CHAPTER FOUR (latest posting–Scroll down for previous chapters starting from the beginning)

Friday, November 24, 1899

Crayons in box on table point to picture of Jesus. Want Caleb to pick color for Jesus’ beard.
Nana’s Jesus has a brown beard. Oma said Jesus beard should be black.
Doesn’t like black. Fire makes stick-soldier turn black. Asks Stella, “What color is Jesus’ beard?”
Stella turns from stove and points to brown and yellow. “Some shade between these two colors.”
Face wants to cry. Knocking on the kitchen door makes stomach jerk.
“Please see who’s there, Caleb.”
Voice shakes. “Maybe Papa.”
“I told you not to call him Papa. Besides, Father wouldn’t bother to knock.” She points. “Open the door and surprise whoever it is.”
“But, Nana.”
“You can call me Nana, for now. At least until you learn to pronounce your ‘s’ words.” Nana keeps eyes on Caleb.
Whimpers and does slow walk. Opens door and sees lady with red hair from café. She grabs arm of boy bigger than Caleb. Boy’s lip curls, eyes glare at lady.
“Hello, Caleb.” She pushes boy into kitchen.
Backs into Nana. Looks up at her and points. “Oma.”
Boy slams door shut. Oma takes green and yellow candy suckers from brown purse. Boy grabs green one. She shows Caleb yellow one.
Shakes head. Wants green one.
She puts yellow sucker in her mouth. “Good morning, Stella. Who the hell is Oma?”
“Good morning, Emma. “Oma was Caleb’s mother. I’m Nana, his grandmother. We can deal with it later.”
“I’ll rather like the idea of role-playing his mom.” Yellow sucker between teeth, Oma grins. “Nana, I would like you to meet my son. Buddy, this is Miss Reinhardt, Father Busch’s house keeper.” She points at Caleb, teeth crush yellow sucker. “And this, I suppose, is your new brother, Caleb. He’s about your age.”
“Caleb is five.” Words left lips without permission. Sits and looks at Jesus’ beard with no color.
“Close enough.” Oma sets purse on table and takes off boy’s cap. He sticks out green tongue.
“Father Busch isn’t here, Emma. He’s in Harrington making his rounds at the hospital.”
“I know. Every Friday morning after Mass. Father used to stop at the café for breakfast before you became his cook.” She licks finger and pats down bunch of boy’s black hair. It pops back up.
“Then why…?”
She brushes red hair from her eyes. “I could say we just happened to be in the neighborhood but it would be a white lie.”
Oma tells Nana not to lie to Caleb.
“Sorry to barge into Father’s private quarters. I rang at the office entrance.”
“Caleb and I were involved in some serious art work, but I try to listen for visitors to the Rectory when he’s not here.” She frowns. “You rang the office bell knowing Father was out?”
“My first lie for the day. Okay?”
Oma says, “Don’t lie to me about my baby, Sean.”
“Am I forgiven? Nana?”
Nana? Not Stella?
“You’re forgiven, Emma. Take off your coats and sit down.”
Buddy drops coat on floor and sits on Father’s chair feet facing wrong way. “Buddy, please let your mother have that chair.” Nana moves chair too close to Caleb’s chair. “Sit here and I’m sure Caleb will share some of his crayons.”
Picks crayon from box. Colors Jesus’ beard green. Careful to stay inside the lines.
Nana shakes her head and turns away.
Shoves green crayon back and closes box. Makes eating-lemons face.
“Cookie for you, too, Emma? With a cup of coffee, perhaps?”
“Aha, a peace offering. Yes, I drink it black.” She drapes coats over back of Father’s chair.
Slams coloring book shut. Wants Nana’s eyes to scold.
“Be nice to your new friend and share.” She pours Oma’s coffee. “Careful, it’s boiling hot.”
Opens coloring book to Jesus green beard. Shows Buddy other page. Pushes box of colors little bit closer.
Buddy dumps crayons onto pile. He doesn’t color careful. His mother should tell him to color inside lines. She says, “Buddy, tell Caleb thank you.”
Buddy colors with crayon in each hand. He doesn’t say thank you.
Oma should scold her son. She pours coffee into saucer and sips. Tells Nana. “I came to apologize for my rude comment yesterday.”
“I don’t know what you’re sorry about, Emma.”
“Having been with Father Busch barely a year, you aren’t aware of local gossip.” Oma’s eyes find the couch in living room with Mother’s quilt. “Father keeps you hidden away in this house.”
“I want to live with Caleb and Nana, but Sean keeps me hidden away.”
Nana moves crayons and sets down two glasses of milk with plate of cookies. Sniffs. Not cookie like Caleb’s real Nana made. Buddy grabs two cookies and dunks one with fingers into milk. He jams whole cookie into his mouth, licks fingers.
takes small bite and makes Oma’s eating-lemons face. Spits cookie into milk and pushes it down with finger. Nana doesn’t look at Caleb.
She tells Oma, “I just quietly do my job as Father’s housekeeper and avoid gossip, Emma.”
Buddy’s mother looks at his scribbly picture. Smiles?
She faces Nana. “That’s not how the real world works, Stella.”
“I’m just Stella now, not Nana. Done role playing with names?”
“I was only trying to amuse the kids. With adults, I’m still Emma and you’re Stella.” She looks at Caleb, “Kids will say anything to get attention.”
Nana should tell Emma not to hurt Caleb’s feelings.
“Sorry I interrupted. You were describing the real world.”
Emma says, “Well, you won’t find it at the nunnery in Harrington. And not at the nun’s house here in Bovine.”
“Teachers here are Benedictines. I was preparing to be a Franciscan sister.”
No brown dress and bonnet. Not Nana. Not Fran…
Stella looks sad at Emma. “Until Mother Superior made me drop out before taking my final vows. Told me to serve God as a lay person. She felt I wasn’t ready for the cloistered life.”
