A Girl Called Jack Cover Photo

A Girl Called Jack Cover Photo

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chapter 2



Jack tightly gripped the handle of the gun their father had always kept in his nightstand that she had started to carry with her all the time.  Creeping to the door when the knocking came again Jack called, “Who … who’s there?” 

“Yo … Jackalene.  It’s … (some garbled Spanish) … it’s Desi.  Can we come in?  I gotta get Concha out of the cold.  Please.  I can’t carry her anymore.” 

Recognizing the voice even though it was one she had never expected to hear again she peered out the spy hole but could see nothing because the electric was off.  “Who all is with you?” 

“It’s just me and Concha.  I swear it.  Please.  I can’t keep her awake and I’m busted up.  I just need a place to get her warm for the night.” 

Jack cautiously opened the door and seeing only Desi and a small bundle in his arms she told him, “Hurry.  Did anyone see you?” 

“No.  I’ve been hanging out in the Donovan’s shed but …” 

Jack looked at the boy she’d known since Kindergarten … actually not a boy anymore but it was hard for her to think of him any other way as he had never been the type his brother had been.  “Bring her in here.”  As soon as Desi carried his little sister into what was left of the firelight she said, “How long has she been like this?” 

“She’s been acting funny for the last couple of hours.  Can you fix her?” 

“She’s cold but … but not blue, just pale.  I’ll build up the fire.”   

Lena picked that moment to pop her head out.  “Jack?!” 

“Get back in there before you get cold,” Jack ordered as gently as she could. 

“Is … is that Concha?  But she left and wasn’t coming back.” 

Desi, used to dealing with lots of younger kids said, “Didn’t work out that way babita.  Your sister was very nice and let us come in out of the cold.  But you should do what she says.  You don’t want to wind up as cold as my sister is.” 

“It’s warm here in the tent.  She can stay with me.  We always shared a tent at Girl Scout camp and I shared my sleeping bag with her when we went to the same sleep overs.” 

Desi glanced at Jack and she nodded and said, “Yeah.  That’s a good idea.  I think she’s mostly just tired.”  Looking at Concha Jack chucked her under the chin.  “Hey Concha.  Wanna sleep with Lena in the tent?  She says it will be just like camp and the two of you can help keep each other warm.  Lot’s of blankets in there.” 

The young girl, eight just like Lena, looked over at her big brother.  “Desi?” 

“Sure.  You’ll be warm.” 

“Don’t leave me.” 

“Hey, do I look crazy?  Now move and be a good friend … don’t hog all the covers or put your cold feet where they don’t belong.” 

A spark of something appeared in the girl’s eyes and she tried to laugh but she really was exhausted.  Lena, eager to have her friend stay with her so neither one of them would have to be lonely, quickly made room in the tent and in no time both girls were back to sleep.  That’s when Jack looked over at Desi and saw he wasn’t much better off than Concha. 

“I suppose asking for details is going to have to wait.  Here, drink this.” 

“Save it for Concha.  I’m fine.” 

“Bull.  Just drink it, it’s mostly just watered down bouillon anyway.” 

“Huh?” 

“Powdered broth.  I’ve thinned it out.  It’s barely has enough in the water to give it flavor.” 

Desi still hesitated briefly before taking the mug Jack offered him.  After he took a sip he looked at Jack with a frown.  “You lie better than you should.” 

Jack gave a small grin and shrugged.  “You were being stubborn and I’m not up for a fight.” 

“You don’t look like you are up for much of anything.” 

“Gee thanks.” 

Desi shrugged.  “I … I’ve been listening.  To what’s been going on in the neighborhood.  I know about your parents … and about Josh.” 

Jack stood up and backed up fast … too fast.  She swayed on her feet and it was only Desi reaching out a hand to steady her that kept her from falling over.  “How?  Did he say something to you?” 

“No.  I heard his old man ripping into him every time he even thought about warning you that they were leaving.  I thought he would still man up but then I saw him leave that note for you.  I thought it was directions on how to catch up with them but … but then you found the letter this morning and I figured he’d taken the coward’s way out.” 

