Thursday, May 7, 2020

Quest: A promise kept

Sally and Steve stopped at the general store in the middle of Ottumwa. It pained Steve greatly but they had to buy pots, pans and a bit of food.

Of course, they asked where Tobit Current lived and the shopkeep was able to give them serviceable directions.

The shopkeep took note of the couple, the wagon, horses and two dogs and it clicked with some information he had.

“When you are done with your business with Mr Current, I much appreciated it if you stopped back in here.”

Steve was mildly curious but did not press the issue.

Tobit Current’s operation was a couple of miles south of town and a mile west. His property was 2/3 flat, uplands and 1/3 timbered gullies.

The farmhouse was on a finger of upland that reached out into the Des Moines river valley and had trees to the north and west of the buildings.

Steve had noticed that the Amish showed a preference for land with a blend of tillable and timber. That was something to keep in mind when he and Sally moved to a larger property back in Michigan.

The farmyard was a scene of tranquil industry. The snow was not very deep. The issue had been the winds driving it along the ground and the impaired visibility. Most of the snow had slowed by the trees and had dropped into the gullies, leaving little more than a dusting on the walks between the house, barns and woodshed. Nevertheless, children were using brooms to clean up those walks.

Wood smoke was curling from the chimney and chickens were give the run of the yard where they pecked at fresh horse droppings.

One of the older children volunteered “Pa is out walking the property but Ma is in the house.”

Sally fished the bootlace out from the front of the her sweater and untied the knot. She quietly slipped the rings into her front pocket. Then she picked up the fruitcake...or at least the part that they had not eaten. She fiddled with the wrapping to make it look more presentable.

Steve asked “Are you ready?”

Sally resolutely set her shoulders. “As ready as I will ever be.”

She didn’t have much experience in having to explain that she and her husband had violated a present. At least the knife had not left any nick marks on the rings.

Mrs. Current was wiping her hands on her apron when she met them at the door. Visitors were a rare treat.

Sally introduced herself “I am Sally Straeder and this is my husband Steve. We are from Michigan. Your mother asked us to deliver a present to you.”

And then Sally thrust the wrapped fruitcake toward Mrs Current.

“And my husband and I owe you an apology” Sally blurted out. “We were caught in a blizzard without supplies and we ate a little bit of your cake.”

Mrs Current’s eyes narrowed as she examined Sally.

Sally’s hand dipped into the pocket of her blouse and she pulled out the gold rings. “I think these were meant for you.”

Mrs. Current shooed away the children. Then she took the rings and examined them closely, gently tossing them in her hand to assess their weight.

“Please, come in” Mrs. Current bid them. “My name is Edith. Friends call me ‘Eddy’ and I will be pleased if you do the same.”

“Have you eaten today?” Eddy asked them.

“No ma’am” Steve answered.

“Won’t take but a minute to make a couple plates of scrambled eggs and ham” she said as she led them toward her domain.

Entering her kitchen, she stashed the fruitcake in an icebox. A couple of young children watched quietly. Sally had the impression that Eddy ran a tight ship and that the cake would be safe from even the hungriest of boys.

Placing them at the kitchen table, Eddy put a 10 inch, cast iron skillet on top of the wood stove.

Sally’s quick review of Eddy’s cookware revealed that Eddy cooked in large quantities.

Following Sally’s gaze, Eddy commented “It is just as easy to clean a big pan as a small one.”

Soon the rich fragrance of sizzling ham filled the air. Then Eddy cracked eight eggs into the pan.

“Don’t worry. What you don’t eat one of the kids will” Eddy said.

A young man poked his head into the kitchen.

“Maccabbe, I need to have you take care of Steve and Sally’s horses and their dogs while I feed them.” Eddy commanded.

Maccabbe had the compact build shared by most Amish men and the faintest hint of a red beard coming in.

Eddy watched with concern as Sally and Steve pecked at their breakfast. In her universe, people who could not eat when they were hungry were sick. It was just before lunch and they had not eaten all day. They should have demolished the ham-and-eggs, homemade bread and strawberry preserves.

“You will stay the night, of course. You have the look of people who have been on the road too long” Eddy said.

With a little bit of encouragement, Sally and Steve took turns telling the story of their trip. They left out certain bits, the ones that were not fit for the young ears collecting just outside the door.

Eddy noticed that Steve and Sally were quick to be irritated with each other. She knew that was not uncommon among the “English” but she found it disturbing all the same.

Eddy replayed in her mind the tiny bit she knew about the couple, most of it what she had seen with her own eyes.

When there was a lull in the young couple’s narrative, Eddy bent over to one of her acolytes and whispered into her ear “Go find you Pa. I need him here.”


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