“Amen to that.”
“I still feel bound by chastity, poverty, and obedience.”
Emma waves her hand at ceiling. “After a few years of marriage, all women look favorably at chastity, can’t avoid poverty, and we should be used to obeying.”
Policeman says Oma must obey the law.
Stella says, “I’m still wondering how you were rude to me yesterday.”
“I accused you of keeping my dead husband’s name on the record.” Emma takes a big breath. “I was your age when we married, Felix was in his sixties.” She pauses. “Thank you for not gasping.”
Stella’s face is surprised.
“Before you became secretary, Father Busch kept the minutes, summaries he called them, until Cunningham got all uppity about rules of order.” Emma drinks from sauce and then blows into coffee cup. “I imagine that’s how his wife, Clara, runs her household. I’ll have to admit, meetings have gone much smoother since.”
“Back in high school, those rules of order were barely mentioned. Teachers enforced rules, and in the convent, Mother Superior—”
Buddy’s mother slaps the table. “That’s the kind of top-down thinking that we have to put up with when dealing in church matters. Case-in-point, the Orphan Train business.” Lady with red hair pours hot coffee into saucer again and slurps from it. “Dumping New York street kids on us.” Café Lady looks angry. “And the Matt Gerhard matter.”
“Father Busch just wants Matt to repent.”
Lady with red hair smiles funny. “It’s more serious than that. Even the pope got involved.”
“I’ll take it all the way to the pope.” Man-in-Black laughs.
“Mary had problems when she carried her last baby. She almost died giving birth to their daughter, Rose.” Emma whispers secret too loud.
Nana says Little Sister came out of Oma’s belly.
Picks up black crayon. Wants to scribble all over Jesus.
Man-in-Black said Little Sister died. Nana and Oma cried. Caleb cried, too.
Puts black crayon into empty box. Buddy off of his chair.
“Mary already had her son, Earl, who, by the way, is about our boys’ age.”
“Caleb, isn’t my… I mean I’m not his mother.”
“Of course not by blood. She sips coffee from cup. “You and Father are a family unit.”
“Just until Father finds Caleb a home.”
“Your boy can’t stay with his grandmother.”
“And after hell freezes over.” Emma sets her cup on dirty saucer. “Unless Matt and Mary adopt Caleb. They can’t have any more children.”
“Oma won’t give you another Little Sister.”
Stella lifts her cup but doesn’t drink. “Can’t have?”
“Matt had some surgeon fix his wife to never have any more babies.” Emma shakes her finger. “Father Busch handed down Mary’s penance.” She smiles mean. “Avoid having sex for the rest of her life.”
Oma says sex is a bad word.
Stella Stands. She sits back down.
“Matt complained—a fist to the holy schnoz before their argument ended.” Another mean smile.
Buddy goes into living room.
“Ask Father about his crooked nose, some time.”
Stella goes to ice box, but just holds handle, doesn’t like Emma’s talk. She turns and asks Emma, “Will your step-grandson, Earl, start school next year with our…these boys?”
Emma says, “A welcome change of subject. Buddy will be in the second grade in town, and Earl will start at a country school where they hardly even count grades. Every cluster of farm families built their own one-room school house. Except for church on Sunday, those kids don’t get to town much.”
“At the Council meeting, you didn’t sound too hopeful about presenting the idea of adoption to…your step son, Matt.”
Plays peek-a-boo with Buddy behind Mother’s quilt.
“He’s a couple years older than me and didn’t approve a teenager marrying his father. Before he died, Felix told him to take care of his young bride. Matt bought me off with a few sacks of oats and some bushels of potatoes.”
Oma says, “You can’t buy me off with some crazy promises.”
“I’m okay with the deal. I got Bud and the café to keep me going. And my son, Buddy.” Emma smiles big. “I was hoping Caleb and Buddy might strike up a friendship. Do some playing together.” She looks surprised at Buddy’s empty chair and his colored-up picture. She doesn’t see Buddy wearing Mother’s quilt like a cape.
“Oh my gosh, Emma.” Stella’s eyes move from Buddy’s picture to Caleb’s. “What have we been saying in front of the boys?”
Stella is sad that Caleb colored Jesus’ beard green.
Buddy runs and slaps his mouth. Makes woo-woo-woo sound. He drags Mother’s quilt. Emma chases him and takes it away. “That’s Caleb’s. Gives it to Stella.”
Buddy’s game with Mother’s quilt is funny.
Stella folds it and puts it back on the couch. “I’ll be glad when Caleb gets his own room.”
Oma says, “Caleb sleeps in his own bed.”
Emma tells Stella, “I have an idea. Let’s drive out to Matt’s farm. Give our boys a chance to burn off some of their pent up energy.”
Smiles at Buddy. He smiles back.
“I’m still under the vow of obedience.”
“Would it make a difference if I told you to come with us?”
“I am bound to obey Father.”
Father is Stella’s Papa?
“You get his permission and I’ll stop around noon tomorrow.” Emma gives Buddy his coat. Buddy puts hood on head and pulls sleeves under chin. He runs around kitchen making scary face.
Giggles. Buddy is funny.
Emma says, “Put your coat on the proper way.” She takes coat and picks up purse with no candy.
Buddy shoves arms in the wrong sleeves. “Button it in back, Ma.”
She laughs and pushes him out the door. She waves back at Caleb. “Don’t worry, we’ll find you a place to live.”
Lifts arm. Hand won’t wave back.
“Good Lord, what kind of mess did I just get into?”
Nana is sad.

