CHAPTER 42

Chay had to go chop wood after he finished. The story wasn't horrible, but it must have been awful for him. Might explain a few things too but since I hate that psychobabble crap I'm not going to explain it here.

Basically Chay's father – Mark Trahern Sr. – was a happily married man. Then for whatever reason he became a not happily married man. Something to do with his wife starting to have empty nest syndrome and going through the change of life at the same time and blaming him for both. Along comes a younger woman – a waitress at the bar he'd started to head to on the weekends to avoid his wife who really let him know what was his fault and apparently that was everything by then. She's saving up to go to community college and become a dental hygienist. Only suddenly college becomes a lot further off because the affair of "friends with benefits" results in her getting preggers.

Mark Sr. is trying to figure out how to do the right thing all around when wife asks for divorce. Just doesn't want to be married anymore. Mark Sr. figures this fixes everything and it is like God is telling him which way he should jump. Hitch comes up when Chay's mother … Reba Sue Remington … doesn't want to get married. She'll live with Mark Sr. so he can help with the baby that's coming but if she decides she wants to go, she doesn't want any ropes holding her back. Mark Sr. is fine with that – at least he was for a while – because Mark Sr.'s wife is suddenly going balky on finding that Mark Sr. isn't going to be miserable without her and she decides to make him pay coming and going and stirs up a lot of stuff with their kids, all of them adults or close to it and a couple of them married with their own kids on the way.

Two years go by, wife making everyone as crazy and miserable as she is, Chay getting born and Mark Sr. finding he likes being a dad better than he likes being a husband, his older kids struggling to walk the line between their parents and not being allowed to have much luck at it. Then "The Wife" gets sick with a female cancer and Mark Sr. feels bad and tries to do what he can to help her only that makes Reba Sue miserable because she'd started to change her mind and want to be married after all but couldn't be because of The Wife.

Cut to the chase and a year later Mark Sr. decides that while he might owe The Wife something, it isn't his soul and while he still helps her, he also builds a house for Reba Sue and Chay that has no attachments or memories of his old life. Reba Sue is happy. Mark Sr. is at peace. Even the adult kids are starting to accept things. Fly in the ointment is The Wife. Then one night the house catches on fire and Mark Sr. gets Chay out but dies when he goes back in to rescue Reba Sue who fell on the stairs on the way out. Neither adult leave the house alive.

Chay gets shipped around from half-sibling to half-sibling until he is old enough to take care of himself. He meets Cecile and the rest … is just a continuation of the soap opera he grew up in. The Wife? Well when he was in middle school the cancer comes back and this time there is no remission. But she didn't need to hang around by that point because she'd created enough misery for her kids and Chay to last a couple of lifetimes.

And while I wouldn't say The End exactly, I would say that it explains why Chay hates drama nearly as much as I do. And it isn't all because of the torture he experienced in foreign lands but the torture he probably got dished as he was growing up.

[Bam Bam, I sure hope that by the time you get around to reading this that Chay and I have worked out or through our beginnings so we could give you a better life than what might have happened. If not, I hope I've apologized bucket fulls. Bad enough there is just going to be drama in life whether you want it or not. You don't need the people that are supposed to be taking care of you create it and make you suffer with it.]

When Chay came in I was ready. I made acorn "meat" balls using things that Chay and I had gathered on our way to this place, and a few things that were left over from his other supplies. I thought Chay's head was going to spin on his neck when he first saw them … and smelled them. They were good if I do say so. And just like on trails with Dallas, Cooper, and the Chief it seemed that food put Chay in a better mood.

"S'good," he said as he ate of one the meatballs off of the stick I had cooked them on. "How? Don't remember these."

"A recipe I collected when I was doing research at The Farm. Had it on the Ubernet Cube. You … um … don't mind that I used your supplies?"

"Ours."

"Huh?"

"Ours. Supplies ours."

"So you don't mind?"

"No. S'good. No waste. Acorn flour?"

"Yeah. The stuff we made as we walked here. I didn't want to risk it going sour and … you've been working hard. You need to eat."

"You too." He looked over at Bam Bam who was eating his share … at least he was eating what wasn't trying to go up his nose. "Bams likes."

"I think he would eat most anything that didn't try to get away. And he'd give it a good shot at chasing it down if it did try."

That made Chay grin for real. "Good. Mean will grow." Then he asked, "How do?"

I took that to mean he wanted to know how I had made them. The original recipe was something like four cups of ground acorns, three cups of bread crumbs, one large red onion that had been chopped, two cloves of minced garlic, salt and pepper to taste, three teaspoons of Italian seasoning, two tablespoons of chives, one and three-quarter cup of shredded cheese, a half cup of broth, and four eggs. You mix the dry ingredients together, the wet ingredients together, then the wet and dry together to make a mess. Then you form this mess into balls. Then you bake them for thirty minutes.

Well I had to do my best with what I had and it was only about half of what the original recipe would have made. I didn't have any fancy Italian seasoning so I left it out but I did have some dried wild garlic that was the tail end of my own supplies that I kept to make broth with when there was nothing else. I also had some dried wild chives that I'd been saving for the same purpose. Just about everything else was out of Chay's stuff and I knew I'd need to get busy sooner rather than later foraging to try and replace what we'd used.

Instead of an oven I just threaded the "meat" balls onto sticks and cooked them near the fireplace. When they were ready I had made a glaze out of some chili sauce and grape jelly. I think we could have all eaten more but I was going sparing with the supplies as much as I could.

After the food Chay finally said, "Might as well get over with. Damn they're nosey."

"Nosey?"

He looked angry and ashamed at the same time. "Don't think I can."

"Think you can what?"

"Take care of you and Bams. Can. And not their business."

"We can and no its not."

"Still … not look gift horse in mouth. Will take for you and Bams. No other reason. Never was there when I was kid. Just want to make a scene now. Mostly to prove they're better."

"Better? Better than what?" I asked as I followed Chay's footsteps over to the significantly larger pile.

"Me."