Genevieve watched as Kelly lowered the Christmas tree, which they spent the whole morning un-decorating. “Kelly, let’s not set the living room up as a studio again. I never paint down here any more. The light is really better upstairs.”
“Are you sure, dear?” asked Kelly, surprised. He was used to the idea that the large room was a studio first, and a living area second.
“Yes, I am sure. Now that we have turned the parlor into a viewing room for our movies, I think it’s best if we have a regular living room. Anyway, lately we have been having more people over and the parlor is just too small,” said Genevieve, with such determination that the subject was closed for discussion.
“Okay, whatever you say, but you know this is a large space, and we are going to need to get some more furniture,” said Kelly. “Do you want me to take out the model stand?”
“Yes, I think that would be better. With it gone, we could put a sleeper sofa over there in case we should have to put someone up for the night,” she said. “One or two comfortable chairs would be nice too. Let’s go over to that furniture showroom in Terrell and order some. I have been wanting to go over and talk to the folks that run their art league, and see if they could give me some pointers about starting one here.”
“Really, you want to start an art league here in Misty. I didn’t know that there were any other artist here,” said Kelly.
“Well, not what you would really call artist. There are a lot of people who do crafts, but to them, the crafts are arts. There are also many people who would like to learn to paint. I thought it might be fun to give classes. I wouldn’t want to charge for them, and if I did teach as part of an art league, people wouldn’t think it so odd that the lessons are free.”
“Genevieve Archie, you never cease to amaze me,” said Kelly, giving her a hug, as he counted himself lucky to have wondered into that diner hungry and cold, without a friend in the world.
Kelly’s idea of what soon meant and what Genevieve’s idea of what soon meant, were two very different things. It was several days past the New Year, when Kelly was walking down the sidewalk toward the hardware store making sure he didn’t slip on the ice that the sun had not quite melted from the storm the night before, when he ran into Woodrow Cooper. “Hey Woodrow, Happy New Year, what are you up to?” he asked.
“Happy New Year to you and yours, Kelly; I just got back from Grand Saline,” replied Woodrow, with a smile.
“Visiting your Cousin Chilly?” asked Kelly, knowing that Woodrow didn’t like to hear people call his cousin by the nickname, which was bestowed on him by his fellow citizens of Grand Saline, for also following the profession of undertaking.
Woodrow let the jab pass. Back in high school he had learned that Kelly Archie, though he refused to throw a punch, had a compulsion to beat people up with words. “Yes, I did. He needed my help. It has been a bad few days for auto crashes over that-a-way.”
“That is too bad. I am sorry to hear that,” said Kelly, chastised for his ill-placed humor.
“Yes, it just tore my heart out, a little child, standing up in the front seat of a truck. It was just a little fender bender, but the child … the poor parents, they are inconsolable,” said Woodrow, hoping that Kelly would never realize it was all a fabrication. “The child would have been just fine in the back seat of a car, but the family was just too poor to have two vehicles, and the father needed the truck for his work.”
“That is very sad,” said Kelly, before saying his goodbyes and continuing on to the hardware store, to pickup the items Genevieve had asked him to come into town for.
Later in the day, Woodrow was not surprised to see Kelly coming into the office of his dealership. “Kelly what a surprise, I wasn’t expecting to see you again today,” he lied, as he jumped up from his desk, and asked, hopefully, “Are you here on business?”
“Yes, Woodrow, I have been sitting at the diner, having a few cups of coffee and thinking. I have been thinking about that poor family in Grand Saline. You know there is no reason that my little girl has to be riding around in a truck. I can afford a new car, and it would be nice to surprise Genevieve with a car for her birthday. Do you think we could get one by the sixteenth?”
“There shouldn’t be any problem with that. I have a few sedans here, but if they don’t suit you, I am sure we could get one down from Dallas in time. Heck, we could even get one brought in from Houston, if need be!” said Woodrow, not doubting that the sale was in the bag. He wasn’t ready for how easy the sale, would be. As he walked with Kelly out to the showroom, he enumerated the various features of the 1962 Fords, which set them apart from the other cars produced that year.
Kelly looked around and spotted a Fairlane, and remarked, “That one over there is just the color of Genevieve’s eyes. I like it. It isn’t too big and it isn’t too small. How much is it?”
“I think we can get it out the door at $2999,” said Woodrow.
“I think you must be thinking more along the lines of $1999,” countered Kelly.
