I could smell the fried chicken the minute I turned the corner onto our property. Rose’s fried chicken and biscuits was known across the county. I was so hungry after a day of following a horse and plow, I would’ve eaten a burnt crow. I stepped into the cabin and kicked off my boots – Rose would pitch a fit every time I tracked mud in.
I sat down heavy at the table, “where’s Kurt?”
“I sent him out to mend the coop,” she said tersely.
“But ain’t supper about ready?”
“Supper’ll wait. You and me need to talk,” I did not like the sound of that. I loved Rose dearly but her and my ‘talks’ normally meant I’d done something wrong. And if the boy couldn’t hear it, then it likely involved something stupid I’d done drinking or some flirting I’d done in town that crossed the line and got back to her somehow.
I thought I’d nip this one in the bud. “Now, darling, I’ve not been getting as drunk as I used to and you know me and Lerlene’s just friends and last Saturday ain’t what it…”
“Shush, Bill. Just hush up and let me talk. This ain’t got nothing to do with whiskey or Lerlene; though later I want to hear what you was about to say.”
Damn. She knew me.
“There was a man here today. A lawman. He was asking about your where-abouts.”
I interrupted, “you mean one of Sheriff Dobson’s boys? They know I turn the dirt in springtime.”
“No. Not a Sheriff. Some kind of Federal lawman.”
Silence. I must have sat there quiet for what seemed like 2 hours though I expect it was just a few minutes.
“What’d he tell you? Why was he looking for me?”
“Didn’t say. Wouldn’t say. Said he’d get a room in town and come back tomorrow. Asked me to ask you if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, could you wait for him. Said he’d be here right early.”
“Now, you know I can’t be waiting around. We’ve had some good years, but if I don’t get these crops in by end April, we’re going be in trouble.”
“Bill,” she was quiet now. “I think you oughta hear what he has to say. He sounded mighty serious.”
“Then he can come find me.”
I stood up, kicked my chair back and headed for the door. Rose grabbed my arm as I was putting my boots on.
“Bill! Where are you going? What does that lawman want?”
“How should I know, Rose? Since Eugene’s been gone, I ain’t done nothing but put food on the table and keep Kurt outa trouble!”
A sadness was suddenly on her face, “since Eugene’s been gone?”
Tears began to streak down her face. My throat got real dry.
“Rose. I told ya. I had some dealing with my business that went wrong. But I paid all those debts. Know what? I bet this is some kinda paperwork foul up. I bet he’s a revenuer come to clear up some mistake.”
She wiped a tear from her face. “Can you just talk to him and straighten it out?”
She was so pretty and so fragile in the fading evening light. The flickering fire highlighted her soft blond hair.
“Of course, darling. Of course. I’ll straighten everything out in the morning.”
I leaned down and kissed her. Her lips so soft and warm. I reached down and started to lift her dress while I kissed her neck.
The door swung open and Kurt came walking in. “Hey Ma, that fox shore enough is back. Woah, hey! Sorry, Bill. Didn’t know you was back.”
I stepped back and Rose straightened her dress.
“Don’t matter. We’ll kill that fox tomorrow. Get yer supper.”
I kept my gaze on Rose and looked down to her pretty legs, “yeah. Eat up and go on to bed. Me and your ma have some business to finish up.”
“Bill!” Rose hit me with her dish towel.
“Oh, darling. He is 15. He’ll learn all about the birds and bees soon enough. If he don’t already know more than you and me. Kids anymore ain’t so much kids.”
“Never mind,” Kurt had enough. “I’ll take my supper upstairs.”
He grabbed some chicken and biscuits and went up the stairs without looking at me or Rose.
“Kurt. No, you come back…”
“Aw, let him go. Now we can pick up what we was doing.”
Her body was soft and inviting that night. After I’d finished, she lay in my arms stroking my stomach until I fell asleep. As I drifted off I thought about how lucky I was to have such a strong and loving family.
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