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Vaxdemic Chapter 22

talexratcliffeJan 9, 2022, 1:48:33 PM
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Chapter 22

I’m not sure how to do the good news bad news thing in a journal. On the one hand reading about the good stuff may soften the blow. On the other hand, it may help to have something to cheer me up at the end. I could use some cheering up so bad news first. Ruth isn’t recovering well. Claire is trained as a veterinarian not a doctor, but Ruth asked her to look at her shoulder again. According the Claire, it’s barely healed if it’s healed at all. This in itself wouldn’t be so bad. Just having Ruth around for what she knows would be enough for me. She’s old and was retired before. Claire isn’t as bad a cook as when she started. It’s also possible I’m getting used to her level of cooking. Ruth was retired before and should be taking it easy now. There’s another problem, and this one is harder to ignore. Ruth’s started coughing, a lot.

It started out as a dry thing with no real resonance. Now it’s starting to get phlegmy. At first, I thought it might be a cold. Then one day Ruth didn’t get out of bed. We decided to just let her sleep. After the second day I was starting to really worry. I read a few books, and with Claire’s help, and consulting the pill book we arranged for some more competent medicine. Our biggest problem is we didn’t claim all the medication when everything started. There’s not much that can withstand a year with no attention or power. Luckily after a third day of sleep, a new medication, and some extra vitamins I searched out, Ruth is back up and walking around. She still sounds sick most of the time, but she says she feels much better. I still insist that she take things very easy. Most days she sits in her room or at the kitchen table writing stuff down or teaching Claire something about cooking. She also sleeps nearly half the day, Rusty comes trotting out of her room every few hours to go outside, then he immediately runs back in and lays on the bed next to Ruth. 

This often leaves Claire and myself to eat dinner alone. Claire isn’t really an ideal dinner guest. Most of our meals were silent at first. Gradually though we’ve started having full blown conversations. Her favorite subject is the dogs. She’ll talk about what they’ve learned, what she thinks they’d be good at, and what she wants to teach them next. She’s trained them to retrieve different items for her during the day, something I didn’t know you could teach a dog. The biggest problem in our conversations is her voice and face show almost no emotion. I often have to rely on her eyes to know if she’s happy or upset on the rare times she’ll look me in the eye. Her voice rarely changes.

I’ve brought this up to her. I thought it was going to upset her at first, but her answer surprised me. She told me that living like she did taught her that survival wasn’t kind to the emotional. That being weak, slow, or quick to anger or tears was mostly useless, and often dangerous. She told me that the cougar whose skin now lay on Ruth’s bed was one of many predators that had hunted her. That it took her about a month to realize that crying and shouting attracted them. After she realized that, she spent months tamping down her emotions and focusing on the moment. Now who she was before may be gone forever, and she didn’t know if that should worry her.

I had no idea what to say. She didn’t seem upset, or happy, or anything after telling me this. I asked her how she felt now. I’m sure I saw a twitch to her expression, something so slight I may have imagined it. She told me for the first time in a long time she felt like she might be safe enough to sleep most of the night. I was sure that conversation would have been the last we had for a while. I was wrong. At least every other night since she tries to talk with me. She’s even come outside while I’m finishing the final harvest and said hello. These impromptu conversations are never long, and seem forced, but I feel like it might be progress.

Then one day she had an idea. She wanted to cook a Thanksgiving dinner. She wanted me to find a Turkey and some videos so the day of Thanksgiving could feel more like a family day. One where we all ate together and enjoyed some time with each other with less work. I could think of several objections, but part of me wanted to make Claire happy, part of me wanted to make Ruth happy, and part of me liked the idea of a day to rest. So, the work began.

Hunting a turkey wasn’t hard. I’ve already bagged several. The week before Thanksgiving I found a nice fat one a few blocks from the house. Store bought turkey has nothing on the wild one’s lately. They have a much richer flavor than anything I’ve tried before. Granted they’re still a little dry.

The video’s involved going to the mall area. After a year of neglect this area looks like a proper ruin on the outside. The inside is mostly intact, but there are signs that animals have been there. The stink of rotten food is gone from most of the stores, even Walmart. It took a few hours to find a DVD player. The television was much easier. I got the biggest I could find from an electronics store. It felt kind of weird that it took almost a year to get one. I also grabbed two copies of every DVD I could find. I didn’t really have a desire to watch any of them, but at least when it came time to watch a movie we would have something everyone would like. Setting it up felt very nostalgic. It had been a while since I had to work on anything like this. My computer was put together upstairs, but any more I used it to look up books from the library. Most of the time it stayed off. 

