Welcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales. Many thanks to Jean Joachim and the other wonderful authors who participate in this wonderful weekly activity and to you, the readers, who come back each week to check out our offerings.
Today, I’m continuing with Hello Again, the story I’m crafting specifically for this activity.
“How is she?” Bill asked entering the house with two canvas bags and a backpack in his hands.
“Awake. She’d in the bathroom cleaning up. I’ll need to stitch her leg and give her something for the pain. I need you to go out to the shed and start the generator.”
“Shed? What shed? There isn’t a building out there other than the outhouse.”
Shirley chuckled. “That hasn’t been a privy in twenty years. My pig pen’s around the back of it, but the generator’s inside.”
Bill scowled. “I didn’t see any wires…”
“That’s because they’ve been buried.” She shook her head and put her hands on her hips looking every inch the disgruntled school marm. “What good would it do to have a generator with wires that could get torn down as easily as the others?”
“When you put it that way…”
“There’s plenty of gas out there too. Once you get the power going, I’ll heat up the soup and boil water to sterilize the needle and thread and make tea. Once we’ve eaten and she’s asleep, we can get the cows and the calf out of the house. I’ve got another bedroom I can sleep in, but you’ll need to bunk in here, and I think you’d rather do it with Elsie, Flower, and Chuck outside.”
Bill laughed. “You called the calf Chuck?”
“I did that’ll be good beef on the hoof one day. I got him from Sven Lewis who runs Black Angus cattle. He gave it to me for curing his son’s croup last winter.”
Where had he ever gotten the idea Shirley was frail or helpless? Bill realized her breathing had improved, probably because the humidity had dropped. No doubt she could start the generator, move the cattle, and get everything set to right without his help. He got the distinct impression she was giving him busy work, the way his foster-mother had when she didn’t want him underfoot.
“Okay. Is there anything else you need me to do?”
“You’ll know when you get there,” she answered cryptically. “Now, go and get the generator working first so I can tend to Charley.”
“Charley? Who’s Charley?”
“The woman, of course. That’s her name Charley Winters. She’s going to have to come out of the water soon and it’s best there’s power and hot water when she does.”
Bill nodded. So Charlotte was Charley. Why would a beautiful woman like that want to use a name associated with a man? And she was beautiful, beautiful and strangely familiar. Even as bruised and banged up as she’d been, he’d felt as if he’d been hit over the head with a hammer when she’d opened those gray-blue eyes and stared at him. The momentary wonder had been replaced with sorrow when she’d called him Mike, a sadness made more profound by the fact the lady was married. There was no mistaking the wide gold band she wore.
“I’m on it,” he said leaving the house, forcing his mind away from the crazy idea he had that he’d met the woman before, and making his way out to the far side of the soddie.
The former outhouse, now a utility shed was larger than he’d thought. The building must’ve been added to when it had been converted. Tools of various shapes and sizes hung on one wall, next to a magnificent leather saddle, polished to a fine patina as if someone had just put the tack and saddle away. He hadn’t seen a horse, but even as feisty as she was, he doubted Shirley still rode.
The generator, a top of the line 20 kW model powered by propane, was hooked up to the sizeable tank he’d noticed on the outhouse’s far side, and its push button ignition fired on the first try. The electricity producer’s steady hum told him he’d done his job, the bright lightbulb overhead verifying it was putting out the power they needed. He exited the small building and walked around, looking for the sty Shirley had mentioned.
Whoever had designed this homestead had done a brilliant job of incorporating the landscape. The pig pen was built into a hillock with a small fenced area out front. Now that he knew it was there, he could see the ceiling vents that provided air flow. It was probably hooked up to the generator too. Windows, currently shuttered and a closed wooden door kept the animals safely inside. He shook his head. She did say the pigs would be safe.
Opening the small gate, he unlatched the shutters, opened the door, and moved aside quickly as a sow waddled out followed by six piglets and a red hen who’d taken shelter inside as well.
Moving away from the sty, he noticed the roll of red cedar snow fencing and a half dozen steel posts lying on the ground between the outhouse and the tank. It never failed to amaze him how a storm as destructive as those tornadoes could leave things untouched close by. Returning to the shed, he grabbed a spool of wire, a sledge hammer, and wire cutters. It appeared the sprits wanted him to build Shirley a corral for her cattle.
Dropping the tools near the snow fencing, he pushed his cap up onto the back of his head. His uniform was filthy, and he doubted it would ever come clean, but since he had nothing else to wear, it would have to do. He removed his utility belt, complete with his gun and Taser, and set it on the ground near the propane tank, dropping his shirt on top of it.
The humidity was much lower now than it had been earlier. He looked up at the sun, judged the time to be close to noon. One parent might be responsible for his red hair and green eyes, but it was the other who’d gifted him with the Sioux skin tone that saved him from getting sunburnt.
It was hard to believe everything had happened in less than five hours. How much damage had the storm done? Were there more people out there, trapped in their vehicles or homes? With that grim thought in mind, Bill unwound the snow fence. He’d get Shirley and Charley safely settled and then walk back to Sintaluta to see what he could do to help. Maybe, just maybe, he’d be able to get a message to Regina, too.
That’s it for this week. Now, please drop by and visit all the Tuesday Tales