Canto Six – Bacon and Eggs
Mom had breakfast ready and on the table. Eggs and bacon on stoneware plates, one for Val and one for Daddy Kyle. She was a great cook and loved to stuff her small family with what she made. That was probably the reason she was watching over a second pan-full of sizzling bacon.
“Your father isn’t ready yet?” asked Mom, left eyebrow raised.
“Oh, he had to change his pants again for some reason.”
“That man can find more excuses for dragging his feet than…”
“Mom? Is something the matter with Daddy?”
“What do you mean?”
“Last night I thought he was crying in the machine shed.”
“Well, you know your Daddy Kyle. He loves his machinery, and that big old combine is broken down again.”
“It shouldn’t be. It’s only two years old.”
Mom looked at her with unreadable eyes. Was she mad? Sad? What?
“He says he can fix it. He says the problem is just mechanical and you know how handy he is with tools.”
“Sure.” He did love that combine. Maybe that was what made him sad. He loved Valerie and he was always sad when she was sick too.
Valerie gobbled eggs and bacon. It was good, but even better eaten fast so you could enjoy those bacon burps for the next half hour.
“You eat like you’re starving. I wish I could eat like that, Val, and stay as thin as you do.”
“Mom, I’m only eleven. I’m not supposed to be a fatty at my age.”
“I thought you were ten, dear. Where does the time go?”
Valerie was still thinking about yesterday, the holiday Monday… and why did so many people have to feel sad?
“Do you know what makes Ray Zeffer so sad, Mom?”
“Ray Zeffer? What brings that up?”
“He and Danny Murphy walked me all the way home last night from town. He’s such a gentleman. But he always seems sad.”
“Well, I would guess that losing your father the way he did, such a short time ago… well, it might have something to do with it. I know his mother, Donna Zeffer, is sad a lot too.”
“Yeah, I suppose.”
“And there was a brother that died… older brother… Bobby, I think. His family has been through a lot.”
Valerie buttered a piece of toast and then sipped her milk from the mug that Grandpa Larry had given her years ago. The mug had a big red heart on the side of it.
“I didn’t know about the brother. Younger or older?”
“Definitely older. More than ten years ago.”
“What was more than ten years ago?” asked Daddy Kyle as he came in to breakfast.
“Valerie was wondering about Ray Zeffer because he and the Murphy boy walked her home from town last night. How long ago did Bobby Zeffer die, Kyle?”
“Oh, at least sixteen years ago. But what’s this about boys walking Valerie home last night?”
Uh-oh. Dad radar had picked up a boy-alert… a potential boyfriend/trouble/rock salt alert.
“Danny and Ray were just being gentlemen,” said Valerie. “They wanted to make sure I got home safe.”
“And they didn’t have anything but your safety on their little minds?” Kyle asked with a skeptical smirk.
“I suppose now you want to shoot Ray?” asked Valerie.
“Who said anything about shooting Ray?” asked Mom.
“Dad did. He wanted to shoot Pidney and Danny last night, and now he wants to shoot Ray!”
“Kyle!” Mom’s scolding stare could wither flowers that were otherwise in full bloom.
“I was just kidding around!” said Daddy in a defensive voice that sounded a lot like a little boy who’d been caught pulling his sister’s hair. “I wouldn’t really shoot anybody… It’s a dad thing.”
“I’m sure it is,” said Mom. “But let’s not joke about that anymore.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He was thoroughly chastised, and Valerie marveled at how Mom could make him so instantly repentant, like a Baptist preacher preaching Hellfire or something.
“The bus is here, Princess,” said Daddy Kyle while peering out the window. And it really was. Valerie had to hustle. The old yellow bus driven by Milo Volker was waiting at the end of the Clarkes’ lane, and he wouldn’t linger if she didn’t show up fast. Still, it made her grin to see the look of relief on her Daddy’s face as he realized the dangerous conversation was at an end.