Story Edie

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Chapter 14

“Hey! I was supposed to help!”

He turned to look at me puzzled, then surprised, then he chuckled. “Don’t sweat it. It was an easy fix. They only cut the pipe, didn’t take a section out or do anything to the metal pipes like they did at the other places. Speaking of which you need to get this weatherized (and secured against any other vandalism). We are going to start seeing freezing weather.”

I nodded. “I looked at the maintenance logs for this place a couple of days ago. I just didn’t think it would be happening so fast.”

He gave me a strange look before saying, “Some years it turns winter early up here compared to in town. Looks like it is going to be that way again this year unless we get an Indian Summer.”

He kept looking at me strange driving me to ask, “What?”

He shook his head. “Er … you seem kinda level-headed given your age and … uh … circumstances.”

I could have given him a snotty response, but the truth is the truth. “My circumstances have forced me into early level-headedness. Not to be rude, but how much do you know?”

The tops of his ears turned red. “I’ll admit that after Tinker’s visit I … um … looked it up in the newspaper at the library.”

I sighed. “That might mean you know a whole lotta nothing so … here it is ….”

After my very abbreviated explanation, including a little background on me, and a little on how Uncle Tinker and Mr. Gibson handled things, he looked at me for a moment before asking, “You mind if we sit on the porch with the cocoa?”

I shrugged. “Uh … you might as well come in. The place is a lot better than it was, but you’ll still need to avoid some of the bigger piles of stuff to keep from going tip over teakettle.”

He gave an unwilling chuckle. “You sound like Ms. Halsey.”

“I guess I do. You aren’t the first person to notice.” I nearly said the kids at school used to think I was weird on occasion as well but even in my current “circumstance” I knew that sounded way into pathetic territory.

He stayed for about forty-five minutes and instead of talking about me I managed to pick his brain about what he thought I should prioritize for winterizing the cabin. The top two was the well and the storm windows.

“The roof is only two years old. I remember when Ms. Halsey put it on, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea to make sure the soffit and facia doesn’t have any rot. Think you can do that?”

“I can do a lot if for no other reason than Dad and my brother expected me to help around the house at least some and then since I knew the basics Aunt Nita had me do the same thing and more … for the house and her store. She called it learning to adult or something silly like that.”

He nodded. “Lot smarter to learn it that way then be forced to learn it after there’s been a problem. Anyway …”

He also said I needed to go over everything and make sure there were no entrances for rodents or other things that wanted to come in out of the cold. And that if I was going to put up a feeding station to have it away from the house.

“No thanks,” I told him with a grimace. “I don’t want problems with bears. I already can’t put a freezer on the back deck like I wanted to.”

“Sure you can. The decks are not accessible except through the back of the house. About five years ago my cousin – who used to do the property maintenance for this place – said there was a long-term tenant that did that very thing. I would padlock it, but it is definitely doable. If you have one,” he said looking around. “I’ll help you move it now.”

I shook my head. “That’s the one thing I don’t have in all this mess. And the frig here is extra small too. I’m going to look for a replacement at estate sales so I’ll just add a freezer to that list too.”

“You … er … do a lot of that sort of thing?”

“Estate sales and yard sales like we were at today? Yeah. Aunt Nita got me started. It helped us pay the bills.”

“Whatever happened to her business? The antique shop.”

“Vintiques.” And I guess he could see I was still mad because his eyebrows went up. “Uncle Tinker and Mr. Gibson is what happened to it. They never even gave me a chance to …” I shook my head. “Forget it. No changing it so just gotta live with it. But I managed to keep my online business because they didn’t know about it. Except …”

“Except?”

I explained they’d closed my bank accounts that had Aunt Nita’s name on them and it had been a pain to get new ones opened though the emancipation helped once I proved I no longer needed an adult signing for me.

“You’re not even eighteen are you.”

He’d gotten real careful and it was my turn to chuckle. “Relax. I’m not going to jump on you. I know I’m jailbait and let’s just say … not looking to wreck up anyone else’s life. I’ve already had mine changed all out of recognition thanks to the evil jerkitude of people I thought I could … er … trust.”

At my slowing down and suddenly getting a cautious bone he said, “Don’t go getting those thoughts in your head. Been there done that myself. Or maybe you haven’t noticed I’m half Frankenstein.”

I shrugged. “Mrs. Dunn … uh Celeste Dunn ‘cause there are a lot of you Dunn’s around … already explained. Military and stuff. So it’s not like you were huffing and blew yourself up. My dad had a couple of Vets that would work for him off and on and they had their thing going too. They were both amputees and one of them also lost an eye. It didn’t stop them from working and I don’t see your burns stopping you.”

“Well … no. But …”

“But people are stupid and only see what they let themselves see. Been like that since the beginning of time and will be like that until the end of time.”

“Whoa. Little cynical.”

“Had the rose-colored glasses yanked off and stomped on, crushed, and not looking to put another pair back on. So anyway …”

“Yeah. Anyway.” He said giving me another strange look. “This place was winterized last year, and Ms. Halsey didn’t rent it out this year, just asked me to keep an eye on it to keep squatters and stuff out of it ‘cause she was thinking of selling it. I hear they are having problems again with break ins and it correlates with the cities starting to run the homeless off the street again. Sometimes they think they can go live on the mountains and then find out it is easier to hole up in someone’s empty property for a while instead.”

“I heard someone in the grocery store say the same … oh crap!

“What?”

“Gotta get my cooler stuff in the house. And double crap, it is starting to rain.”

He seemed surprised when he looked out the window. “Give me that insulation you said you have and I’ll put it on the well real quick. If this turns into the sleet that Celeste says is predicted you aren’t going to want to find out too late your pipes are frozen.”

“But …”

“You get your groceries in.”

“But …”

“Time’s a wastin’,” he said with a good-natured grin. “Relax Edie. It is called bartering. It’s done a lot around here. And a little good will goes a long way. Godfrey is the only serious nut we have but we all are what people in town call eccentric. We can talk more about it later. Might, if you don’t mind, park my truck in the flat area after I get it fixed if you don’t mind.” I moved to grab the insulation I’d found the other day as I was cleaning out the oversized pantry downstairs and set out on the deck. “Truck is fine most of the year and even year-round until the switchback. Jeep is better for that part of the road … or I camp out in the truck when my mom and step-dad come to use the cabin.”