CHAPTER ONE (posted July 21, 2019)

Sunday, November 19, 1899

Oma in her white gown,
Holds red and black box in fingers.
“Never play with matches, Caleb.”
Shakes head “No, no, no.”
Oma slides red and black box open.
“Promise, my son.”
Nods “Okay, Oma.”
Oma’s fingers find stick-soldier with red hat.
Soldier’s red hat scratches side of box.
Fizzles. Flares. Mouth tastes smoke.
Stick-soldier touches fire to pretty green candles.
Flames dances on candles one, two, three, four, five.
Stick-soldier shrivels black and head falls off.
“Not four-years-old no more.”
Nana, brown dress and bonnet, smiles.
“Yes, my beautiful grandson is five-years-old today.”
Helped Nana bake Caleb’s birthday cake.
Oma back from hospital.
“Blow out the candles.”
“No, Oma.”
“Be a big boy and puff hard.”
“No Nana.” Eyelids squeeze shut.
Oma scolds, “Blow out the candles, Caleb.”
Eyes open wide. Deep breath. Blows hard.
One candle still on fire.
“Again, Caleb.” Nana smiles.
“Caleb doesn’t want to.”
“Just one more,” Oma begs?
Sobs. Blows.
Flames explode. Swallow Oma. Fire melts her smile. Nana’s lips move. “Caleb, Nana’s big boy.” Black dress turns orange. Red flames burst around Nana’s head, eats brown bonnet. Opens window. “My wonderful grand—”

