I was coming back from town Saturday morning. A half mile from my house I saw some activity at the old Blazer place. This was a homestead that had been periodically empty for years and it belonged to me Every once in awhile someone rented it and moved in. They never stayed long.
Curious, I slowed down. I could see household stuff just dumped near the front steps. I knew from the weather report I had listened to this morning that it was setting on to rain before noon. What-the-hell, I'd stop and give the guy a hand. I backed up and pulled in near the pile of stuff.
Just then two kids looked out the open door. They looked concerned and scared at my intrusion into their little world. I would say the oldest kid, a girl, was maybe ten and the boy might reach seven or eight. "Hi, is your Dad here?"
The boy shook his head no. Then he turned and went out of sight. "Mom, somebody's here."
A woman appeared, standing in the bedroom doorway. She was dressed in too-large jeans and a flannel shirt. There was a big smudge of dirt on her cheek and her brown hair hadn't been combed. She faced me and I could see she hated the interruption. "What can I do for you?"
"I stopped to see if I could help your husband move in. It's going to rain in a couple of hours. Your belongings are going to get wet."
"No husband. The stuff will just have to get wet. This place is filthy. I can't put my stuff in here like this. Thanks for stopping though. Now if you will excuse me--" She whirled around and went back into the room leaving me standing there. I waited a minute and realized I had been dismissed. The kids were still standing by the door.
"I guess your Mom is too busy to talk. I'll tell you, my name is Bob Brandel and I live not too far up the road. Have you kids had any breakfast this morning?" Again it was the boy that answered by shaking his head no. "Too busy getting moved in I guess. Look, I have a spare coffee ring in my truck. Why don't I leave it here and if you get hungry you can eat it. I'm going to find some tarps to cover up your things. I'll be back in a little while."
The kids didn't leave the house while I went out to my pickup and got the sweet thing and a half gallon of milk. I brought it back and set it down on the steps. The little boy's eyes were riveted to the food. "Now you kids don't go away until I get back."
I was back in a half hour with enough tarps to adequately keep the rain off. The kids helped me spread the covers. "Do you have a stove to cook on?"
"No, the electricity isn't on." This was the first time the little girl had spoken. "We can't cook until next Tuesday. Mom said we could eat cold cereal until then. Thank you for the milk and the buns. They were delicious."
"I'm going into town again. Would you go ask your Mom if I can pick up anything she needs?"
The little girl went running into the house and I could hear the exchange between mother and daughter. She came back saying, "I guess not. Mom couldn't think of anything." She was almost in tears. The little girl knew instinctively I was trying to be helpful and her mother was pushing me out of their life by resisting my overtures.
"Okay then, but you will likely see me around some more. Bye now." I headed into town and went to the real estate office. I talked to the agent in charge of renting the Blazer property. "Tell me about the woman who is renting my little house down the road from me."
"The woman's name is Lisa Rounds. She has two kids, Annie ten, and Bobby seven. She is a single mom and divorced. Her husband was able to hire a better lawyer. The attorney she hired didn't do much to watch out for her interests. That was four years ago and slowly things have been going downhill for the family.
"She has had to rent increasingly less suitable properties to house them. She has a new job in the bank here as a teller and comes highly recommended. It will be touch and go as it is. I don't know how she will get to work or find someone to watch the kids."
"Sounds as if she is in a bind. Is she up-to-date on her rental finances? First, last and security deposit?"
"Yes, of course. I wouldn't have rented it to her without it."
"Well if her rent gets behind, let me know. She sounds like a lady just down on her luck."
"It looks like it." When I left there it was starting to rain. I went into the hardware store and bought a couple of things and then stopped at the grocery store. I also made a phone call to make some arrangements if they were needed. The rain was coming down really hard and the wind was pretty vicious.
I pulled up as close to the house as I could and grabbed a box that I had beside me on the seat. I headed for the door and it opened before me. "Thanks Annie, close the door quick, I think it is starting to mist a little." This was humor and Annie caught it and started to giggle.
