Krystal and Mattie showed up at Uncle Ed and Aunt Alice’s farm an hour after first-light. Krystal had called into work and informed them that her house had been robbed and she needed a couple of days to get her head screwed back on.
Clayton had called ahead to Uncle Ed's.
Krystal loaded a weeks worth of clothing and diapers into her Impala and had taken Mattie with her.
Clayton stayed behind to load the truck. He intended to hook up one of the trailers and move the first load within a half hour.
Ed and Alice had never been Krystal’s favorite among Clayton’s family. They were as country as a muddy pair of blue-jeans while Krystal was definitely a city-girl.
They had an off-beat sense of humor and the timing of their speech was both slower and more staccato than what she was used to. Ed ELBOWED her after telling a joke and cackled. Clearly, he had no idea about proper boundaries.
Ed and Alice were waiting for her as she drove the length of the gravel driveway.
“Why don’t you grab Mattie and I will give you a quick tour of the farm.” Ed suggested.
Krystal shrugged. Why not.
Carrying Mattie, Ed and led her through the mostly harvested garden next to the barn. Then he pointed out some calves in a muddy pen. Finally, he showed her the “camper” where they were to stay.
Alice followed behind the three of them.
Krystal’s heart sank. The camper was more of a trailer. It was a dump and appeared to be barely habitable by humans. The “yard” was overgrown with thorny bushes and the cinder-blocks holding up the trailer had subsided into the ground and the trailer had a visible “lean” to it.
In fact, it would be an act of charity to call it a dump.
Ed cleared his throat. “It is a little rougher than I remember it” he said.
Alice piped up “You can stay in the guest bedroom while you clean it out. It should only take about a week, I figure.”
Krystal continued to stare. There were broken windows and some of the sheet metal had been fluffed-up by the wind. She knew in her heart that local wildlife had taken up residence inside of the trailer.
Ed could read her face. “You know, if this isn’t going to work out for you, there is no point in unpacking.”
Tears welled up in her eyes.
“No. It will be fine” she choked out. “There is no place to go back to. We will make it work.”
Ed looked over at Alice. “Well, I reckon we can help you start moving things to the guest bedroom.”
Alice nodded in agreement.
Clayton pulled in and Ed directed him to back the trailer into one of the barns.
“I can unload this if you want to run back and grab another trailer” Ed said. Ed knew that Clayton had at least two trailers.
Ed and Clayton roughed out a plan about where some of the things should be placed. Clayton wasn’t planning on being very scientific. He was going to just start loading what was closest and clear a path back to the back.
Ed, on the other hand was trying to figure out some way to put it in the barn where the things that would be most used would be closest at hand.
Clayton would load up his tool-boxes on the next trip and they would off-load them to a separate shed where they would not get blocked in by later loads of “stuff”.
“You know it gets hard to keep up a place as you get older” Ed said. “I had to let a lot of things go. I can’t tell you how good it will be to have a young man back on the place.”
Clayton nodded in agreement. The place was much more overgrown than he remembered and Ed was slower moving.
He gave Krystal a kiss and then went back for another load.
Krystal was frustrated. Alice kept high-jacking her for in-house projects rather than letting her get started on cleaning the trailer. Krystal didn't know how she was going to work a full work-week, care for Mattie and clean up the trailer.
The first chore Alice assigned her was to start laundering sleeping bags, comforters and bed linens. Alice directed her to hang the heavy quilts on the outdoor line. Then Alice asked her to scrub the stove and pots-and-pans in the kitchen.
Part of Krystal was happy to put off the daunting task. The other part of her knew that a week was not going to be long enough.
Alice seemed to be really drawn to Mattie. “Never had any girls of my own” Alice told her. “Always wondered what it would be like.”
Lunch was cold fried chicken, baked beans, potato salad and iced tea. Conversation was rushed. Clayton left before everybody else was finished. He really wanted to be finished by nightfall.
Over lunch Krystal learned that Clayton had called a buddy and the buddy was loading at one end while Ed and one of his neighbors were unloading here. Clayton helped on both ends and had three trailers in-play. One was being unloaded at the farm. One was being loaded at home and Clayton was shuttling the third from one place to the next.
The last thing Clayton loaded that night was the chainfall in the center of his garage. It was a monster. He hooked the lift-end to the cross-beam and unbolted the unit, then he lowered it down into the trailer.
Krystal cried herself to sleep with Clayton cuddled up behind her and with his arm wrapped around her. She was cocooned in bedding that smelled of sunshine in a room with a bare, wooden floor that emitted the clean, lemony scent Murphy's Oil Soap. It was unearthly quiet. Just the sounds of an old house ticking-and-creaking as it cooled down, Clayton's deep, slow breathing and her own sniffling.