A Girl Called Jack Cover Photo

A Girl Called Jack Cover Photo

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Chapter 7

Jack sat down so she would be on Lena and Concha’s level.  “Girls, it’s very important that we be able to trust you.  The more we have to worry that you won’t follow the rules, the longer it is going to take us to get done what we need to get done which means the longer we have to be away from you.  The longer we’re away from you the more we’ll have to worry and the longer it will take.  Get the picture?” 

Lena sighed, looked at Concha then back at her sister before saying, “Yes Jack.  We get it.  We’ll stay in the tent.  We won’t mess with the fire.  We won’t make anything fall over.  We won’t lift the blinds and look out the windows.  Nothing.  We aren’t babies.  Just hurry up and come back already.” 

Jack nodded then got up and waited by the door while Desi told Lena something in Spanish that was too fast for Jack to understand.  When Desi came out he was strung tight.  “What’s up?” she asked him getting slightly suspicious. 

“I wish you didn’t have to help, that you could stay here with the girls.  I don’t like leaving them.  It cut my heart out every time I had to leave Concha before.  Leaving her this time isn’t much better.  You should stay and …” 

“Don’t go muy macho on me Desi.  What should be isn’t and what has to be is.  Let’s just get this done and come back and eat some stew.  The color of the sky is weirding me out.  This is the reddest it’s ever been.” 

Desi tried to hide it but he was just as disturbed as Jack was.  “Yeah, there’s more crap in the air than there was,” he agreed.  “This can’t be good.  It’s making it hard to get a signal on the radio.” Then as they made their way quietly across the neighborhood it started to snow.   

Desi reached out and caught some and then rubbed it between his fingers.  He nodded but didn’t say anything until he’d boosted Jack into the side window of her former boyfriend’s house and climbed in after her.  Jack waited and finally he said, “Snow is dirty.  I think it is pulling down all the junk in the air.  Makes me worried what the girls are breathing … what we’re breathing.  It reminds me of the stories Abuela would tell about when she worked in Coast Rica for a rich coffee farmer and Tarrialba erupted.  Let’s find something to tie across our faces before we do anything else.” 

Jack thumped her forehead with the heel of her hand.  “God I’ve got a serious case of the stupids.  Here, try this.”  From the fanny pack she had at her waist she pulled a couple of surgical masks.  “They aren’t perfect but at least we won’t suffocate.” 

With both admiration and surprise in his voice Desi proclaimed, “This is good.  This is real good.  Where did you find these?” 

“Vern.  They were in one of the boxes of supplies that I traded for.  I think he ripped off some emergency response convoy or something.  You saw some of that food … foil packets that you just tear the top off of and eat it right out of the package with a little wooden spork thingie that is taped to the outside.” 

“Yeah.  We’re going to be living on Spaghettios and Beanee Weenees for a while.  Wait, I didn’t mean …” 

“Relax.  I know what you mean.  But we aren’t.  At least hopefully not for long if you are right and there’s really still food buried where we’re going.  But Lena … and Concha too from the look of it … thought it was real cool food.  What I figure is I can fix breakfast and a good mid-day meal and then we can have a tea and then light supper if anyone is still hungry instead of three big meals.   Big Sunday dinners are going to be out of the picture for a while.” 

“They were never in the picture at our place.  I know the way people used to think but … it wasn’t that way.  The way Abuelita – Uncle Ray’s mother in law – cooked it was basically a free for all.  She cooked a big pot of something and a dump truck full of tamales or tortillas and rice and then she walked away and let everyone fight for their share.  First time your Mom brought sandwiches to the store I thought it was crazy how she kept asking what I wanted and making sure my plate was filled.  I kept looking at your dad to see why she was acting so weird.  Only it turns out it wasn’t your mom that was weird but the crap going on in my house.” 

“Everybody has their own version of weird in their family.  You had yours.  I had mine.  And I guess Josh’s super nice and normal family wound up not being so … so normal and nice after all.” 

Desi heard the crack in Jack’s voice and said, “Josh was no man.  I wouldn’t never … I mean family is family but you two don’t have no guy around to help.  They coulda … shoulda … made room.” 

“No offense Desi but … but I’m just taking it for what it is and moving on.  If Josh could do this the way he did it – family or not – then he wasn’t the person I thought he was.  At least not on my side.  He made a choice.  I’m living with it.” 

Desi who was more used to volatile females kept waiting for Jack to blow but she didn’t and eventually he found that to be a thing to be thankful for because toting all of the stuff they decided to go through back to her house, in the dark, took all of the energy he had.  As they made one more walk through the house he watched Jack paw emotionlessly through the belongings of Josh’s two younger sisters.  Finally he said, “Watcha doing?  Concha has clothes.  From the looks of it so does Lena.” 