The week before Thanksgiving was extremely busy for me. The fall has been mild, and we got a big final harvest which I was determined to have done and stored before the big day. Part of my duties now include feeding a group of ten feisty little goslings in our new livestock yard. They are the loudest little birds I’ve ever known. They’re especially loud when I come to feed them. They don’t like Claire as much as they did when they were younger, but they don’t seem to mind me. Claire still visits them every day to check on them and leaves Lump with them when they’re outside. They’ve taken a strange liking to the stout pup and follow him around when he’s there. Ruth says they won’t need protection in a few months. I really need to learn about clipping their wings so they don’t fly away.

Already we have fewer bugs around as the little birds are voracious eaters. I was surprised to see them eating grass as well as the corn I throw out for them. Ruth says that they eat it all the time. I suddenly felt a rush of appreciation for my loud future lawn mowers as I asked Ruth how many she thought our lawn could support. The question made her laugh. Ruth says if we feed them right, we can expect a good thirty eggs from each the eight females we have next year. Doing the math in my told me that was about 240 eggs. Not really enough for a year of breakfasts, but Ruth tells me goose eggs are much bigger than the chicken verity and it would be best if we used them for bread and cakes. We have a huge stock of flour Ruth sealed early in her prepping. We’ve barely touched a tenth of it. I make a mental note to research how to grow and cultivate a grain and some kind of sugar in the coming years.

The day of Thanksgiving was the first day in a long time I was not the first person up. Claire was already working full tilt to make the big meal. She gave me her usual flat hello as I took Abby and Rusty outside for their morning ablutions. With the harvest done all I have to do is prep the fields for next year. I fashioned a make shift scythe from a piece of sheet metal and a long shaft to cut some of the tall grass in the surrounding yard for impromptu hay. It may not be as good as what I got from the stores last year, but with the plant matter already there it should help ready the soil for next year. I cover the fields in compost, hay, and some of our organic trash before coving them in a tarp to prepare for the next season.

By lunch time I’ve covered the last field, fed the goslings, and readied myself for my first real half day of relaxation. The kitchen smelled wonderful when I entered. Ruth was sitting at the table giving pointers to Claire. She looked happier than I had seen her in a while. After I washed up the meal began.  It had been several years since I’d had a big Thanksgiving dinner. Claire tried to smile as she served the food. Even though it looked a little forced there was a noticeable warmth to it. It may have helped that her hair is finally longer than my own.

The table was loaded with turkey, stuffing, green beans, and glazed carrots. There was fresh cornbread, pumpkin pie, and cold cider. The food was good enough to make me forget we had no mashed potatoes, or macaroni and cheese. Ruth ate more than she normally did. I ate everything I could, as Claire ate a little of this and that, it was almost like she had no appetite.

After a quick cleanup we retired to the living room. I was getting ready to start the movie Claire laid when she told me to sit. She made sure everyone was seated and the dogs arranged where she wanted before starting the movie herself then sat closely next to me. I thought the behavior was strange as she watched the movie in silence. Ruth was watching the two of us with a sly smile that made me blush. She said nothing but turned to the movie, gently stroking Rusty’s head as he lay on the couch beside her.

After three movies Ruth retired to her room. Once her door was shut, I turned to Claire. My voice was more nervous than I intended when I asked, “Not that I’m complaining, but why’d you choose to sit so close to me tonight?”

Claire turned her green eyes my direction, leaning against me very slightly and said in her flat voice, “Ruth wants to see us together. I thought making her think we were getting closer would make her happy, and I was right.”

A little upset I added, “It’s not nice to lead her on like that.”

Claire leaned closer resting more of her weight against me. “Who said I’m leading her on.” I stared confused back at her till she leaned a little farther and playfully kissed the end of my nose. She then got up and lead the pups to bed. Abby immediately took Claire’s place and laid down with her head in my lap. I stroked the dog’s head as I contemplated what had just happened.

Bob Stackey

November 24, 2022

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