Ears hear mouth scream. Eyes want to cry.
Sister-in-White wipes away tears. “You were just having a bad dream.”
“Oma. Nana.”
Sister-in-White claps hands. “You talked! Saints be praised.” She leans over bed. “The two women who perished were your mother and grandmother?”
Nods, rubs nose on white cloth. Eyes find wet spot.
“Don’t worry. My habit can be washed.” She whispers, “What boy misses Oma and Nana?”
Name stuck on tongue.
“Who are you?”
Caleb, Nana’s big boy.
Sister-in-White kisses hair and stands back up. “Oma and Nana want their big boy to tell Sister Mary Francis his name.”
Helped Nana bake Caleb’s birthday cake.
“Birthday.”
“Who had a birthday? Oma? Nana?”
“Not Nana. Not Oma.”
“Yes, yes. It must have been Oma’s son. Nana’s grandson.”
“Cake. Green candles.” Nana likes green.
“Yes, green candles. On whose birthday cake? Pretty green candles.”
“On fire.”
“How many candles are lit?”
Opens hand.
“Five years old?”
Opens other hand. “Big fire.”
“Oh, my goodness. You think your birthday candles caused the tenement fire?”
Nods.
“The gas cook-stove exploded. Men rescued you from the window ledge.”
Eyes find ball of fire on string.
“You are safe here at Children’s Hospital.” Bends down and whispers, “Sister Mary Francis wants to hear you say your name.”
Eyes won’t go away from fireball.
“Tomorrow you will be traveling with many children. Would be nice to tell everyone who you are.”
Pinches eyes shut. Fireball inside eyes.
“Were you staring at that light bulb?”
“Fireball.”
“You don’t know what an electric light bulb is?”
Shakes head.
Sister-in-White talks loud. “Turn of the century and tenement buildings have gas but not electricity.”
Fireball wants eyes back.
“Don’t stare at it.”
Eyes won’t obey.
Sister-in-White moves, hides light bulb. She reaches into bag on floor. “Show Sister Mary Francis your happy face.”
Oma’s locket.
“Your mother probably wore this on a chain around her neck.” Snaps open. “Fire damaged baby’s face on one side—”
Little Sister.
“But, the mirror on the other side isn’t broken. Whose face do you see?”
“Don’t know.”
“You know who the boy is. Now say his name.”
“Maybe, Caleb?”
“Say it again.” Sister-in-White scolds. “This time, make sure I hear it.”
“Caleb!”
“Don’t let anybody forget that you are Caleb.”
Sees happy face in Oma’s locket.
Cover closes. Caleb goes away.
“Say your name again.”
Whispers, “Caleb.”
“What is your last name?”
“Don’t know.”
“It will come back to you, just remember to use your words. If Caleb goes silent again, words might go away forever.” She pulls up blanket. “Sleep tight. Tomorrow Caleb will be on the Orphan Train to Minnesota.” She tucks blanket under…Caleb. “The sisters there wear brown and cover their heads with bonnets like the one they found on Caleb’s nana. They are called Franciscans.”
“Nana Fran…?”
“No. She probably thought older women should wear bonnets. We think Caleb’s mother might have been a nurse but not a sister.”
Oma wears white hospital gown at Caleb’s birthday.
“Little Sister died.”
“Caleb had a little sister?”
“Oma and Nana pray for her.”
“A family of three in heaven to watch over Caleb.”
Mouth chews corner of blanket.
“Remember, don’t go silent again. Everyone needs to know who Caleb is.” She pulls blanket under chin. “Your mother gave you such a nice name.”
“Oma.”
“Don’t forget Caleb, or Oma.”
Remembers Nana.
“I will add your name to the report in your handbag and that Caleb can talk, so don’t make people believe you can’t. I’ll also tell about Caleb’s mother and grandmother and sister. What was your sister’s name?”
“Little Sister.”
She kisses forehead. “A nun wearing a black habit will ride with you and the other children on the Orphan Train.”
Doesn’t like black. Likes boats, not trains.

