“After the list is made just set it on the table so I can go over it before your Pa takes it into town. They are loading the pickup out front now,” she said.
EJ listened, his mind and thoughts working as one against the pain. “I am not going back, I can't go back,” thinking. “Maybe there's way out of this mess, the pain I must fight it, and she said town, escape, escape, must leave, Grandma.” Sweat poured down his face, blood started to seep through the bandages. EJ scuffs down hall as he gritted his teeth putting the back of his hand to his mouth to hold back the groans as he carefully slid across the doorway as she he looked into kitchen unseen. He reached the porch and saw the old pickup parked in front.
The tailgate is still down. EJ looked across the yard. He can see his captures getting ready to load things for going into town for trade. EJ knew his only chance to escape unseen is hitching a ride. “If I can just make it.” EJ looked down at the blood that has started coming through the bandages and leaked through the shirt.
“Nothing I can do about that now. I must get out of here and find my grandmother she will know what to do? I will call her when I get to town.” Fighting through the sweat and the agonizing pain and fever made it difficult, but he kept the hopes of little Danny in his heart and his survival the number one goal. EJ pushed himself towards the truck. EJ looked and thought the best way to get into the back is to roll, fall off into the bed of the truck.
EJ landed on some of hay near the back. He could feel the stitches tare, but now it no longer mattered because pain becomes warm and numb. EJ could almost feel the dizziness slipping over his eyes as the blackness took over as he fainted from the pain and fever.
“Ok boys. Will grab the list from Ma and Robert you can closes up the barn. We need get to town and get back before the Doc gets here.” Pa said as he closed the tail gate, without so much as a glace due to the extra stuff in the back they were taking with them. They never even noticed EJ under the hay behind the sacks of grain as the three of them headed off with their little stowaway as they went into town...
* * *
“MAMA! Danny wet the bed again,” Peggy yelled.
“Did not!” Danny said.
“DID NOT!” Danny screamed breaking into tears.
“Then how comes your beds wet ha?” She said knowing full well he didn’t while holding the empty glass behind her back.
“All right that's enough Peggy! I swear Oh... Never mind. It’s time to get up anyway. Danny you are getting too big to be doing this, you know that right?” She asked.
“I know, but I didn’t do it, I don't see how!”
“What do mean you just got up went to bathroom few minutes ago?” His Mother asked.
“I came back it was wet Mama.”
“See mama, he is already starting to fib just like his brother.” Peggy replied hiding the grin on her face and the glass.
“Peggy I am not! I promise. I don’t know how it got wet?” Danny said as he wiped the tears from his eyes.
Danny’s Mother stared down at him with her hands on her hips. “Maybe you just thought it was dry,” she said.
Danny feeling hurt began to cry. “EJ would believe me. I know he would,” he said.
“But his not, is he?” Peggy said gleefully.
“Peggy stop picking on him!” Her mother said.
”Mama, he just needs too grow up that's all.” She replied and stomps off with little smirk on her face carefully setting the glass in the sink.
“Danny go change your clothes have Donna help with some cold cereal,” she said.
“But I want pancakes mama, when are we going to have pancakes for breakfast?” He asked.
“Maybe you can get Dona to make them for you.”.
“She can't cook.”
“Then I don’t know what tell you, go now do what you are told and stop being such a baby.”
“Mama!” Dona shouted from her bedroom.
“What now Dona?” She asked.
“All my dress are dirty and I can't find anything to wear. Can you help me find something to wear?” She asked.
“Peggy can you please help Donna find something too wear.” Her mother said as she growled between her teeth.
“Jim remind me again why we wanted have kids again? I feel I am the only one that does anything around here, can you least help me do something?” She asked.
”I am dear, if you ever want me to fix that window today? The glass should be ready this morning. I need to swing by and pick it up at Stringum Hardware Store on Main. Is there anything you need why I am at the store?”
“Yes a maid would be nice! And a large a bottle of aspirins,” she said as she looked at the kids down the hall.
“The maid will have to wait, but I can get you those aspirins if would like?”
“Jim?” she asked.
“I am worried?”
“Worried about what?”
“Oh I am sure he’s fine. He’s mostly likely moping around somewhere feeling sorry for himself. When he gets tired hungry enough, I say let him get out of his system. He will be home on that doorstep before you know it and we won't have any more problems. I'm sure of it as long those damn neighbors stay out of the way and he minds us. Never did understand that boy. Kinda reminds me of my father. We never got long either and look how I turned out. Of course things changed after the war. After all he can’t last out there much longer. I think now, no I am sure of it,” he said.
“If you say so dear, he was hurt pretty bad.”
“Maybe and maybe not. I never did find him and far as I can tell nobody has found him either. At least in the ditch banks anyway so I wouldn't worry, most likely his hold up somewhere having the time of his life. I wouldn't jump to any conclusions just yet. Like I said we never found him and so far neither has anybody else that I can tell,” he said in hopes to change the subject as a thought pass through his mind. “Damn that boy.”
“But you haven’t asked anyone either!” she said.
“No, but they sure been asking me.” He said thinking of Mr. Johnson just down the road a piece.
“That Scout Camp story getting old, if he doesn't show up soon we're going have think of something mighty fast.” She said knowing she’s not going to get any more out of him.
“Now, now you are the one that's always telling me how resourceful he is remember,” he said.
“I know.” She replied trying to convince herself with hope.
