Thursday, March 26, 2020

Quest: Second Day

The second day of travel started out with cornmeal mush drenched in butter, applesauce and real, instant coffee. Sally whipped it up so efficiently that the breakfast seemed to make itself.

Steve made himself scarce. He did not trust himself around Sally. He felt it was safer to be distant than to open his mouth and be cutting and hurtful. As it was, Sally saw what he did as silent and hurtful.

Steve made a note to give Lucky a longer stretch of picket line and Cairo a shorter one. It could have been an artifact of Lucky working the yesterday and Cairo just walking along behind the wagon. Or it could have been that Lucky was just that much bigger.

Anyway, Steve could see that Lucky had closely grazed his 30’-by-20’ rectangle of grass. In fact, Lucky had stretched the picket rope and his closely grazed patch was barrel-shaped.

Cairo’s, on the other hand, appeared to be only 2/3 grazed.

Depending on how thick the grass was and how deep the snow, they might have to increase the length of the lead ropes. Steve was loath to do so at the start of the trip. Given too much rope, they can do incredibly stupid things. Better to let them figure things out with the short rope, then increase it.

Steve measured out a half gallon of corn into a five gallon bucket. Then he shook it to make the bucket rattle. Then he poured it out on a small square of carpet for Joyce to eat. He did the same for Cairo and then Lucky.

Vernon had been very clear: Feeding a bit of grain first thing in the morning made catching horses a snap if they became free of the lead ropes or pulled off the picket line. Grain is like candy. They come running once they associate the sound of grain rattling in the bottom of a bucket with Halloween.

The second day’s hitch was Joyce and Cairo. Walt took the first shift of walking since the last shift of the day was a short one.

Sally immediately noticed that Joyce DID NOT LIKE Cairo.

Joyce was nipping at Cairo and giving her a horsey dressing-down.

Sally frowned and stated, “Joyce is a mean bitch, isn’t she?”

Steve shared the opinion but wasn’t about to agree.

Sally found it more pleasant to pay attention to the horses and her puppy than to give Steve’s sulk any energy. She found that it was easy for her to tune into the horse’s emotional energy. She attributed it to her stage sense. A good actor can sense the shifting moods of the audience and will unconsciously make adjustments to their performance to strengthen their connection to the audience.

Sally picked up that Joyce had a large-and-in-charge personality and there were reasons Joyce did not like Cairo. It wasn’t clear to Sally what those reasons were, but once they got moving, Joyce’s meanness dialed way down. It did not disappear. It was less frequent and more focused.

Sally took the second shift of walking. To Steve’s dismay, she was perfectly at ease running to catch up with the wagon when it was more than 200 yards ahead. The only hiccup was when the pup cut in front of her and tripped her once. Sally didn’t complain but Steve saw the road-rash on the palms of her hands.

The break for lunch went more smoothly than the first day. With Sally preparing the food, both Steve and Walt were available to stake out the horses.

They took their lunch behind a McMansion so they were out-of-sight from the road.

“You know” Steve said to Walt “it is a darned shame that they have such big front yards and such small backyards.”

Walt agreed. “Makes for a long driveway to plow’”

“I was thinking that there is all that grass in front but I don’t want to stake out the horses where everybody and God can see them.” Steve said.

Walt nodded sagely. “Guess they wanted to impress the neighbors more than have a private space to themselves.”

The two men talked about the former residents as if they had lived in the time of ancient Greece and Troy and were to be viewed through a telescope.

At dusk, a delegation came from the town of Reading, Michigan a mere half mile away. “What is your business?” the leader of the delegation asked.

Sally was watching Dog and Pup. They clearly heard something just out-of-sight. Sally was glad that Steve and Walt had secured the horses within a few yards of camp and within sight.

Steve took the lead and answered. “We are going to see family.”

The leader of the delegation took his time eyeballing the camp. “Mighty fancy rig to go visiting family.” he observed.

“They are in Iowa” Steve informed him.

“Why ya going now?” the leader asked.

Improvising, Sally said “We got word over the shortwave that Granny was sick. We want to see her one last time and say good-bye.”

Sally noticed a pronounced change in the man’s demeanor when she said ‘shortwave’.

“So,” the man said “do you have any news about what is happening out there? The only radio stations we can pull in are Ed’s Coffee Hour and Peppermint Candy Mandy out of someplace called Capiche.”

Walt Shaw nodded and said “That would be Uncle Ed. We are from Capiche.”

The man lost no time in waving his snipers in from the wood line. Fresh news was a highly sought commodity.

They had heard rumblings of a warlord in Washtenaw County. They had not heard of Ebola making a comeback and were very distressed by the news.

Most surprising to Steve and Walt, they wanted to know details about Ed and Mandy. No detail was too trivial. How old were they? What did they look like. Ed and Mandy were a big part of their lives and they wanted to have a mental picture of their radio-wave neighbors.

Sally was the hit of the evening as she demonstrated how Mandy held her hands as she flounced and minced about when she thought a cute boy was watching. The men roared and made mental notes so they could share the moment with their spouses.

Sally knew the power of connection. While the men were still there, she wrote a letter to "Uncle" Ed and Mandy. In the letter, she took requests from the men for dedications to people who were important in their lives. She also included a few lines of personal information so Ed and Mandy would know the letter was legit should it find its way back to Capiche. After signing the letter and sealing it in an envelop, she handed it to the leader and asked if he could get it back to Capiche.



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