CHAPTER TWO (posted 8/11/2019

Wednesday, November 22, 1899

The train slows. Jerks head forward and back. Sister Mary-in-Black grabs handbag and points at door. “This is where you get off. St. Cloud, Minnesota.”
“You, too?”
“I’m afraid not. I’ve got quite a few more deliveries.”
“Caleb needs help.”
“We talked about calling yourself Caleb rather than saying me or I. You might want to practice that.”
Practice saying Caleb.
“You will meet some very nice people. I’ll find your contact priest and introduce you. Come along.”
Sister Mary-in-Black steps out of car onto platform.
Wants to stay on train.
“Come now. Careful. Fresh snow makes the boards slippery.”
Snow sparkles.
Nana sings, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star to Caleb.”
Pulls stocking cap down to eyes.
“Your legs might be a bit wobbly after four days riding three different trains.”
Could count to five. Maybe more.
Looks around. Kids come out of train. Some climb onto engine. Many big people stand and point. Should make kids come down.
“Those boys and girls are hoping for mommies and daddies to take them to a new home. They’re not as lucky as you.”
Not lucky. Wants Sister-in-White.
“Caleb is a special little boy.”
Not special. Hides under her black veil.
“Many Catholic parents will want you to be part of their families. Maybe even have a chance to pick a family you like.” She sets Caleb’s handbag in snow.
Wants back on train with other kids. Snow makes Oma’s locket cold, wants in Caleb’s pocket.
Sister Mary-in-Black pulls Caleb from behind her. “Help look for the priest who should be here to meet you. He’s described as tall with dark hair but no beard.”
Can’t see. Sky on fire.
She put hand over eyes. “Being a priest, he’ll be dressed in black.”
Nana and Oma don’t like Man-in-Black.
Covers face with cloth in front of Sister’s dress.
“Please don’t wipe your nose on it.”
Tongue finds snot. Snowflakes tickle.
She points. “There’s the priest.”
Man-in-Black! Tongue tastes Oma’s burning stick-soldier.
“Good afternoon, Sister.” Man-in-Black lifts hat. “Now who have we here?”
“He calls himself Caleb.”
“Nice to meet you, Cal.”
“Not Cal.”
“He wants to be called Caleb. He’ll remind you.”
“Interesting name, for now. Has he been baptized?”
“No mention of it or very little else in his record. Lived with mother and grandmother, according to survivors of the tenement fire. No apparent father. Wouldn’t talk for over a month while in police care. Sisters at New York Foundling Hospital got him to say his name. Now he can’t stop using it.” Sister-in-Black smiles make believe.
Oma tells Man-in-Black, “Don’t give me that make-believe smile.”
I added a few comments about his train experience from New York.”
“How old are you, son? I mean, Caleb.”
Mitten off, hand up, fingers spread.
“Five?”
Nods.
“Please find Caleb a good Catholic home, Father.”
Papa?
Papa picks up handbag with Oma’s locket. “Come along, Caleb. The horse and buggy are right around the corner.”
Rubs nose with mitten. Runs to catch up. Milk Man’s brown horse?
On Nana’s knee, waiting for Man-in-White with brown horse.
No white wagon—no milk bottles—no Man-in-White.
Holds Nana’s empty milk bottle very careful. It would break if Caleb dropped it.
“Climb in back, Son.”
Papa calls Caleb son. Foot can’t reach step. Climbs spokes in wheel.
“Get comfortable under the quilt the Society of Christian Mothers made for you.” Papa makes cricket noise with mouth. Horse goes fast.
Pulls quilt over head. Horse’s clop-clop makes face smile.
Nana says, “Listen Caleb. I hear the milkman’s horse.”
Mother’s quilt doesn’t taste good. Wants hospital blanket.
Nana’s voice. “Close your eyes. Let the sandman come.”
Wrapped into Nana’s arms, Sandman creeps under Mother’s quilt.

Wakes. Has to pee. Crawls out of Mother’s quilt. Tugs on Papa’s gray scarf.
“Whoa.” Buggy stops. Horse lifts tail and pees.
“Caleb pee, too.”
Papa laughs and reaches back.
“Caleb gets down alone.” Slides over edge. Foot finds step. White snow sparkles under buggy lantern. “Where?”
“Wherever you want.”
Moon not so bright in New York.
“I won’t look, I promise.” Papa laughs again.
Pee won’t come out.
Papa says, “When you’re done, you can ride up here with me for a while.”
“Okay, Papa.” Climbs onto step.
“Listen to me, Caleb, because this is important. People call me Father because I am a priest. You don’t have a Papa.”
Crawls into back seat and hides under Mother’s quilt. Man-in-Black makes cricket sound. Horse’s clop-clop hurts Caleb’s ears.

