Thursday, August 15, 2019
Poplar Mountain Part 22 by Dellani Oakes
Lucius volunteers to go to town to pick up a new pump for the pool. While there, he goes to see his brother.
"Don't know, Will. All I know's he ended up face down in the creek. Me and Dollie—saw him."
"Lordy, Lucius! When Squires come knockin' last night, I thought for sure Daddy'd kilt ya. I can't say I'm sorry the old bastard is gone, but I'm sure sorry for Mama."
"Me too. I got some business here in town, then I need to get back up to the school. You take me?"
Will glanced at his boss, who nodded. "Thanks, Mr. Prentice. Yeah, let me know when you're done. I got lunch comin' soon. You stay for that?"
"Reckon I can. Meet you back here at twelve."
"I got something for you." Smiling, he waved to his brother.
Lucius wandered around town for about twenty minutes, window shopping. He bought some pretty pink flowers for Dollie. It was a potted plant for the window of her office. She preferred live plants to cut flowers. He bought some hard candy for his mother. He knew they were going to have a lot of company over the next few days. He wanted something special for her to set out and knew the hard candy would keep well.
He wanted to get a few things for the children, but couldn't decide. He got an assortment of penny candy figuring they'd enjoy that. All his purchases in hand, he went back to Will's truck and tucked them inside. His brother came out a few minutes later and helped him load up the pump. They walked down the street to the same diner where he and Dollie had bought their pie and coffee.
"Was it just last night?" Lucius asked absently, rubbing his eyes.
"You mean Daddy?"
Lucius shook his head. "Me and Dollie at the movies. Seems a whole lifetime passed between then and now."
Willem nodded. "How's Mama?"
"Hit the babies hard. Sally can't stop crying. Jacob...." He shrugged. "I think Sam's relieved. Hard to tell with the girls. I will say they done their work this morning 'thowt a fuss. Pitched in like troopers. How long that'll last, who knows?"
Will nodded, fiddling with his coffee cup. "Do you need me to come back and help out?"
"Don't know yet. Sure will when the crops come in. For now, I hope to work half the day at the school, t'other half up at the farm. I was hoping to buy a truck, lighten the load a mite. That ain't gonna happen on half salary. And I wanted to buy Dollie a ring...."
"You asked her?"
Lucius chuckled, remembering his abortive proposal. "More like demanded." He explained. "Lord, what that girl does to me without even trying. Swear to God, I'm gonna bust if I can't have her soon."
"Maybe once she's got that ring?" He winked at his brother.
Lucius shrugged. "Dollie ain't like Patty, relaxed in her attitude. She's wound so tight, she's like to snap."
"Needs some lovin'," Will said with a knowing glimmer in his eyes.
"Hell, she ain't the only one. Startin' to feel a pinch." He shifted uncomfortably. "But I can't afford a ring anymore than I can a truck."
"I can't do jack diddly about a truck," Wil said. "But the ring I got sussed." He pulled a small cloth bag from his pocket. It was dark blue velvet with a shiny string drawing it closed. Will laid it in his brother's hand.
Lucius opened the bag, tipping it into his hand. Inside was a beautiful silver ring. It was similar to the one Will had made for Patty, only this one was covered in dragon flies, their iridescent wings sparkling in the sunlight.
"Mr. Prentice showed me how to make the enamel like that. Ain't it pretty?"
"It's beautiful! She'll love this! I can't pay you for this right now, Will."
"It's a wedding present. That, and my time building on your house."
Lucius thanked his brother. "You don't know what this means to me, Will."
"I do. Means your life's finally on track. Now you got the ring, you improve on that proposal."
The brothers drove back to the school. Will helped unload the pump and drove back to town. Lucius and Patrick replaced the pump, taking most of the afternoon.
Somehow, Lucius managed to get through the rest of his day. He graciously accepted condolences he didn't feel he deserved. He wasn't mourning, but his family was. Part of him felt guilty even acknowledging the kindly meant words. When school was over, Lucius rounded up his siblings and walked them up the narrow dirt track to their home. The yard was full of young children, horses, mules and rattletrap trucks. The clan had descended.
The girls and Joshua ran to greet them. Samuel and Lucius headed right to the barn to do the evening chores. Jane came and joined them a few minutes later. They worked without talking until everything was done. A short dousing at the outdoor pump refreshed them a little before going inside.
Their mother was surrounded by all the women in the clan. Sally huddled beside her. Jane took her outside to play with the other children. She protested slightly, but Jane was firm. A flash of her dark eyes at her mother, was full of reprimand.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
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