Between trips from the car and inside I found out that the cabin where he lives actually belonged to his step-dad’s brother’s estate. He lives there and keeps an eye on the place so they don’t have to pay a property manager. That he likes his step-dad better than his mom’s side of the family but his half-siblings and him don’t always get along so out of respect he makes himself scarce when they’re around. The reason is that he lived with his dad until his mom was finished finding herself and getting remarried and then his dad got sick, said some nasty things that needed saying but shoulda been said before things got where they got and not in front of the other kids. It caused grudges with the kids – not the grown ups who were grown up enough to know a lot of it was the sick making it come out like it had. When his dad died and he had to go live with his mom things were tough and then him joining the military straight out of high school on a whim shocked everyone when it was expected he was going to go to work for his step-dad’s business … commercial maintenance.

“I wasn’t overseas when this happened. It was during a protest that turned violent. Asshats in the crowd brought in Molotovs. I wasn’t the worst one as I only caught a glancing blow but they’d made them out of homemade napalm and … I couldn’t get my gear off fast enough. A buddy of mine, she … her hair caught fire under her helmet.” He was pale for a moment the same way I get when I have to talk about the actual rape. He shook it off and then added, “Then it was me on the hook when I had to move back home and live on their dime until after I was finished with rehab and some other stuff.”

“Yeah, that ‘other stuff’ will get a person every time. What you really mean is your sibs haven’t grown up yet. ‘Cause don’t they still pay benefits to soldiers that get hurt in the line of duty? You could have paid your way I bet.”

He snorted. “Yeah. And I did with the Disability Pay. But it doesn’t go as far as the government says it will. My uncle … step-dad’s brother, whatever … had bought the place as an investment but never really did anything with it. He was older than my step-dad is and mountain living for him kinda wasn’t realistic. He was more armchair quarterback than Grizzly Adams.”

I had to look up who that was before I completely understood what Winn was saying.

“So anyway, it didn’t have a mortgage on it. Uncle Ted had at least taken care of that much when he bought the place cheap and just through pictures online. What no one had counted on was the economy getting bad and no one being willing to take on the hot mess the property had turned into. It was bad to start with – the pictures were like a decade out of date – but with my uncle not willing or able to keep up with the old place it went downhill fast. My step-dad decided rehabbing the place was the perfect way for me to pay the family back, keep me out of trouble, and give me some street cred to get work on my own since I couldn’t work for him no more.”

“Not work for him?” I didn’t say that sounded mean and a good thing because that wasn’t it.

“Yeah. He tried everything he could think of, but his company’s insurance just wouldn’t cover me, and every employee has to be license, bonded, and insured because of the type of work they do. They do a lot of scaffolding work. To be honest it didn’t hurt my feelings any. I needed time to figure things out. I’ve been renovating and rehabbing the old place for the last three years as a way to pay the rent so to speak. So don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

“Ugh. People get in your business if they know too much about you.”

He looked at me and blinked then nodded his head and said, “They sure as hell do. And don’t worry about Smith. He is supposed to be going off to college pretty soon.”

I snorted. “Sure he is. He better get his head outta the clouds. He’s a year behind me … I’m a Junior so that makes him a sophomore. If he is planning on dual enrolling he better get busy on the geometry class he is always complaining about and wanting me to help him with. Colleges want you to have at least Algebra 2 for admittance, even for dual enrollers.”

“Yeah, he was complaining you were always cracking the whip.”

“I’d like to crack it over his head. If he claims I am some version of a girlfriend …”

He smiled. “Oh he tries until everyone shoots holes in his claims.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means everyone knows Smith and knows he talks big but rarely performs. He’s not a bad kid …”

“He’s not a kid. He’s a sixteen-year-old guy that can cause problems for me if he talks to his cousin at CFS like he’s mentioned a few times.”

“That little … He really said he’d talk to Cindy.”

“Cindy?”

“My sister from my bio-dad’s first marriage. And don’t worry about Cindy. I’ll warn her so she doesn’t get played.”

“Don’t …”

“It’s cool. Cindy is … let’s say she works for CFS but she’s a lot more realistic than most of the caseworkers are.”

“I do NOT need trouble Winn. I can’t afford trouble. I just want to build whatever life I have left after …” I sighed.

“Like I said, it’s cool. I get it. As a Vet … and disabled one … people give me the squinty eye plenty. I went through a time when I didn’t want to know anyone either. But … life is easier when you can get along with people. Celeste seems to think you’re worth the time. Probably went a long way today in getting some of the other Dunn’s thinking the same way.”

“Wait … what?”

We’d gotten back up on the porch to get out of the rain before he left and he said, “Look, it isn’t anything bad. There’s a bunch of us around here. Dunnville isn’t just a place name. Maybe you should, I don’t know, take a little time to let people know you … or at least know of you. The fact you spend your money at the local hardware store instead of going all the way to the Home Depot or Lowe’s helps. Puts money back into the community. And today? More people were watching you help them out at their tables than you might know.”

“Uh … I didn’t mean to get in their business. Just staging and stuff for Aunt Nita used to be my business.”

“Hey, I get it now that you’ve explained it.”

“Yeah but … look …” I started to say something then stopped and then started again. “I don’t mean to be rude but … I was trying to stay under the radar until I turned eighteen. One, I don’t need the stinking reporters to find me and do a retrospective or whatever. Two, I’m pretty sure some of the people involved would like to get back at me and … I don’t want to risk that for a lot of reasons. Three … well there are a lot more after two and … um …”

He looked at me then nodded. “Okay, I get you. And that makes sense … up to a point. You should still get to know a few people. You could have an emergency and … look, I’m not getting in your business but it makes my brain itch to think of someone in your circumstances up here, alone, and no one that would know if you …”

“Fine. You. I’ll think about the rest.”