Lisa was sitting on the one piece of furniture that she had managed to get in before the rain. I took the box over and sat it on the floor in front of her. "Please open this Mrs. Rounds while I get some more things." I looked at her and could see she had been crying.
I headed out again and brought in a big ice cooler and set this in the kitchen. Again I went out and got a bottle of propane for the stove, stopping on the way to lift the tarp where I had seen a box of kitchen utensils, tableware, and a few dishes. I was thoroughly soaked when I passed by Annie who was running the door for me.
Lisa was sitting with the camping cook stove on her lap. I picked it up and set it by the kitchen sink work area. I affixed the gas to it and after hunting for a match in my pocket, I lit it.
The kids looked at it as if it was a Christmas tree. "Bobby Junior, I think we are going to have a hamburger in about twenty minutes. Do you like them fat or skinny?"
"Fat, but skinny is okay." I opened the cooler and brought out a three pound tray of already formed hamburgers. Looking in the box of kitchenware I found a good-sized skillet and set it on the stove. I didn't have any grease, but soon enough tried out of the meat to make a delectable smell as the burgers started to cook.
"Oops, can't have a picnic without chips. Wait right here." I headed out into the rain again. I came back with a box filled with chips, soda, ketchup and rolls. I was back in time to turn the burgers. When they were done I put them together on some paper plates I had thought to supply. I opened the bag of chips and put a liberal handful on each one. "Annie, give this one to your Mom and we'll sit around her on the floor and I'll tell you all about myself."
Lisa was watching me. The kids were taking little nibbles around their buns, savoring the flavor. When I had the kids seated, I went out and poured a glass of orange soda for them. I pulled a bottle of wine out of the box and poured a half glass for Lisa and a half glass for me. "This is cheap wine only because I didn't want to fool with a cork. I guarantee it will relax you."
I took a sip. It was heavy and very sweet. "Okay first, I own this house and I apologize because I didn't have it ready for someone to move into. Usually I have a week's warning, but I guess you needed a place today. That's okay, I'll make it up to you.
"I stopped off at the realtors to get your names, so I know you are Lisa Rounds, Annie and Bobby. I live up the road just a little ways and that's been my home just about forever. This house was my grandmother's and it came to me a few years ago when she died.
"Your next door neighbors are nice people and they love kids, so feel free to visit them. They might even offer to baby-sit if you need that service. Let's see, you don't have a car. What are you going to do about that?"
"I'm going to rent one I guess when I have the funds."
"Okay, but until you do, you'll need some transportation. I'll bring my wife's car down tomorrow when I come to help you finish moving in. It is supposed to clear off tonight."
"Won't your wife mind if you lend her car to another woman?"
"I don't know, I'll ask her." I raised my eyes toward heaven and closed my eyes for a few seconds. Then I looked into Lisa's eyes. "Nope, she'd be upset if I didn't."
"Your wife is dead?"
"Yes, she left me two years ago. She left me in body, but she is still with me in my mind. She was the most kind, gentle person who was ever born. When I need to make a decision I'll ask her and she guides me. She didn't fail me when she was with me and so far she hasn't failed me now that she isn't here."
"Is that why you are helping me?"
"Not really. I do some things on my own. Things that I know she would approve of. This is one of them. Look I have to be going. There are hotdogs, buns, eggs and bacon and milk for the cereal you have. I didn't get any veggies or fruit, but you will make out until you get some. As I say, I'll see you in the morning. If you need anything, send Annie over to the neighbors to call me."
I got up off the floor and left before Lisa realized my intention. She shouted a thank you from the doorway as I was getting into my truck.
I lay in bed thinking about Lisa. I really didn't know what she looked like yet. I didn't know whether she would clean up good or not when she had her home organized. I figured she needed a friend though. I was going to call Marc and Pam first thing in the morning to help me help her. That would ease her mind about me, for I knew I had come on pretty strong. She just seemed so beat down.
I well knew how that could be, for my wife had been sick for so long I had cried both for her in her pain and me in my despair. Most of the time I couldn't do anything to relieve it.
.... There is more of this story ...