“Now Kelly, you know I have to make a profit, and $1999 just doesn’t leave enough meat on the bone. This isn’t just your run of the mill Fairlane. This one was a special order. It has power steering and power brakes, factory installed, not done by the boys here. My customers are always asking for those options, but normally you just can’t get them unless you order a custom Ford. The tires are not just black-walls; they are 7.00 on 14-inch-diameter wheels. But if you want to have the white walls we can change them out for the 6.00 with the 13-inch-diameter wheels. The generator on this baby is 30-amps. You won’t ever have to worry about getting started on these cold East Texas days. In the summertime that tinted glass will really be a blessing. And speaking of summertime the two-speed electric windshield wipers will come in handy in the toad-choking rainstorms. Hell I will even throw in seat belts in the front. This model comes from the factory with the brackets, so they can just be bolted in,” said Woodrow.
As Woodrow explained why the car was worth the price, Kelly was examining the engine, sat in each of the passenger seats as well as the driver’s seat, examined the trunk and got down on the floor of the showroom and examined the under carriage. Standing up and making a show of dusting himself off, he said. “Make the seat belts in the front and the back, and I will give you $2200.”
“If we make it $2250, you have a deal!” said Woodrow, trusting his hand out hoping that Kelly would shake out of force of habit, even if he weren’t ready to finish the deal.
Kelly avoided the handshake by stroking his chin with his right hand, and looking thoughtful. “Well, if you can shine it up really good and have it waiting in my drive, when Genevieve wakes up on the sixteenth, and then you have a deal.”
“Deal,” said Woodrow, capturing Kelly’s hand for a firm shake.
On the morning of the sixteenth, Genevieve pretended to be asleep, knowing that Kelly would be downstairs helping Eileen make her a breakfast tray. She knew that he would be carefully arranging the plate of French toast made from chocolate-chip walnut banana bread, dusted with powdered sugar, next to a small pot of maple syrup. She knew that there would be sausage, probably from Eileen’s farm. She could smell the aroma of the cooking pork spiced with Eileen’s trademark sage. It was hard for her to pretend to sleep when she wanted to rush downstairs and eat, but she didn’t want to ruin Kelly’s surprise.
Genevieve was surprised to be pulled from her acting job, by Eileen tapping at the bedroom door. “Mrs. A, the mister said for you to be getting down to the kitchen for your breakfast. He wants you to go into town with him and Alexis. He wants you to help him pick out some riding clothes for her.”
Genevieve sat up and stared at the door that Eileen had pulled shut. She couldn’t believe it. In all the years Kelly and she were married, he had never forgotten her birthday. “Well,” she thought, as she got out of bed and got dressed, “I am not going to point it out to him. I will wait a few weeks then casually mention it to him. That will make him feel really bad. That is what I will do.” As she made her way to the kitchen a part of her mind held out hope that Kelly was teasing her and would have an extra special breakfast for her. That hope was dashed when she saw Kelly and Alexis tucking into biscuits and gravy. There wasn’t even any orange juice.
“Good morning dear; Boy you were a sleepy head this morning. Alexis and I have already been out for a long walk before breakfast,” said Kelly, smiling at his daughter as she ate expertly with the child sized knife and fork he had brought her from his last trip to Dallas. As Alexis stuffed a fork full of dripping biscuit into her mouth she tried vainly to smile through the gravy, without success, though her eyes sparkled brightly.
“It must be how late I stayed up working last night,” said Genevieve, cutting her eyes toward her daughter, to indicate to her husband not to verbalize what they were really doing the night before. Noting that her daughter had begun building something out of her biscuits and gravy, rather than eating it, she asked. “What is the matter, baby, aren’t you hungry?”
“Oh, don’t worry about Alexis; She is just too excited about getting new clothes for riding that chubby pony.” Kelly deflected the question, so that the little girl didn’t have to answer, only to see that Alexis had her own strategy to avoid her mother’s questions by shoving her mouth full of biscuit, leaving a rim of white gravy on her lips.
Genevieve laughed and reached over to wipe a dribble of gravy off her little girl’s chin. Smiling at her husband, forgetting to be mad at him, in the joy of motherhood, she remarked. “She is beginning to take a lot after you! And what do you mean calling Cheyenne chubby? I have never seen a pony that is shaped so much like a horse before.”