“Good enough and more than I should probably expect. And …”

“Park your truck where you need to. It’s not a problem. Not like I can plant anything right now anyway.”

“Plant? As in garden?”

“Yeah. There used to be some stuff over there according to some old pictures but I have more research to do first.”

He left and I had stuff to put away, smalls to get online for sale, and a Teeny Tiny Teena to feed and entertain while trying to get my schoolwork done for the next week.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Chapter 15

It was getting to the time of year that people were buying stuff online to give as Christmas gifts. It was also getting to be that time of year when people were selling stuff to be able to afford buying Christmas gifts. And just like that Mom had been telling her daughter back when I first started this journey, things started getting tough.

The sleet that day really sucked. I mean really, really, really sucked. It was the first time that I started to realize just how hard it was going to be to heat the cabin since the only heat came from the fireplaces. It also made me realize just how bad that road down the mountain could suck. The first sleet storm didn’t last long but the mud that followed sure as heck did; it was nearly Spring before the road was completely dry.

I also found out that Celeste was right when she said that Mr. Godfrey would string a cable across the road, and the little toadman even bolted it to trees on either side of the road so you couldn’t go around it. First time it happened I had to turn around and go home. Second time it happened I came with Dad’s old set of universal keys for different types of locks. Got lucky and had a master lock key that fit the hasp locks he used. That time I wound the cable up neatly and put the locks back on. After that I started feeling testy.

Third time it happened I did some research online, sent a cease and desist letter to him by registered mail and reminded him that he didn’t own the road and even if he had, regardless of reason, he could not block access to other people’s private property or make it so that the county could not inspect the road. I made the cc that I sent the county pretty obvious by being in large and bolded font at the bottom of the page.

Fourth time it happened I used Dad’s bolt cutters on both hasp locks and then cut the cable into little, unusable sections and then made an in-person phone complaint to the county road people. I came down to check my mail a couple of days later and saw a county vehicle at the bottom and also saw that the trees Mr. Godfrey had been using to bolt the cable to had been taken down and not even stumps were left. I also saw a County inspector there “conversing” with the culprit.

“Listen Godfrey. We told you last time that the next time we got complaints about you blocking the public roadway what we were going to do.”

“Who is impugning my reputation?! I demand to know!”

“First off, no one is impugning anything. You admitted to doing it last time …”

“It was for public safety!”

“ … and you got caught doing it again this time. Red-handed mind you by no less than a County Commissioner. And if you must know several people beyond that reported you including a couple of linemen that couldn’t get up the road to check the ‘lectric lines for ice, the sanitation department because the way you had the road blocked made it so they couldn’t pick up the dumpster …”

“ … Which shouldn’t be there in the first place and …”

“Listen, you aired your opinion on that at the public meeting. Until the dump can be cleaned and emptied no more can be put in it. That means the county has no choice but to contract trash service with an outside agency and this is going to be the way it is for at least another year. It’s not going to be your way. Don’t make me call the cops again. If you think I’m being a hardass, you don’t want to know what they’re going to do after all your nasty allegations were proven to be false.”

“They weren’t false. They won’t address the issues I am constantly bringing to their attention. Instead they lay in wait for me and give me the ticket! There’s no other explanation for it than that!”

Responding sarcastically the County man said, “Except for the fact your driving sucks and rules are for everyone else but you?”

I kept on driving and promised myself I would avoid Mr. Godfrey as much as possible. Mrs. Dunn and Winn had given the impression that the man was a nut but harmless. What the county guy was saying made Mr. Godfrey out to be not harmless at all, especially if he was a bad driver. I know some of my hatred (call it what it is) for people that don’t drive responsibly is leftover stuff from when my mother and sister were killed. But knowing where it comes from doesn’t change the fact that stupid drivers kill people, and I don’t want Teena and I to be in that number.

On that particular day I was off on another full day of errands. I was really pushing my online sales. I wanted to make as much money as I could that way and use it to set Teena and I up for “just in case” … including just in case the restitution money stopped coming in. I’d already gotten a letter that once Layton turned himself in the money he paid into the court would stop until he’d served his sentence and then it would be part of his probation. On the other hand, a couple of those charged had notified the court they wanted to pay the restitution in full which apparently looks good to the Wardens and lawyers who are involved in whether or not someone gets out early for good behavior or has their sentence commuted to probation instead of prison. Either way I knew that eventually all of that money would stop and the social security survivor benefits I received from Dad and Mom would also stop when I turned eighteen. I’d never lived without the survivor benefits so it was a little scary thinking about what I would do at that point.

My first stop was a “one day only” estate sale. It was listed on both estatesales.org and estatesales.net so I expected it to be well attended. Only I got there and I got the first number which I thought strange as I was only thirty minutes early. And who should show up and get #5?

“Winn?”

“Well look who it is. You’re up and at ‘em early.”

“You’re funny,” meaning the opposite. “Obviously you don’t have a kid.”

“So … you go to these types of things often?”

“Yeah. You can find good deals,” I answered trying to give him the eye not to ask me about my business. I didn’t want any competition if I could help it. Besides, that day I was mostly there to look at a few items for my own use and sometimes the estate sales companies won’t dicker with you if they think you are just going to turn around and sell it.

If there is a particular item you want, you need to get there and grab it as fast as possible. Because other people are going to be doing the same thing. I’m not the only regular that goes to estate sales although what I wanted most didn’t seem like it would attract much attention. In the online pictures I’d seen a rack that held five five-gallon water jugs on their side. The rack even had wheels so that I could move it if I needed to. And once I got inside I found they had several empty five-gallon jugs that hadn’t been in the pictures. It would go a long way towards easing my mind about having water for just in case, especially after the well getting vandalized.

The rack and jugs were the first things I walked out to the holding table. I saw Winn looking over the power tools. Whoever had lived in the house had a bunch (and high-end tastes) and he was the only guy that had thus far shown up. I wanted to tell him not to dilly dally around or someone would come along and get it before him, but it wasn’t my place to boss him around.