“Whoa.”
Opens eyes. Papa? Sits up.
“Good morning, Dowdy.”
“Morning, Father.” Dowdy pats horse’s head. “You didn’t have to run Nellie all night. I wouldn’t charge for some resting time.”
“Needed to get back to say morning Mass. Already missed yesterday.” Papa steps down and reaches for Caleb.
Kicks off quilt. Climbs down alone. Arms pull coat tight.
Papa grabs quilt and sniffs. He ties Mother’s quilt into bundle with brown string from Dowdy.
Horse stomps foot and whinnies. “I know, Nellie. You’re tired.” Dowdy talks to Nellie.
Milk Man tells horse Caleb is good boy.
“An easy thirty miles trotting back didn’t hurt the horse. She spent Monday night in the bishop’s stable and rested while I spent most of Tuesday waiting at the railroad station.”
Dowdy climbs onto buggy. “The bill, Father?”
“Send it to the bishop. The Orphan Train Program was his idea.” Papa walks away and turns. “Grab your bag. I got the quilt.”
Dowdy tosses bag down. “What’s your name young fella?”
Tells name to Nellie. “Caleb.”
“Want to rub Nellie’s nose?”
Shakes head. Looks for Papa.
“Come along, Caleb. The Rectory is just down the street.” He points. “You can see the church steeple from here.”
Nana’s church has two steeples.
Papa stops at big house. “This is the Rectory. You’ll be staying here for a while.” He opens door and goes into little room.
Stands and peeks into bigger room with piles of clothes and steam from kettle on stove. Nana in kitchen on wash day.
Papa takes off hat. “Good morning, Stella.” He calls Nana funny name.
She says, “Good morning, Father.”
“It’s Wednesday, not Monday, Stella.”
“With you gone for two days, I made myself available in your office. People sure are curious about the orphan.”
“I wouldn’t have mentioned my leaving to get the boy in Sunday’s sermon, but people have a right to be informed. Also, I had to cancel Tuesday’s morning Mass.”
“People left a couple of messages on your chalk board.”
Papa looks back. “Come in.” He pulls off Caleb’s stocking cap. “Here is our orphan. His name is Caleb.”
Nana claps hands. “I’m happy to meet you, Caleb.” She kneels and unbuttons coat. “You can call me Stella.”
“’Tella.” No bonnet. Not Nana?
She hugs Caleb. “Father, this boy is wet and freezing to death.”
Papa puts hat back on head. “I’m sure. You’ll need to wash the quilt, too.”
“I hope the Foundling Hospital sent a change of clothes?”
“Probably in his bag.” His foot pushes bag with Oma’s locket. “Any information inside goes on my desk.” He opens door. “I’ll be at the church saying Mass.” He turns head. “Wash his quilt and clothes separate from mine.”
“Yes, Father.”
Papa leaves. Slams door.
Nana pours hot water from kettle into washtub. “Take off those wet clothes. I’ll give you a bath right here in the kitchen where it’s warm.”
Nana pushes handle up and down to make water come out.
“It’s called a pump, Caleb. I suppose New York has water piped directly to kitchen faucets. My mother has it in Chicago.”
Lifts both arms. Nana pulls off shirt and Caleb takes off pants. Hands cover between legs.
“Don’t be bashful. I’ve bathed my kid brother, Virgil, many times before I left home to join the Franciscans.”
Sisters there are Franciscans. They wear brown dress and bonnet.
Not brown dress? No bonnet?
She points at tub. “Get in.”
“Okay, Nana.”
“Nana?”Her eyes find Caleb. “If you are Caleb, who am I?”
“’Tella?”
“That’s better. We’ll work on the pronunciation. Who brought you here this morning?”
Papa?”
“You must say Father, Caleb. It is important you don’t call him Papa.”
Steps over edge of tub. Dips one toe, then the other. Plops down.
“After you warm up, I’ll suds your hair.” Stella takes string off quilt and rubs soap on brown marks. She points to big room not hiding behind wall. “After your bath, I’ll let you sleep on the couch in the front room so I can see you while I do laundry.”
Plays Nana’s game, Tug boat on the Hudson, with bar of soap on water.