“You … you saw?” 

“Yeah.  I almost came out but I figured you wouldn’t appreciate it too much.” 

Jack didn’t know whether to be horrified, embarrassed, or furious.  She settled on trying to be nothing since the other three would just be a waste of energy.  Desi must have sensed her choice because he relaxed a little.  “I figure it was better to tell you up front than screw up and let it slip later on.” 

“What later on are you talking about?” 

“Not much of one from the sound of it.  I just figured it was better to be honest.” 

Thinking Jack finally nodded.  “Yeah.  Honesty.  More than I got from Josh apparently.  Even if he did have to leave with his family he could have said something beforehand.  Goodbye in person … something.  We’ve been going together for almost two years.  I never even suspected that leaving was on any of their minds.” 

Desi shrugged.  “If it means anything, he wanted to say something.  It was his Dad and Uncle.  They got some deep game going.  Some plan.  And it didn’t include inviting anyone but family along.  Donnie was told he had to leave Kate behind too.” 

“What? But they’re engaged!” 

“Yeah.  Donnie and his Dad got into a real fist fight over it – not just shoving but like they were going to take each other out – and then Donnie took off yesterday.  They were trying to wait on him to cool off and come home but I’m thinking that it wasn’t ever going to happen.  What he said to his ol’ man sounded permanent.  Donnie probably headed over to Norton Hall to stay with Kate … at least that’s what his mother thought.” 

Jack shook her head slowly.  “How long did you say you were staying in that shed?” 

“I moved us there after the Donovans died.  We had been staying in a lean to I made in the brush on the other side of the utility easement.  But the wind is a killer and started knocking parts of our camp down every night no matter how I tried to tie stuff off.  Then we got run off by some homeless guy claiming the camp was his.  He tried to grab Concha but I got her and took off to the only other place I figured we could stay until I worked out some connections.  People came and went out of the Donovan’s house a couple of days but they never bothered with the shed.  And then they just stopped coming.  Still a lot of crap in the house and I’ve been worried about them Creepers coming around to ransack the place and maybe find us.”  He shrugged.  “The shed isn’t much but it kept the wind off us better, there was just no real way to have a fire in there without suffocating on smoke.” 

“No kidding.  But that still doesn’t explain what you are doing playing homeless people in the first place.  Mr. Raymundo told Dad …” Jack stopped and took a breath at the sudden sharp pain.  “Mr. Raymundo told Dad that you all had your tickets and permits and everything and were going home to your family in Tegucigalpa.  What happened?” 

“What happened?!” he asked angrily.  “First, Honduras ain’t my home.  Here is.  I was born here and I’ve lived here my whole life.” 

“Ease up Desi.” 

He worked the stiffness out of his neck.  “Yeah.  You and your family never gave me any crap like some did.  Sorry.” 

“I don’t need sorry.  Just ease up.  I haven’t got the energy to be anyone’s enemy right now.” 

“Yeah.  Yeah, ok.  But see, that’s the thing.  Nobody south of here wants anyone that isn’t a citizen of their country.  They got too many people flying into their vacation homes and looking for rentals and all that.  There’s not enough room for everyone.  So they turned the tap off.  They are only accepting citizens; and anchor babies … well our dual citizenship has been revoked.  They say our folks had us in the US then we can stay in the US.” 

“So where’s the rest of your family?” 

“Uncle Ray … all his kids were born in Honduras and he’s got papers to prove it, just like Don.  Angelia and her kids went to go live with that ex-husband of hers in Barranquilla.  He got out of jail and saw the light or something like that and wants to be a dad to his kids.  He’s got this place worked out with his brothers in their export business.  Angelia has said she’d think about making it permanent but … anyway that’s where they are.  Uncle Ray, well he tried to fake it and get us aboard anyway but when the chips were down he gave us up and took off without looking back.  He said I’m nineteen and that it is plenty old enough to be a man and take on the responsibility of a family.  And I ain’t even mad at him for me … but he almost wouldn’t let Lena have her luggage.  He did take the little bit of food that was in there out before finally letting me have it.” 