I couldn’t believe the prices. By eavesdropping in on one of the workers and a nosey buyer I found out that there were no heirs and the lawyers running the probate just wanted the house and outbuildings emptied so they could put everything on the market. I had remembered to bring a tote bag with me – a lesson Aunt Nita had taught me – and started going through the remainder of the house in earnest since I’d gotten the items I’d really come for.

I picked through the clothes looking for popular name brands and found more than a few. Most of them were women’s clothes from the 50s, 60s, and 70s but there were some newer men’s clothes. The wife had died the year before after having dementia for a while, and the husband “died of loneliness” a couple of months back. The lawyers had looked high and low for heirs but none had come forward. I hate stories like that. They’re so sad. On the other hand I figure the husband and wife are back together again so maybe it was the way it was meant to be for a reason. Dad used to say something was above his paygrade when it wasn’t his business to judge and I don’t think it is a bad phrase to use. It really wasn’t any of my business one way or the other.

There were also some good-as-new vintage shoes and hats and accessories that I put on the hold table. There were some nice antique furniture pieces that Aunt Nita would have bid on but that were not something I could handle at the moment although I did buy what I later found out to be three really expensive sewing machines … a regular sewing machine, a serger, and a quilting machine that also did applique work. I also bought tote sacks full of stuff that went with it like the attachments and the notions (threads, buttons, bobbins, rick-rack, needles and pins, and a bunch of other stuff). Aunt Nita had told me that my mother quilted and had taught me how to mend some of the stuff we used to get into Vintiques. Most of what we sold was for our vendors but we also had our own booths and I’d gotten pretty good at doing stuff my friends thought was weird … like taking thrift store clothes and making them unique and stuff. I decided to give that a try again and if it didn’t work out I would re-sale the machines.

Mostly what the few people that had shown up were buying was kitchen stuff and small knick-knacks, otherwise known as dust catchers. The bigger ticket items had bids on them but that was about it. When I made it through the kitchen I couldn’t believe no one had taken the Rada brand knives. There was practically an entire drawer full so I grabbed them all up.

I nearly came out of my skin when someone bent over my shoulder and whispered, “Hey, you really interested in a freezer?”

I jumped so hard even Teena gave a goofy, baby grin. “Geez. Wear bells or something. My heart almost stopped.”

Winn realized he’d startled me but that I wasn’t holding it against him.

“So, about the freezer?”

“Yeah, only I don’t have anyway to get it back home so …”

“… so, how about a trade. I’ve put a bid in on a big, enclosed trailer and the contents of the workshop. You maybe come over one day and help me organize the piddly stuff and I’ll haul the freezer for you and help get it moved onto the back deck. The freezer is a good one and someone cleaned it out that knew what they were doing.”

“You already know all about this stuff don’t you … estate sales, yard sales, and stuff like that,” I said, once again a little suspicious that I was being played.

“Let’s just say I’m a quick study and know who to call when I have questions. Getting these tools means I can give my step-dad his back and that will be one less thing I owe for. I have a trailer that I’m turning into a mobile shop and assuming I win the bid – and they seem kinda anxious that I hang around until they call someone and get the a-ok – this will go a long way to getting set for the day he and Mom want to sell the place which I keep hearing is going to be sooner rather than later. They probably would have done it before now if Mom would stop getting stray hairs and want to do something else to the place.”

“You sound ready for it to be that way.”

“On some days. Other days I like it just fine where I’m at. Don’t really want to move to town to be honest and might try and find another situation like I have right now. Move in and live in and pay the rent by renovating a place and then move on to the next job and then next and so on and so forth. So about the freezer …”

“Depends on the price. I’m spending more than I expected to … I only came for the rolling rack to start with.”

Oh boy, yes I got the freezer. The thing couldn’t have been much more than a year old and still had the warranty paperwork in the shed where it was being stored. And yes, Winn got the trailer and the workshop. While he handled his stuff I went through the house one more time … some really nice vintage costume jewelry, the Rada knives, the sewing machines and all the stuff that went with them, the vintage outfits, and I had that packed down and was trying to figure out what to do with the rolling rack and five-gallon jugs when Winn said, “Here, I’ll just put this stuff by the freezer in the trailer. Look, I got a re-call on a mainline clean out that I did yesterday, and I still need to pack up all the stuff from the workshop. It’s going to be later in the day before I can bring the freezer. You mind?”

“Actually that’s a relief. I still have a ton of stuff I need to do in town. Um … do you … know … like do you … gawd …”

“Something wrong?”

“No, just trying to … this is just so stupid. Look what I’m trying to ask is do you need anything in town, from town, or whatever because I could take care of it and whatever and then you call me when you are on your way to the house.”

He grinned. “Now that’s the way to do it.”

“Er …”

“I do actually if you don’t mind. There’s a sleeve of canning lids behind the counter at the hardware store I need to pick up. They’re already paid. I’ll tell Uncle Diggs you’re picking them up for me. He’ll be happy to have them gone and out of his way so people will stop asking if they’re for sale.”

“Canning lids?”

“You know what those are?”

“I know what they are … we’d get vintage jars in Vintiques … but why would you need an entire sleeve of them?”

“I’ll show you this afternoon. Er … you going by a store?”

“Yeah.”

“You mind picking up some coffee?”

“What brand, what type, and how much?”

He snorted a laugh. “Don’t care, black and strong, and ten pounds if it isn’t a problem. I’ll give you the money and …”

“Just wait until I can find something on sale. I’ve got a ton of coupons clipped and they might have coffee on sale where I’m going.”

“You sure you don’t mind?”

I gave him the look the question deserved. “You’re hauling a freezer for me and you said this is the way things are get done in Dunnville.”

He laughed. “You learn fast Grasshopper.”

I watched him limp-jog off to start moving things into the enclosed trailer that he’d already backed up to the shed. I started putting Teena in her car seat … a place she was objecting to more and more at least until she fell asleep … and thought about the antiques that littered the house. I’d heard someone mention that they were going to get trashed if no one bought them. The prices really were better than decent and even with booth-rent would turn someone a pretty penny.

I pulled out my phone and made a call.“
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Chapter 16

“Hello?”