Jack nodded in the dark house that was only lit by the faint light from her head lamp that was set on its lowest setting.  “They have clothes now.  If we really are going to have to stay in that hole in the ground for a year then having some things in a bigger size will be important.  We’ll also need things in larger sizes in case we have to layer clothes because of the cold.  Stuff will wear out as I have to hand wash them.  Maybe for guys its different but for girls … going commando is not an option that I want to have to deal with.” 

Desi just looked at her then grinned.  “You’re alright.  I knew you’d be good for Concha ‘cause of your momma.” 

Jack turned and looked at him and said, “Not just the girls.  You need to go through Dad’s stuff and I’ll go through Mom’s stuff.  Dad has a snow suit in the cedar closet from where he would go deer hunting; it should fit you.  And I’ve got the fleece and wool that Mom was going to make blankets out of for the women’s shelter that I can use to make jumpers for the girls.  I just hope that I can find something for me in Mom’s stuff.  Only thing is she lost a lot of weight and my butt might not fit in her clothes.  I know the tops won’t fit.” 

“Er …”  Desi made an odd noise and Jack turned to find that Desi was so red he practically glowed in the dark. 

Jack snorted.  “You think that is embarrassing then stay out of the tub I mark ‘Keep Out’ on or you’ll pass out.” 

It took Desi a moment to figure that one out before blanching and saying.  “Tape it shut.  I had to listen to my cousins running their mouths all the time about PMS and cramps and stuff I don’t ever want to know about.  Thank god Concha is too young for that.” 

“You better hope she is.  You know there were girls in their class at school that were already … maturing in that way?” 

“Uh uh … no way … aw … er …” 

“Breathe.  I got it covered just in case.  Mom was worried about Lena though I don’t think it’s going to be the same for her as it was for me.  I was nine.” 

“Holy crap,” Desi muttered while he tried to fend off knowledge he didn’t want. 

“Yeah.  And they’re both eight.  But they’re small for their age and neither … well you know how it was.  They hung out together because they were still little girls that liked little girl things.  They didn’t get what some of their friends were already into like being boy crazy, make up, sexy clothes.  I was always glad they had each other and … well I wasn’t exactly sorry to see you all go as I thought you were going someplace better to be with family but I was sorry because of Lena … I hope you know what I mean.” 

“I do.  Your parents were why I headed back this way when we got left at the Orlando airport.  But when we showed up there were all these people at the house … and … well I just hid us out instead.  When I figured out what happened I decided to stay hid.” 

“Might have been a good thing you did.  Some of the family isn’t … well …” 

“Yeah.  Don’t sweat it.  Let’s just finish this up.  I didn’t think it would take this long.  I was only going after those tubs.  I didn’t think nothing about looking for cleaning supplies and stuff.  We might need a trailer after all.” 

“Maybe not.  The way Josh’s mom had that food packed has given me something to think about.  Instead of wasting space by leaving food in its original packaging, I think we can put things in Ziploc bags and combining bulk items into tubs – like a tub full of rice, a tub full of beans, that sort of thing – and put soft, squishable things like blankets on the bottom that can be weighed down by heavier things on top … we’re still going to have to leave a lot of things behind that I’d rather not, but there’s no other way.  The thing I need to know though is … mattresses.  We won’t need the whole bed or frame but it will be warmer if we don’t have to sleep right on the floor.” 

Desi blinked then nodded.  “Got some thinking to do but … maybe … hey, you still have any packing straps?” 

“Yeah.  In the garage.” 

“We’ll have to wrap them up real good but we could fill the truck bed then on top of the camper top we could strap down a couple of mattresses.  I don’t know about box springs though.  I can build boxes or some kind of frame for the mattresses to sit on once we get to where we’re going.” 

They each had a garbage bag full of stuff as they made their way back to Jack’s house.  Once inside the girls asked, “Are you going out again?” 

Desi answered, “I gotta bring in the last of the wood and then we’re done.  Concha, mind Jack and help.  We ain’t guests.  We’re all throwing in together.” 

Concha asked carefully, “Like familia?” 

Lena smiled and said, “Yeah, like family.  Isn’t that right Jack?” 

Jack looked up from where she was ladling the girls some soup into mugs and nodded tiredly.  “Yeah, like family.  So make like sisters, wash up, and get over here and eat before it gets cold.  After that you two need to play quiet in the tent because Desi and I have some serious stuff to do.”