Tuesday, October 08, 2019
Poplar Mountain Part 37 by Dellani Oakes
Luke collapses at the funeral. He wakes some time later and hears voices.
"But he put us through all kinda hell."
"He did. I know he's my daddy, but by damn, he was an evil old sot and I'm glad he's gone." Will burst into tears.
Luke had never seen his brother cry. He wasn't sure how to react. He didn't have to. Patty took Will in her arms, standing by his chair as he wept. He buried his face in her apron, broad shoulders shaking as he clung to her and cried. Luke felt tears in his own eyes and for the same reason, he suspected. He regretted the life they'd had with their father. He knew he should love him, and part of him might, but mostly he hated the old man for his meanness. He felt guilty for feeling relieved that his father was dead. He knew his mother missed her husband, the little ones their daddy, but he and Will couldn't.
When his tears ended, Will sniffed loudly, wiping his nose and eyes on his napkin. Dollie handed him a fresh one without a word. Patty kissed him deeply, holding him close. Dollie hugged him, kissing his cheek. Luke didn't know what to say, so he leaned across the table, taking his brother's hand. He squeezed it, gazing deeply into his brother's eyes.
"You ain't alone in how you feel, Willem. I been feeling the same way. Sorry he's gone, but just as happy I won't never see him again—and guilty as sin cause I feel glad." He swallowed hard. "I suppose that makes us bad sons, but I don't care."
"It doesn't make you anything of the sort," Patty said hotly. "Big Earl made your lives a living hell. I'm sorry he had such problems. I imagine the war was hard on everyone in one way or another, but he beat you, denigrated you, made you feel less than men! He was a horrid man and, God help me, I'm glad he's dead too! Then I don't have to spend the rest of my life pretending to love my father-in-law when I hated him! I just hated him!"
Ready to burst into tears herself. Dollie stood up, hands firmly planted on the table.
"Enough! We all know Earl Henry was a son of the devil. Whatever demons haunted him are dead along with him. So let's put it behind us, the guilt, the anger.... I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm just gonna scream good and loud and let it all out. Then I intend to eat this delicious meal my sister prepared. Who's with me?"
The others looked at her like she was crazy. Finally, Luke stood next to her, taking her hand. Will and Patty joined them. Standing in a circle, they inhaled deeply and let out a long, loud bellow that echoed all through the empty building. They were so far from the other buildings, it was unlikely anyone heard them. It felt so good to yell, they did it again and again until they were gasping for air and laughing.
"I feel better," Will said. He kissed Dollie on both cheeks, grinning. "I feel worlds better!"
"Me too," Luke confessed. Feeling light-headed, he sat quickly. "Let's eat!" He rubbed his hands together.
The women served the plates. Patty had fixed a roast with mashed potatoes, steamed carrots and fresh bread. For dessert, there was a fluffy rice pudding. The men dug in, complimenting the cook. Patty beamed, delighted that they liked it.
After the meal, they had coffee with their rice pudding. Will and Dollie volunteered to clean up since Patty had cooked.
"I'll help," Luke offered.
"You'll sit down and put your feet up," Dollie told him, dark eyes flashing. "Or you'll feel the Belloit Wrath!"
"That sounds dangerous," Luke said, cringing slightly.
"It can be," Patty said. "Strong men tremble in their boots when a Belloit woman unleashes the Wrath. It's a documented fact it caused the Great Chicago Fire and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake."
This brought a smirk to Luke's face, his blue eyes twinkling like twin sapphires. "I'll be right careful not to make a Belloit that angry," he promised, raising his right hand. "Never let it be said that I unleashed the Wrath and brought about a disaster."
Patty giggled. "I don't think you could make either of us that angry, Luke. You're too sweet."
"Men ain't sweet," he and Will chorused from different rooms.
The women laughed loudly, clapping.
"Well, if you aren't sweet, what are you?"
"Considerate," Luke said.
"Friendly," Will supplied, coming into the room, wiping his hands on a towel.
"Don't forget handsome," Dollie supplied.
"Dashing," was Patty's contribution.
"And very, very loving," Dollie said as she leaned toward Luke.
He stood, pulling her close as his lips descended on hers.
"We're that and more," Will said as he pulled Patty into a similar embrace.
The young people stayed that way for a long time. They might have continued longer, but someone pounded on the door to the building. Will ran out to see what was wrong as the bell at the dining hall rang and the fire siren started wailing.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes
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