“Martha? This is … um … Edie Holtzinger.”

“Oh Hon! We’ve all been wondering where you went off to! Geez, everyone really misses Vintiques. And of course, your aunt most of all.”

“Out of town. And yeah, me too. Look, are any of your people still into the antiques … I mean furniture?”

“Honey that’s about all the store is these days. Ray moved most of the smalls vendor booths into the storefront next door. Why?”

“I’m leaving an estate sale outside of Dunnville and they’ve got a house full. It is a one day only type sale and I’ve never seen prices this good. Not many people showed up even though it was advertised in the usual places.”

“Hang on …” I could hear her clicking so assumed she was looking it up on her computer. “Dunnville … Dunnville. Found it. Oh. The pictures look …”

“Don’t do the pieces justice. Trust me. They need a lesson in how to showcase the good stuff and draw customers. A couple of the pieces could stand being treated better but there’s not a reproduction in the bunch. And none of them are painted either.” A little more blah, blah, blah later and I was pulling out after Martha said she was sending her sister who was already in the area pricing a couple of pieces for consignment and had the trailer with her and a helper to move things. She also gave me the name of a new shop that was mainly into clothes and costumes and she could vouch for the owner as she did business with them a couple of months back.

I looked at my list and decided to go to the post office first to get rid of my packages so there would be more room for groceries. I might have thought Mr. Gibson was out of his mind for the Chevy Tahoe in the beginning, especially gas prices being what they were, but I’ve since learned to appreciate it. Not just for driving up the mountain in bad weather but for the size when I ran my errands and the space.

I finally managed to get to the grocery store and wasn’t too happy to see a news crew there filming some kind of protest against meat or something like that. I wanted to snark and ask what meat had ever done to them but decided that would not be helpful … to me, not them.

I finally made it through the glass doors and found the store all but deserted. I guess people are leery about protests and stuff after what happened a few years back. I don’t blame them, but I was irritated more than anything else. At least I had my pick of the sales.

Going back to the list I was working from, that day’s purchases included three pounds of pasta per person (any kind), and I made ours three boxes of spaghetti, a box each of macaroni and rigatoni, and two bags of egg noodles. And buying the pasta I decided that I would buy three jars of spaghetti sauce, three jars of alfredo sauce, three jars of salsa, and three jars of pizza sauce since all of them were buy 2 get 1 free deals. The salsa led me to buy some canned nacho cheese, also on sale. And the pizza sauce had me buying several packages of pizza dough mix, parmesan cheese, and mini pepperonis. Of course by then my brain was on overdrive so if it was on sale, or if I could find a coupon for it, it went into the buggy and this included several packages of cornbread mix. I also purchased a couple bottles of yeast as I was developing some vague plan that I would eventually make my own bread just like a woman I watched in a youtube do.

And if you have bread you definitely need jam or jelly and peanut butter, so I picked up four jars of jelly and a bogo buy of creamy peanut butter. The giant tub was still cheaper per ounce but I was worried that I couldn’t eat it before it went bad; and if I did, that was a lot of PB and the results would be catastrophic for my guts which still had a tendency to be sensitive.

To make my own bread required flour so I got two big bags of that and didn’t even have to worry about weevils getting to it since I now owned a freezer to pack it in. Aunt Nita had sworn putting the pasta, cornmeal, and flour in the freezer for one week killed any critters hiding in them. Aunt Nita had a thing about weevils, silverfish, ants, and termites. They weren’t exactly Dad’s favorites either. Given their professions I can understand. I can remember them having some crazy discussions about the best way to get rid of them and prevent them. “Nuke ‘em from space. It’s the only way to be sure,” I can still hear Dad saying. And Aunt Nita laughing and saying, “Too right. Let’s do it.” And that’s right before the borax and bay leaves came out, and sticky traps. Which reminded me to pick that stuff up too.

Borax was kinda old fashioned and I had to look on the top shelf and someone had pushed it way in the back where they never dust. The bay leaves cost me way more than I expected and that led me to the idea that I needed to look at the seasonings and spices I had and make a list because according to Aunt Nita that stuff wouldn’t ever get any cheaper. When I researched the idea, I found it was because a lot of that stuff are imports so I figured that out to put on my stock up list but it was later that night as I was going over what I’d bought and put it away.

Getting back to that day, I picked up a couple more dollar boxes of hot cocoa since I was starting to go through enough of it to stay warm that I had gotten a zit. And then I splurged and picked up some specialty teas. I’ve been doing that on nearly every grocery trip since and I’m really glad because that stuff has gotten hard to find, and when you can find it the stuff is pricey.

The one thing that I remember turning my stomach was I noticed they were decorating for Thanksgiving. I still hadn’t decided what, if anything, I was going to do for the holidays. The cabin was still a mess of boxes so decorating would have been a waste of time even if I could find where they’d put those particular totes. There would only be Teena and I so trying to fix some big meal wouldn’t be all that great either. I was finally losing weight in the right places and didn’t really want to get “fluffy” again. On the other hand, I didn’t want to deprive Teena of what the holidays meant. Dad hadn’t done that to Robbie and I even though I knew it tore him up every year trying to take Mom’s place. The flip side of that was that Teena was still too young to appreciate any of it much less remember it. But somehow, even with all that rattling around in my head, a small turkey breast and a ham steak wound up in the buggy along with a box of store brand stove top stuffing and a box of the good mac and cheese with the squeeze cheese and not just the powdered stuff. They were all on sale so I kind of rationalized it that way.

I hurried away from any other temptations though I grabbed a can of jellied cranberry sauce. I figured if nothing else I could make the Thanksgiving Sandwich they used to make at Vintiques Café. Turkey breast meat, a thin slice of stuffing, a little bit of cranberry sauce and then you could have it with or without lettuce, tomato, and/or whatever cheese was in the cooler on whatever bread was fresh that day. You could even have gravy on it but to me that was just too messy. And speaking of gravy I grabbed my limit on those jars as I headed to the vegetable aisle.

