If you would like to read “The Quiet Ones, Part I” click the title.
Kari’s body jerked involuntarily at the sound of a gun shot. She glanced over at Mabeline, who continued to stare out the big picture window in the kitchen unperturbed.
It sounded close, very close. In fact it seemed to be coming from the back porch.
“Damn,” she could hear Bob cussing through the back door. “Come back here, you tree rat!”
The back door swung open, and slammed into the wall separating the kitchen from the sun room.
“Damn,” Bob muttered under his breath. Leaning his rifle against the wall, he shut the door behind him, and headed for the kitchen.
Bob grabbed his coffee mug and put it in the microwave to reheat it. He looked over at his wife blissfully regarding the riot of plants and bird feeders making a mini paradise of their back porch and two acre yard. A thought occurred to him.
“Hey Kari, does it bother you?”
Kari, put another bite of grits and eggs in Mabeline’s waiting mouth, and tried to figure out how to express her feelings on such a complex topic. It wasn’t something she could put into twenty words or less. “Well, I hate to see you guys going through this, but Mabeline seems to be having a pretty good day today, at least. She’s eating well. We can be grateful for that.”
“No, I’m not talkin’ about Mabeline. I mean does it bother you when I shoot the squirrels?”
Oh that. This wasn’t the first time Bob had gone all Davey Crocket on the local fauna. Kari wondered what had caused his sudden realization that some people might not consider killing squirrels in an upscale suburban neighborhood normal, or even acceptable.
“No, I grew up in Texas, Bob. I’m used to guns and hunting. I am curious though. What do you have against the squirrels?”
“They eat the bird food out of the feeders.”
Kari considered this for a minute. Bob’s world view wasn’t always consistent. Accordingly, cardinals and wood peckers enjoyed a protected position in nature, that squirrels did not, although he often hunted doves.
Kari filed this information in the same bucket where she placed Bob’s refusal to recycle based on the fact that he “wasn’t going to pay for other people to make money off of him” (there was a fee for recycling pick up in his area). It was a household norm to wash disposable cups and even single use straws, and yet Bob preferred to use styrofoam plates, which he then threw in the trash.
Kari had grandmother who everyone in the family acknowledged was OCD, though she was never diagnosed. She had a hand washing obsession, but she would reuse paper towels to dry her hands after washing them, which struck Kari as remarkably unsanitary. Grandma was a bit of a hoarder too. Like many survivors of the great depression, she saved everything. She had every phone book distributed Baytown, Texas over the last 40 years. She insisted on keeping them “in case she ever needed to know where Jane Watkins had lived in 1963.” She had a wall of newspapers in her garage blocking the door into her kitchen, creating a serious fire hazard.
A lot of older people, seemed to practice some variety of extreme frugality, which was compelling enough at times to trump any OCD leanings, but Grandma’s verged on the absurd. When one of Kari’s sisters had a baby, Grandma pulled a play pen out of her attic that would have made a fantastic prop for a horror movie. The exposed, partially rusted metal frame screamed “tetanus,” and what was left of the padding boar stains of her own children’s bodily fluids thoughtlessly deposited there in the 1950s. Who knew what lived in the batting after decades in Grandma’s dusty attic?
The metal joints pinchec Kari’s fingers when she was helping her sister open it up. It too three tries to get it to stay open for more than an minute. The weight of an infant on it’s partially rotted floor would certainly have caused it to fold up crushing the helpless child inside.
Kari’s grandmother clearly felt a great deal of pride in offering this death trap to the new mother, though her miser’s instincts prompted her to illicit a promise from her granddaughter to return the play pen to the attic when she was done with it. Grandma had preserved it this long, and wanted to ensure it would be available for future generations to use.
Kari and her sister thanked Grandma profusely for her generous gift and loaded the play pen into the sister’s mini van. They pulled into the first apartment complex they came to and threw the vile thing into the community trash bin.
Kari considered herself lucky Bob didn’t ask her to skin the squirrels and fry them up for lunch. That wasn’t unheard of in this part of the world, but it was normally the poorest of the poor who ate the furry tree mammals. Bob had plenty of money. His fondness for hunting was more cultural than survival. He was raised in a world where hunting was an important male bonding experience, a rite of passage. It sealed a man’s relationship with his clan in the same way sailing did in the eastern states or golf, pretty much everywhere.
Bob had always belonged. He had an established place in the world, and he knew exactly what it was. When Bob needed an insurance agent or a new car or a doctor – or virtually anything – he called a friend, a member of his church or an old hunting buddy. That’s how it was done. It was a world where a the right fraternity ring could seal virtually any deal. As with any functioning tribe, they supported one another, and they were suspicious of outsiders.
It was a highly successful strategy for surviving, and more than that, thriving. Their fellowship of white, Southern Baptist, conservative, and mostly Republican, college educated good old boys had gone from being a class of laborers and farmers to one of bankers, lawyers and business men in one generation. Their parents had lived in small, simple clapboard houses on pier and beam foundations, that shifted precariously with every Texas flood that pounded the earth beneath them.
Bob’s generation on the other hand had ridden a tide of steady inflation and almost unimaginable technological progress, that had turned their modest investments into mini fortunes, complete with sprawling ranch homes, acreage, and – most importantly – an unprecedented level of financial security.
If you would like to read “The Quiet Ones, Part 3” click the title.
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