“Wait.  Mr. Raymundo just left you at the airport?!” 

“Yeah,” he answered trying to not feel anything about that in the same way that Jack had decided to feel as little as possible about many of her own troubles.  “We slipped out when there was a riot at the airport.  I … I was just looking for some space to make a plan.  It took a lot longer to get us here than I thought it would.  I had thought to ask your dad for a job but … I’m … I’m really sorry Jack.  Your dad was a good man … and your momma a fine lady.” 

Steeling herself against the pain that wanted to roar back to life Jack nodded.  “Yeah.  They were.  Thanks.  But even if … well … if nothing had happened I don’t know if Dad could have hired you.  All the contracts that he’d had for carpentry work, they were getting cancelled.  He didn’t have any at all on the books the day they …” 

“Man,” Desi said with a sigh.  “You got any ideas what you and the nina are going to do?” 

Jack shrugged.  “I am trying to figure it out.  I’ve got temporary custody of Lena but the way that social worker lady said it it is only temporary until she can find a way to take Lena away.  Of course that could have been a bluff to push me around to sign some papers I wouldn’t sign but I’m not taking any chances.” 

“She’s gotta be scared.  Poor kid.  Foster care ain’t no place for a baby like her.” 

“Lena doesn’t know.  And I want to keep it that way until I can’t.  You need to be careful too Desi.  I was out last night … well … I was out last night and …” 

“Hey, I ain’t gonna judge.  But don’t plan on going to see Vern anymore.  He got picked up by the National Guard and got beat on pretty good.  He’s dealing with the creepers, maybe where most of his stuff comes from.  But whatever you managed to squeeze out of him last night is probably the last you’re gonna see … at least from him.  With my own eyes I saw them cuff him and toss him in the back of some military truck heading north to Orlando.” 

“Sucks for him but I hadn’t planned on it anyway.  He almost wanted interest on what he charged me for the groceries … if you know what I mean.” 

Desi almost growled.  “Yeah … guys like him … yeah, pretty easy to get what you mean.  What did you have to trade anyway?  I hear they ain’t taking money or jewelry or much of anything like that.” 

Matter-of-factly Jack explained, “I found a stash of pot in my parents’ room.  Apparently Mom was smoking medical grade stuff to try and keep her appetite going or for nausea or something … I couldn’t read the doctor’s handwriting.” 

“I didn’t know she was that bad off.” 

“I didn’t either.  They … they kept stuff from me, stuff … stuff I wish I hadn’t found out the way I had.  But anyway … when I found the bricks of pot they had all the government stamps on them and everything.  I know it’s bad but I figured they’d be worth something with the way things are going.” 

“I hope the sum a ***** gave you a good deal.  Last I heard weed was more expensive than high grade meth.  The weather has killed all the grow operations north of here and a lot of the ones to the south too.” 

“Yeah.  I got a good deal,” Jack acknowledged in understatement.  “I thought maybe you were Vern or one of his guys come to take it back.” 

“No.  And I’ve been on the lookout for crazies like that.  There’s been some break ins outside the subdivision but they haven’t started here yet.  Creepers got busted up pretty bad when they found out they pushed the wrong block of houses, but they won’t stay out much longer.  They’ve got too much at stake, just like the rest of us.” 

“Probably ‘cause they think we’re too poor to mess with yet.  But that won’t last.  I’ve heard the news of what is going on further north up in the big cities.  The only thing slowing it down here is how cold it is getting; around here people aren’t used to it.  People didn’t expect it to get this cold down here.  I didn’t, not like this.  The orange trees have freaking icicles hanging from them where the rain keeps freezing.  It is cold enough even the dirty water is starting to freeze.” 

“Yeah.”  They were both silent long enough that Jack had started to remember things she was trying to forget and that’s when Desi said, “If you really ain’t got nothing to do and no place to go I might have an idea.”

3 comments:

  1. Great story Kathy thanks for more of it. Praying for you and yours.
    Wayne

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  3. Again, thank you for the new story.

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