There were item limits everywhere I looked. Some of it was due to the sale and some of it was just SOP because just like that Mom had predicted in the beginning, stuff was starting to get thin on the shelves again or so said the news. I didn’t see it myself but maybe it was because it had always been this way since I’d started noticing. I got my limit on everything that was available, even the stuff in the international aisle. Two or four cans isn’t much until you multiply it by all the types I grabbed.

My buggy was getting full and I hadn’t even hit the cleaning supplies or baby aisle yet because I had some bodacious coupons that I’d gotten at Teena’s last well-baby checkup and I’d traded the formula ones to a girl in the parking lot who was so grateful she nearly cried. As things happened it made me gladder and gladder that I’ve been able to nurse Teena even if my boobs do have a couple of nasty stretch marks on them. I’m not worried about being able to wear a two-piece bathing suit because I never have. Like I said, I was “fluffy” for a long time and being not-fluffy hasn’t made me anymore inclined to show off what I’ve got, especially since I now jiggle in weird places. Just because you lose weight doesn’t mean the extra skin you had suddenly goes away.

I used those coupons like crazy and got diapers, diaper wipes, and both first and second foods and baby cereal too. Then made a note to look online to see if there was such a thing as homemade baby food. I mean there logically had to be because baby food in jars and plastic containers didn’t always exist and there are plenty of people that don’t do the whole buy-it-in-the-store because they are worried about how it will affect their kid. It isn’t like I wasn’t concerned. Reading a baby book will do that to you whether you want it to or not. But I could only learn so much at a time and I hadn’t had much to do with little kids once I wasn’t one anymore.

Then I nearly smacked myself and had to turn around and go back for the coffee I’d told Winn that I would pick up. That stuff is even more complicated than tea. Tea is pretty hard to wreck, at least from my experience, but Aunt Nita was particular about her coffee. She wasn’t brand loyal, but she did like to keep Café Bustello on hand for what she called a little extra giddyup in her go on some mornings, especially the mornings that she had to meet with the accountant.

I wound up picking up two tubs of Maxwell House and then a bag of Café Bustello. The Maxwell House was bogo thanks to a coupon and the Café’ Bustello was a buck fifty off.

As I was going through the line to pay the manager got called over to check my coupons. They were legit but the cashier hadn’t wanted to make that call without approval. People were starting to make counterfeit coupons on top of everything else. I thought it was crazy then and still do though it is so common that you now have to sign all of the coupons that you use and have your driver’s license scanned just like if you are buying liquor or cigarettes. A lot of people have given up using coupons because of that, not me. My pennies get squeezed until Ole Abe cries and screams for mercy.
 

Kathy in FL

TB Fanatic
Chapter 17

Leaning on the furniture dolly on the deck after plugging in the freezer Winn said, “You gotta be the most self-sufficient girl your age I’ve ever met.”

“Uh … good thing or bad?” I asked as I handed him a cup of cocoa.

“Neither. I mean it’s good, but I didn’t mean it either way. It just is I suppose.”

I shrugged. “There was this lady that came to help me out not long after Teena was born. Mr. Gibson set it up. Or maybe Uncle Tinker. Whatever. She used to say the same kind of thing but then would follow that up with ‘but we can go one better.’ It took me a while to figure out that she thought it a good characteristic but that there were still lots of things I needed to learn.”

“Sounds like the woman had commonsense. She the one that taught you to use coupons? And thanks for saving me money on that coffee. Maxwell is the good stuff and I’ll try some of that Bustello on the next cold morning my butt doesn’t want to go to work.”

I laughed the way he said it then explained, “No, Dad did … or he was teaching Robbie and I just reaped some benefit from it. Aunt Nita did it too. She turned it into a learning game. Every penny I could save at the grocery store she’d put in a piggy bank and I got it under the tree at Christmas.” I grimaced.

“Memories hard for you?”

“Uh … sorta.”

“What are you going to do this year if you don’t mind my asking?”

“For the holidays? No clue. Probably nothing. Although there was a flyer at the post office that some church in town was looking for volunteers. That might not be too bad.”

“Was it for the First Baptist Church?”

“Uh … maybe?”

“Well if it was, talk to Celeste. She’s usually in charge. They put baskets together and do the Shoebox Ministry and last year they also did an Angel Tree. Then there is some big shindig they do for the little kids at their church … even down to the Squirt’s age there. They dress ‘em up like angels and a bunch of mess like that. You could get to know people maybe.”

Having been on the receiving end of what some church people thought of single parents my age I wasn’t too sure, but I did put it down on my list of things to consider. And since a couple of the kids that had been in on the prank that got me in the condition I was in were “church kids” I was a little leery. Dad had taken us to church, and he’d had me in the church’s school. But Aunt Nita hadn’t been real big on organized religion saying she preferred her conversations with God to be private. I never really understood her reasons but never felt I could question her either.

“Deep thoughts?”

I blinked away the memories and said, “Uh … not really. Oh … don’t let me forget that I picked up those canning lids for you.”

“And from the sour look on your face there was a problem.”

“Huh? No. Sorry. Just wish Smith would stop …”

“Being Smith? Want me to say something to the knothead?”

“Geez no. He’s already … er …”

Winn looked at me and then got aggravated. “Tell me that little peckerwood didn’t say … uh …”

“Yeah. He warned me off and I quote, ‘being taken in by your charm.’ That you’d sworn off women due to a broken heart … and other stuff he ‘couldn’t really talk about.’ He was obviously being stupid and Mr. Dunn growled at him and told him to stop wasting time and get back to sweeping the back since he couldn’t keep his mouth shut out front.”

Winn made a face. “Don’t worry about Smith anymore. I’m going to drop him down a well.”

The way he said it made my mad turn to a laugh. “Dress him in a tutu and let me watch as he goes in headfirst, and you have a deal.”

Winn had just taken a sip of cocoa and I guess it went down the wrong way. He was laughing and coughing at the same time and trying not to spill the hot liquid all over himself.

“It wasn’t that funny.”

“Watching Smith’s face if he’d heard what you just said would have been.”

“Whatever,” I said, a little embarrassed.

