“I guess I should have warned you about the hired man,” Tom’s mother said when she was certain Sally couldn’t overhear their conversation.
“It’s okay. I was surprised to find a stranger in the barn trying to take a nap. I was even more surprised by what he said.”
“What did he say?”
“Well, he said he had been hired to help out with stuff around here. That sounded good to me, so I lined him out on feeding rabbits. But he told me he didn’t hire on to feed rabbits.”
“And what did you say?” she asked.
“I told him that feeding rabbits is the kind of STUFF we do around here. And then I ask him why is he sleeping in our barn.”
“And what did he say then?”
“He didn’t answer. He just stretched out and rolled over with his back to me. He’s rude.”
“Dad hired him for other stuff,” she said, her voice sounding apologetic, almost as though she didn’t believe her own words.”
“If there’s other stuff to do why isn’t he doing it?”
“I don’t know, Tom. Let’s get these rabbits fed.”
“That’s what I’m doing, Mom.” He heard the harshness in his own voice and said: “Sorry Mom.”
She didn’t respond, but he saw the frown on her face as she headed for the barn. In a short time she emerged and began feeding from the other end.
This hiring business troubled Tom. There wasn’t enough money for a phone, or electricity, or indoor plumbing, but yet his dad could afford to pay a man to lay around and nap in the barn. He mentally shook his head in disbelief. This was another of the many times since their arrival that he wondered why they stayed. He and his mother were comfortable in California. He liked it there and he thought she did.
How hard would it be to go back to California? He doubted it could be any harder than it was getting here.
It was the letter. The letter had created this entire problem. They’d gotten along for ten years – he and Mom – without him. Then the letter arrived.
He’d not been allowed to read it, but the part she read to him stated that he’d bought some rural property in Oregon and he was asking her to join him, and of course bring Tom along. Her reaction was crazy. After all these years of him forgetting to come home she’d dropped everything, packed what she could and sold what she couldn’t. Before the week was out she’d quit her job at Woolworth’s Dime Store and with two suitcases they were boarding a Greyhound.
And now a year later they had this mess.