After breakfast the little family went out to the truck, to go into town. Genevieve was shocked when she came outside, to see that sitting in the place where the old truck normally sat was a jaunty light blue sedan, with the truck parked farther from the house. She began laughing loudly when she saw edged under one of the front wheels, her breakfast tray with a bud-vase with a few flowers and a glass of orange juice.
“Happy, Happy Birthday Mommy!” yelled Alexis, just as her father had coached her.
“After I put your present on the tray, it was too heavy to carry up to your room, and there wasn’t enough space left for your breakfast either!” said Kelly in mock seriousness.
With Equal gravity, Genevieve remarked, “You could have just put the keys on the tray.”
“Ah, but if I had done that you would have been too excited to eat your breakfast,” he responded with a twinkle in his eye, glad that he had broken the birthday tradition.
Alexis was bored. It wasn’t that there was nothing to do. The problem was that there was too much, so she just sat on the edge of the models stand in the living room that Kelly had not yet removed though the room was no longer a studio, doing nothing. She just couldn’t decide what to do. As soon as she thought about riding her bike, she wanted to ride Cheyenne. As soon as she decided to go find one of the hands to saddle her pony, she found she wanted to play with her toys in her room. As soon as she stood up to go to her room she …
Alexis was sitting with her chin in her hands, and her elbows resting on the worn knees of her blue jeans when her father came out of his office and asked, “Hey pumpkin! What are you up to?”
“Nothing!” said Alexis, plaintively, feeling very let down after the holidays, when her every move was determined by a schedule set down for her by her parents. “I am bored!”
“Well, do you want to ride your bike?” asked Kelly, helpfully.
“No!” said Alexis, causing Kelly to remember her terrible two’s.
“No, what?” her father asked.
“No, sir,” said Alexis, sulkily.
“How about Cheyenne?” asked Kelly.
“No sir, she is resting!” said Alexis, emphatically.
“Okay, how about I read you a story,” suggested Kelly, wishing he hadn’t started this conversation with Alexis.
“Nope!” said Alexis, finding herself quite entertained by being contrary.
“Well, how about we grow some crystals?” asked Kelly in desperation.
“N… Like snowflakes?” asked Alexis, remembering what her father said the day before Christmas.
“Yes, like snow flakes,” said Kelly, becoming a little worried that Alexis wasn’t going to be happy to find out that it took days for the crystals to form when you made rock candy.
Lucky for Kelly, by the time he had simmered the water and sugar to the melting point and poured it into the jar, which he had suspended a cotton string in, Alexis decided that she did want to go riding after all, but only if her father went with her. The jar of sugar water was set, on a shelf in the pantry, loosely covered with a cloth, on which a note for Eileen telling her not to move it was pinned. And was forgotten as Alexis rode her pony away from the farm, followed closely by her father on his roan.
“Mr. Archie can I have a word with you?” asked Eileen as Kelly passed through the kitchen on his way out the back door.
“Why of course Eileen; what is it?” asked Kelly, wondering what was making the woman so formal.
“How long are you going to leave that jar in the pantry? I really need that space for the flower and sugar you picked up yesterday,” said Eileen, feeling put upon, knowing that Kelly ordered the jar not to be moved, and that he forgot about it, though it was causing her great inconvenience.
“Oh, The Jar! Eileen I am so sorry. I completely forgot about it.” Kelly went into the pantry and came back out with the jar, not wanting to see what might be growing in the unattended sugar water. Carefully he removed the cloth and was rewarded with the sight of a lovely stalactite of sugar crystal in the middle of the fluid.
“Oh, rock candy! Why didn’t you tell me what you were doing? I could have kept an eye on it for you!” exclaimed Eileen.
“Alexis come in here,” called out Kelly, to his daughter who was playing with her matchbox cars in the living room, as the day was too cold for her to be outside, and she was inexplicably bored with playing in her large bedroom.
“What Daddy?” asked Alexis, as she came into the kitchen. “What is that?”
“Look pumpkin! Your crystals have grown,” said Kelly, indicating the jar.
“Ooooh, it’s neat-oh, Daddy,” said Alexis watching as her father drew the crystal string out.
“What is that?” asked Genevieve as she came into the kitchen being drawn down from her studio by Kelly’s voice calling out to Alexis.
“Mr. Archie and Alexis made rock candy.” Eileen informed Genevieve. The two watched as Kelly suspended the string in an empty jar to dry, telling Alexis that she could eat it after it dried.
“Oh Kelly, are you sure? That is straight sugar,” said Genevieve, worried.