“Now don’t be that way. Besides I told you I was going to tell you what I used the canning lids for.”

And boy, didn’t Winn open up a new world of possibilities for me.
 

Griz3752

Retired, practising Curmudgeon
I guess I lied. I couldn't help it. I had to read just one. more. story. before bed. Now I'll be dragging my butt tomorrow because I didn't get to bed until close to midnight. And it's all your fault because you write too dang well, girl! Thanks for the stories. night night with an even bigger, loopy smile.
Ms Kathy freely admitted earlier (not sure which thread; there's a few right?) to a somewhat compulsive streak so there's no shame if you suffer the same from the consumption end.

Ppssst! Your not alone! But I think we're gonna need a bigger boat. .....
 

9idrr

Veteran Member
Thank you, Kathy - great chapters all!!

And if you need someone to stitch up a tutu, I'm your girl. Pink? Maybe with sparkly butterflies, trailing ribbons, and glitter?
Desperately need one in mauve to match my panties! Must have by this weekend for LGBTQRSTUVWXYZ pole dancin' class. Will pay expedited shippin' to General Delivery, San Franfreako, Kommiefornia. :ld:
 

AlaskaSue

North to the Future
Awesome, Kathy! I saved up a couple pages on separate tabs on my iPad, so I could read more of this one on the plane during my two long flights home yesterday (sans internet).

I love this new tale you’re spinning, as I love all of your generously shared writing. A gorgeous story, my friend! ;)

Susan…at long last back In Alaska….
 

goinpostal

Contributing Member
Chapter 12

I wound up not being able to keep my vow to only go driving once a month because my online business started to heat up. I was a little surprised that it was more the household junk and secondhand clothes than the gift and collectables that I used to make money on. Aunt Nita bought a lot of stuff at yard sales, estate sales, and junk that had gotten left behind at storage facilities. I was pretty good at cleaning and fixing things or bundling them together to make it a more desirable sale. I could have gone to the post office every freaking day – which isn’t a bad thing in and of itself given I was selling stuff and therefore making money – but I was trying to save money, not spend every penny that came in.

I made a trip to the post office every Monday and Friday; and shopped every three weeks. But the first time out I decided to treat it like a monthly shopping trip. First, I could make my menu for the month then create a shopping list from that. It hasn’t been a perfect solution, but it is better than the la-la-land I had been living in before. Mrs. Finkley had recommended it but it took me a while to put it into effect.

My next shopping trip I bought a few things for Teena early like rice cereal and some Level One baby foods like mushed up bananas. I checked the “best by” date on everything like another article suggested. Then after making sure I could pay for everything thing on the shopping list I added the next four weeks of items from the 52-week list. Four pounds of oats (two pounds per person) and four more gallons of water (two each Teena and I), two pounds of peanut butter (one per person, only I doubled it because I eat a lot of PB&J sandwiches), four pounds of sugar, and one case of evaporated milk. My cart was full but not as full as some other people’s were.

Worried that I was missing the picture I finally figured out it was the first of the month and people were cashing their government checks. Trying to get back to being the kind of smart that I used to think I was I decided it was a good time to camouflage some extra items. First I looked at my running inventory I was keeping on a phone app. Then I remembered some of my recent research. I’d read an article on how to get food storage on the international food aisle. I’d never shopped that kind of stuff before so while I was willing, I was a little hesitant.

Eventually I got over myself just like I had the first time I had to dissect something for science class. I bought a big container of NIDO powdered milk as well as a smaller one. I was going to open the smaller one and see if I couldn’t make the fresh milk, I bought go a little further. I remember Dad using Carnation Powdered milk to do that when the gallon he bought at the beginning of the month was half empty. Every time the gallon jug would get half empty, he would add more powdered milk and water to make a full gallon once again. By the end of the month it was just powdered milk but by then we were used to it and didn’t complain. It actually took a little bit to get used to the “real” milk at the beginning of the month. If it worked when I was a little kid, I decided to try it again.

Then there was this stuff called ghee which was clarified butter that didn’t require refrigeration. When I saw the price I almost didn’t do it but I decided to give it a try and see what the difference was between Ghee and the margarine I grew up using. There were these powdered soup mixes and I got an envelope of chicken and rice flavor. I’ve been eating a lot of soup. Favorite is tomato soup with a grilled cheese sandwich but I try and not eat it too often because too much cheese is not good for my guts it seems.

I got a few cans of beans … black, pinto, pink, garbanzo … and I was going to grab a big bag of dried Pinto beans but I was too worried how it would look. Instead I bought three different dried beans but in smaller bags. I bought a couple cans of refried beans and then skedaddled to the school supply section to see if there was anything on sale that I could use to organize my notes. Sure enough I bought some dividers, my favorite pens, some Sharpies in different colors, then a bunch of 4 x 6 index cards because I was finding recipes online for “food storage” and it was easier to organize them in an index card box than it was to print them off … not to mention printer ink wasn’t cheap and I already had some of that on order because I had to have it to print the mailing labels for my online sales.

I had reached my limit. Not money-wise as I hadn’t even had to touch the restitution money yet, but my buggy was full and I didn’t want to risk drawing any attention.

When I got to the cashier after waiting nearly twenty minutes, she looked at me then sighed before saying, “You have to have the items bundled together so that your WIC items are going to be one sale and the EBT will be …”

I guess I’d started to get faster on my feet by then. “We didn’t qualify,” I told her quietly looking down and away like I was making sure Teena didn’t need anything.

“Oh. So you’re using a debit card?”

“Yeah.”

“Sorry,” she said, not sounding sorry. “Management is just starting to get really picky about our tills at the end of our shift.”

“Sure. It’s okay,” I told her pulling my debit card out of my pocket. I never had carried a purse and didn’t plan on starting when I could shove what ever I needed in Teena’s diaper bag or a backpack.

I was beginning to think of the grocery trips as torture but necessary. But to get everything done in one day I had brought a cooler I had found while organizing and cleaning and put all the cool/cold stuff in there and then put the rest of the bags around it in the backend of the Bronco.

