drunk, Hon.”
“Yep. I’m drunk, that’s for sure! But I feel soooo much better. It’s awful sweet of you to take care of me,” I told Denny.
I turned to Jennie. Moving my head made the room spin even faster. “Every girl should know a man like Dennis Ferguson, to give herself a standard to aspire to. You remember what he looks like, Jennie. You always
remember this is an Up-standing young man. When you’re older, and you’re looking at boys, look for one like this-just like Dennis Ferguson-the Upstanding young man.”
“Maybe you should head upstairs, Jennie,” Denny told her. “Get out of that dress. Find something comfortable.”
Jennie didn’t move. Molly had kept such tight reigns on her that I doubted she had ever seen a woman drunk before. Nate and Denny had both told me Molly never touched a drop of anything besides for Holy Communion. Not since I left. She made it her responsibility to always be aware of everything, and as Jennie watched me, it was as if Molly was right there, watching me too.
“Jennie, please,” Denny said. “Go on up.”
She moved a little now, slowly inching her way towards the door. I tried to calm myself, tell her as gently as I could to go ahead, and do what Denny said. My own voice boomed in my head, and I wondered if I sounded
as loud to the two of them.
“You should try a glass of this, Denny,” I offered. “It’s a lot stronger than it used to be.”
“Well, it’s had time-it was twelve years ago we found the other bottle in the cellar.” Denny said. I tried to stand, but lost my balance and had to lean against the table.
“Those were good times, weren’t they Denny?”
“Crazy good times, Luce,” he admitted.
“Come on,” I said. “Have a little sip. It’ll put hair on your chest.” I tried to let go of the table, but lost my balance and fell into Denny. I grabbed onto his shirt and looked down it. “Oh,” I said. “Guess you don’t need it after all.”
Denny turned around and saw Jennie in the door, she’d frozen again on the other side. I acted weaker and less balanced than I was, and I made him hold me up almost completely. I felt his heart rattle as I leaned against his
chest. I didn’t know if it was out of passion or anger or impatience, but whatever it was, I suddenly realized I missed it.
“Jennie, upstairs!” he asserted, and she raced up as fast as she could.
I giggled. “Did I embarrass you? I’m sorry?” I told him. “We used to have so much fun. Don’t you remember how much fun we had?”
I wanted him to play along, but he was serious. Responsible. The way he’d always been.
“We’re not kids anymore, Lucy.” he told me. “You have a little girl to look after.”
“You’re mad at me,” I said.
“I’m not mad Luce, I’m frustrated. I should’ve known better than to let you be alone like this.”
“I’m a big girl,” I told him. “I can take care of myself.”
“I know you can Lucy,” he said. “Just not today.”
Denny walked me into the front room and helped me onto the davenport. “Go to sleep, Lucy. It’s almost over. “
I held onto him longer than I needed to, and asked him to stay.
“You know I can’t, Luce,” he told me. “Besides, you have a long drive in the morning, and a husband waiting for you in Minneapolis.”
He went upstairs to say goodbye to Jennie, and before I knew it, he was walking out the door.
End of Chapter Two — Next section
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