“Ha Ha, what would you call most candy, but straight sugar. A little rock candy never hurt any one,” said Kelly.
“Pleeeeeese Mommy?” asked Alexis, winningly, looking up at her mother from under the fringe of her nearly white bangs.
“Oh, how can I resist that face? Yes, sweetie you can have it!” said Genevieve, laughing, and patted Alexis’ round cheek. “Lets go back up to your room and I will read you some more of your book. We will check it after lunch and I bet it will be dry enough to eat,” said Genevieve, leading her daughter away, as Kelly resumed his journey outside, to supervise the hands in cleaning the barn.
All through lunch Alexis kept craning her head around to look at the jar holding the drying candy. When she turned back to her food, she ate looking across at her mother and father, who were chatting amiably about adult trivialities, like budgeting for Kelly’s next road trip, and the size of the last check that came in from the New York gallery.
When the meal was finished and Alexis excused from the table, she went over to the counter and stared at the jar until her parents joined her.
“Well, I think it is dry enough. Are you ready for us to package it up?” asked Kelly Alexis.
“Yes!” exclaimed Alexis eagerly.
“Yes what?” prompted Genevieve.
“Yes, sir” said Alexis softly, bothered that she forgot her manners again.
“That is right, little one,” said Genevieve encouragingly. “We will have to break it up and put it in a jar to keep it fresh. You will enjoy it more if you eat just a little at a time.”
“Okay, Mommy!” said Alexis, willing to agree to anything to get the pretty treat.
Kelly did the honors of breaking the crystals up, and used a sharp knife to cut the string. “Now, Alexis, when you eat a piece, remember that there is a bit of string in most of the pieces. Make sure you don’t swallow the string, and make sure you put it in a trash can; don’t spit it on the floor. Okay? Do you understand?” he asked.
“Yes sir, NO spit!” exclaimed Alexis, as she watched her father put the pieces of candy into a Tupperware container, which was just the right size, keeping out a piece for Alexis to have right away.
“Tupperware is such a silly name. I wonder where it came from.” Genevieve mentioned idly.
“It was invented by a guy named Tupper.” Kelly informed her.
“Oh, Kelly, you are just making that up,” said Genevieve, scowling at her husband.
“No, I am not. Earl Silas Tupper invented it. Next time you are at the library ask the librarian to research it for you if you don’t believe me.”
“That name really sounds made up. I will ask the librarian about it. What do you think, Eileen? Doesn’t it sound like Kelly is pulling our leg?” asked Genevieve, casting her eye toward, Eileen who was doing her best to act like she wasn’t there.
“Don’t draw me into your argument, I have lunch to get ready,” said Eileen laughing and turning away.
Alexis dashed off clutching her treasure, not caring who invented the container, leaving the adults to carry on their argument. Kelly and Genevieve didn’t notice that she took the container with her. Once she was in her room she took the piece of candy her father left on the top of the container and popped it into her mouth. The plastic container, she placed into the bottom drawer of her chest-of-drawers where she kept her special treasures, and then climbed up onto the window seat. Looking out over the yard and the pecan orchard, she sat contentedly sucking on the rock candy, exploring the nooks and crannies with her tongue. From time to time she fished the candy out of her mouth, with increasingly sticky fingers to examine the effect of its dissolving. As she sat with a blissful look on her face she thought about what she would tell Woody about the treat, expecting that he wouldn’t believe that her daddy and she made the candy. She worried the string with her tongue as more and more of the piece of cotton thread was exposed by the action of her saliva. Finally she bit down on the string dislodging the last bit of sugar. Taking the string out of her mouth she examined it thoroughly to make sure there was no remaining sugar before ceremoniously conveying it to the trashcan, next to the chest-of-drawers.
Alexis eyed the bottom drawer and thought about getting another piece of candy. She remembered her mother telling her that she would enjoy it more if she took her time about eating it. She thought that if Woody didn’t believe in the wonderful crystal she would have some to show to him. Then she thought about Cheyenne. Cheyenne liked sugar, so maybe she would love the crystals.
Alexis turned away from the tempting drawer and vigorously wiped her fingers on her jeans. Looking at her fingers she saw that the stickiness, rather than wiping off had picked up a coat of blue fibers from her jeans. As she made her way downstairs she wove back and forth down the steps first wiping her right hand then her left on the rails to rub off the stickiness. Eileen would be quite perplexed when she cleaned the stairway as to how sticky blue smudges came to be on the light colored wood of the railing.