I hadn’t meant to be out long that day. I was still opening boxes and trying to get organized. I also had a freak ton of items, what are called “smalls” in the resale business, that I needed to take pictures of so I could get them listed. But then for some reason I just kept driving beyond the turn off.

I was almost to the highway going the opposite direction I normally went when I saw the empty produce stand was no longer empty. There were a lot of cars there so I pulled in as well. Don’t ask me why. It’s not like I was hearing a voice or anything like that. It was just a spur of the moment, I don’t really want to go home yet, I’m feeling nosey, kind of thing.

In addition to the produce stand there was a huge community yard sale going on … which explained the cars better than the produce stand did. I saw lots of lookers but not too many buyers at first. And of course crazy ol’ me just had to get involved. In about ten minutes I had this table rearranged and “staged” and it started getting attention. Feeling better because cluttered and nasty vendor booths at Vintique had made me itch, I started walking through and changing things here and there if I thought no one was looking.

Nobody said anything and then I got caught at a guy kind of booth of all places.

“You OCD or something?”

I looked up and then nearly groaned. It was Smith Dunn. “No.”

I turned to leave when another guy said a quiet curse under his breath. “Smith, I told you if you lost me another sale …”

“Fine. Whatever. This is nothing but junk anyway.”

Smith stomped away and I almost laughed. He made the mistake of going through the dog comfort area and wound up nearly dancing when he walked into some doggy doo.

I looked up and the guy was watching me watching Smith. Then I realized the long sleeved t-shirt he had on wasn’t a one-sleeved shirt but was a compression sleeve on one arm. Then things clunked into place … and fell out of my mouth.

“Oh. You’re Winfield. Thanks. For the mailbox post. Your cousin is my mail lady … Mrs. Dunn. And sorry. Shutting up now. I don’t normally embarrass myself like this until the second or third time I meet someone.”

I sighed and turned to leave and that’s when Teena decided to belch like a sumo wrestler after his fifth meal of the day. “Geez girl, I’d ask what you’ve been eating but since I know …” Like it was even more satisfying the second time around Teena did it again only she urped up more than spit that time. “Great.”

I walked away towards my car to clean up when I heard a loud crash and crunch. “No, no, no, no, no …”

Instead of being able to move forward I run into this arm that has been thrown out in front of me like Dad used to when he had to slam on the breaks. “Not your car.”

“And just how do you know that? I’ve got to check …”

“Rich and Suzie Dunn just took their divorce to a whole new level. They do have you and Mrs. Sizemore blocked in. Give the cops time to get here and clean things up. You don’t want to go over there with a baby in tow.”

I looked at him suspiciously and he said, “Smith talks.”

“Smithfield Dunn could suck the oxygen out of a room plus the rest of the building it is in. But given most of it doesn’t make much sense that still doesn’t tell me how you know who I am.”

For some reason he smiled like he was surprised and said, “You are Mizz Halsey’s girl. Er … guess I should say sorry for your loss.”

“Not if you don’t mean it. You knew Aunt Nita?”

“Aunt? I thought you were her daughter.”

“Then you didn’t know her,” I said starting to back up.

“I did some property management for her. Tinker came by to tell me what happened and that the place was going off the market.”

“So you know Uncle Tinker.”

The look on my face must have given him something to think about. “I know him through other people.”

“Same here so don’t expect me to … er …”

“Yeah, Tinker gives that impression. And the impression he gave was that you were Mizz Halsey’s daughter.”

“She was my aunt and guardian.”

“Well that puts two and two together.”

“Well don’t share that with Smith. More attention from him I don’t need.” I looked passed him and said, “Someone is at your table and is trying to get your attention.”

I was wiping my shirt down with Teena’s spit rag when I heard the guy offer Winn $10 for something on his table. Winn is trying to hide his disappointment when my mouth kicks in again.

“Are you kidding? That’s a vintage Craftsman bench vice.” I move it and look appropriately impressed. “And the swivel still works. Geez. I saw one like this go for $60 bucks on ebay and that didn’t include the shipping. And the paint wasn’t in this good a condition either.”

Another guy walked over and looked and said, “Well I be damned. It is Craftsman. Son, you need to turn this up so’s people can see the brand. I’ll give you $45 for it no questions asked.”

“Done,” I said. “Do you have correct change?”

I started arranging the tools by like and brand and soon enough all the big things had been cleared off. Most expensive thing I sold was an old Reed bench vice that hadn’t been restored.

“No Sir, I’m sorry. Can’t let it go for less than $150. As you can see it hasn’t had the patina sandblasted off it so you can still see the original serial number.” Umph. “And this is a heavy beast too. Forty-five pounds with a 4” jaw. It’ll be a bear to ship but I know a guy in …”

“Fine. $150. You sell yellow snow too?”

“Only to Eskimos,” I told him with a straight face.

The guy rolled his eyes but paid the money and walked away happy after I gave him the name of someone I knew from Vintiques that could likely confirm it was a 1940s piece and worth at least what he paid for it.

I sighed when I looked through the crowd and saw that the cops were still in the parking lot sorting things out. I was wondering what to do next when Winn said, “You just fixed my truck.”

“Huh?” I asked wondering what he was talking about.

“You sold some junk I found while cleaning out an estate sale and now I’ve got the money to fix my truck.”

“Oh. Okay. You’re welcome.” I looked at the mess that still blocked me in and said, “Are they ever going to shut up and call a couple of tow trucks? I have stuff in my cooler that I need to get home.”

“C’mon. I’ll grab you a bag of ice.”

I looked at him suspiciously again.

“’Cause I can. You fixed my truck.”

“No I didn’t. Your customers did. Besides I already owed you for the mail box post.”

“All right. I’ll show you where you can buy a bag of ice. And then I’ll get you a glass of cider.” My face must have revealed my objection to that too because he added, “Relax. It’s just cider. You can even watch them pour it.”

“Who told you?” I said backing up.

“Told me what?”

I looked at for a moment and realized that I was acting kinda paranoid. “Forget it. I …”

His eyes went wide right before I was hit from behind and started going down.
You changed it from a Tahoe to a Bronco.
 
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