“Well if I am going to get that widow fixed today I better get going, see you in awhile.” he said leaving quickly before she can pester him some more.
* * *
“Hello Jim,” Mr. Stringum said.
“Hello Mr. Stringum is the new window I order come in yet?” Jim asked.
“Hum let me see. Dave is Jim, Stuart's window in yet?”
“I'll go check,” Dave replied.
“So Jim. How’s the wife and kid's theses days?” Mr. Stringum asked.
“Fine. Girls are growing like weeds. Can’t seem to slow them down much these days?” he said.
“And your boys, how's little Danny?” Stringum asked.
“He’s six you know and taking after his big brother EJ.” Jim replied hope to get way from answering more questions about his boys. Never did like to talk about them much or at all if it could be helped.
“Can you wait here Jim? I just need grab this order,” he said as he watched Wayne Downing walk into the store.
“Sure Mr. Stringum. I am in no hurry,” he said.
“Thanks Jim. Why Mr. Downing the wife said you were coming and wanted to make sure you stopped over at drugstore before you left town. I'll have Dave here fill your order in a couple of minutes and then help your boys load it out to your truck ok?” He said as he watched the boys bring in the things to trade.
“Thanks,” he said.
“Just wait here at the counter Dave will back in just minute,” Stringum said.
“That's fine, can I also have some that penny candy as well?” He asked.
“Sure, sure. Oh Jim I was going to ask about EJ. I haven't seen him around lately and I was wondering if you could have him swing by here, I have few odd jobs for him?” Stringum said turning to Jim at the counter.
“Sure I'll have him do that, but right now he his away at Scout Camp and won't be back for week or so.” Jim said with same lie he and his wife been using. “Well when he gets home. I'll tell him to stop by,” containing the lie.
“That will be fine Jim. Oh here's Dave with your new window, if is not the right size, let me know I'll get the right one,” Stringum said.
“Thanks Mr. Stringum.” Jim said leaving.
Wayne was not sure what he just over heard as he carefully eyed other items on the shelf, while he watched Jim walkout the door with the window. “Dave almost done loading your items, is there anything else I get for you today Mr. Downing?” Stringum asked.
“Well come to think of it, my wife could use some more sheets and couple more quilts.” He said keeping his thoughts of the boy in the distances.
“How many sheets would you like?” Stringum asked.
“Well knowing her I would say about dozen. She wanted new bandages and took all the old ones to make them, what could I say?”
“True, true,” Stringum said.
“Well have you heard anything odd going on round here lately?” Wayne asked keeping out what he has already learned to himself.
“Let’s see, there was Mrs. Wilson scarecrow? She says one night she could of swore she saw it leaving the barn one night as if it might have decide to take walk. We all figured it was couple of kids playing tricks on her. Never did find it though,” he said.
“Maybe it decided to take a dip at the creek?” Wayne replied half amused.
“Mr. Downing, why would it do that?” Stringum asked.
“Just call it...” Wayne rubbing his chin then grinned. “A fathers IOU.” He replied knowing now where the boy got the clothes from and why they smelt so bad.
Mr. Stringum had a funny look. “Funny thing is someone did say they thought, some kid that looked a lot like EJ was wearing them. But I asked Jim Stuart about it? You know the fellow who just orders the new window who was just here? I asked him a few days ago about it. Anyway he said EJ was out of town at Scout Camp so it couldn't have been him. Plus he had some sort of crutch; well I can't put my finger on it.” Stringum said checking off the items to order.
“What's really strange I thought the Scouts were back from their trip three weeks ago? Oh well. Just nothing but gossip anyway, fills my head up sometimes. I need stop meddlen gets me into trouble, besides none my business anyhow. Well Dave got your truck all loaded and your bills all taken care of. See yea next trip and say hi to the misses for me, Hey have some extra candy for those kids of yours on the house.” Stringum laughed with a wave.
“Well, boys we just have one more stop to make. Your Ma wanted us to stop at the drugstore first, before we head back. She needed some supplies and she's already called in the order, all I have to do is pick it up. Can you boys make sure the tarp is covering the goods, we don't need anything blowing out?” Pa said as he headed down to the drugstore on the corner just two shops down from Stringum Feed and Hardware.
“Yes Pa,” Robert replied.
Will and Robert headed back to the truck talking among themselves. “Robert?” Will asked.
“Do think the boy is going be ok,” he asked.
“I sure hope so.”
“Did hear what that man said, what do you think he was talking about?”
“I'm not sure, Pa going to back in minute help me with this... Will, go get Pa fast.” Robert pointed to the back of the pickup seeing the boy in the back.
“Pa! Pa! Pa!” Will ran down the street towards the drugstore, yelling at the top his lungs “Pa!” Will nearly out of breath. “It'sssss the, theeee boy heee’s!” Will tried too reply out of breath.
“Slow down Will,” Pa said as Will, pointed to the back of truck.
Pa thunder stuck as he saw the boy lying there in the back of the pickup just uncovered from the tarp. He throws the drugs and supplies to Robert, Robert catches them tossed them on the seat. Pa leapt into the bed of the truck, he checks the boy yelling to Robert and Will. “We need to get home fast, his burning up and looks like he has torn some of stitches and the blood has seeped through bandages. What on earth was this poor boy thinking? Ma going to kill us, mind the ruts Robert we need to get there in one piece.” He said with urgency in his voice.
“But fast,” Pa said once again.