All Bedlam Courses Past (part seventy-nine)
All Bedlam Courses Past
An Object in Motion
Something brewed. She took it for anger at Owen, though he must with his in-laws sit down to Sunday roast. He must, when he could, see his wife. He must work at his job with diligence, spend his income with thrift, yet have the wherewithal in time and cash to travel eight miles to the Summit—
Oftener than on his one day off.
Yesterday, in lieu of roast, they’d had Sarah’s frying, the iron-gritted and curled chop where Papa’s eyes had been, the disgusted mouth not (perhaps) at her mentions of Crownhaven, Nashville, or Manfred. She pitied herself for an austerity from Mother that seemed almost her reward, not Owen’s.
“I’m lost.” A moment, laden with further-to-come, and Mother finished, “Is it only coincidence…? I suppose it is.”
“I think I may look in on Ranilde?” Owen avoided locking eyes with either parent, glancing aside, not quite consulting his sister-in-law.
Who knew the remark hers to field. “I ran across Manfred at the station in Nashville. We spoke. Mrs. Buckley is a client of Mr. Ebrach’s.”
“Ah. Owen, I won’t rush you. Come to the parlor when you’ve finished. Robert will bring our coffee.”
“She’s not taken a turn, ma’am?”
He had thought of this too late. Mother was away, a quick exit carrying Ranilde’s tray, that under its warmer held a Sunday place across from Owen.
His son-in-law failing to readdress the question, Papa sawed his chop, unhearing. Owen gulped punch and scuttled.
Then Papa said: “It was Thacker rode down to Kentucky with me.”
“Oh…Weem… Mr. Thacker, of the Vanguard?” More, did his silence demand? “He told me he had a job in Elizabethtown.”
“Glad to hear Ryan-Neville’s taking himself off.” One of his long looks, through the hall, to the back porch. He laughed a little. “I guess if Thacker’s got a job in Elizabethtown, I’d let him take off too.”
I like…she wanted to say, or he seems… Both starts would get thickety fast. She laughed a little in return.
Papa had judged Weem trustworthy to be her escort.
Because a reporter earned a wage and wasn’t quite…
Because he was thirty-five or so?
Suddenly: “Ebrach needs to quit having you do his errands like you do.”
And Mother, back at the table to hear this: “You seem to visit Crownhaven most days of the week, Luce. All that business of his with the cemetery and the home is well outside the pale. How you could let him talk you into it, digging up graves…! Your father doesn’t need any fodder for Rowan. I’ve had more than one person tell me they saw you at the station, wearing some gaudy new get-up. They’ve seen you speak on the street with…workers from Mr. Ebrach’s undertaking.”
(2023, Stephanie Foster)