“In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, Amen.” Not Nana and Oma praying words. Rubs eyes and nose. Tastes blanket. Not quilt from Mothers. Remembers, Father not Papa. Sits up, not in bed. Room not white like hospital. Sees kitchen but washtub gone. Sniffs. Smells meat cooking?
Oma says, “We’ll have turkey for Thanksgiving. I promise.”
Father’s voice from kitchen. “Stella, I think our orphan is awake.”
Caleb, not orphan no more.
Stella, not Nana, comes into big room. “Did you have a nice nap, Caleb?”
Nods. Looks around.
“This is the Rectory front room. It should be a dining room but Father never has dinner guests.” She sits on couch. “Maybe, now that you’re with us, it might be used for entertaining.” She points. “Here is your change of clothes from the hospital. Do you want help getting dressed?”
“Caleb dresses alone, ’Tella.”
Stella smiles and walks away. “When you’re ready, come to the kitchen.”
At table, Father says, “Good morning, Caleb. You almost slept through lunch.”
Not morning no more.
Stella cuts brown meat into small pieces. Adds corn and potatoes. She sets Caleb’s plate on table across from her. “Please sit. This will be your place from now on.”
“Just until the adoption, Stella.” Father’s eyes move from Caleb to Stella.
She pours glass of milk. “I hope you like fried liver.” She faces Father. “Matt Gerhard butchered last week, and his wife Mary dropped off some cuts of meat after church.”
Father doesn’t smile. “The woman knows her husband must repent before I can welcome him back into the church.” He pushes his chair back and stands. “The Parish board will meet in my office this afternoon. Tell the boy how to act in the presence of adults.” His face not happy. “Work on his table manners, too.”
Chews real hard. Can’t swallow. Drinks milk. Food splashes back on plate. Eyes and nose leak. Nana brings wet rag.
Papa says. “I think it best that we put off our council meeting until tomorrow. I need time to get my office back in order.”
Hides face in Nana’s apron.
“When you get this mess cleaned, come to my office. I’ll have notices of new meeting times for you to deliver to council members Emma Kroft at the cafe, Walt at Cunningham Implement, and Melvin Trask at The Bovine Journal in that order.”
She wipes Caleb’s face. “Would you like to go back to sleep on the couch or bundle up and walk with me to meet these people?”
“I walk with Nana.”
Nana smiles. Doesn’t make Caleb say Stella.

CHAPTER THREE (posted 8/25/2019)

Thursday afternoon, November 23, 1899

Hides behind Stella’s chair. Tugs on dress. “Caleb scared.”
She pushes Caleb’s hand away. “You can stay in Father’s office with the adults but you must be quiet.”
Doesn’t like big people.
Lady with red hair grabs Caleb’s arm and pulls. She tells Stella, “He might just as well stand between us where he can see what’s going on.”
Stella doesn’t push Caleb away. “Okay, Emma, but please help keep him quiet while I take notes.”
Emma laughs. “Maybe I should fill your mouth with cotton?”
“Please, don’t frighten him with silly threats.”
Likes Emma. She gave Caleb candy at café yesterday.
Father sits, hands folded, doesn’t see Caleb. He watches man holding cigar and making white words on black board. Man stops writing and sits other end of table facing father. He raises hammer.
Covers ears.
Hammer hits table. Man bites short cigar with big teeth. “Parish Council meeting will come to order.”
Council at police station wants to know boy’s name from fire. Can’t say Caleb.
Knows name now. Caleb!
Sister-in-White says, “Don’t ever forget Caleb again.”
Yells, “Caleb.”
Emma says, “Hush, or Stella will be mad at both of us.”
Man in blue shirt stares across table at Caleb. He lifts hand, points to man with cigar. “Special motion, Mr. Chairman.” Man-in-Blue keeps eyes on Caleb.
Oma tells Policeman-in-Blue, “Please don’t take my son away from me, too.”
Stella looks at Father. “Shouldn’t I read the minutes first?” Father’s eyes stay on his folded hands.
Mr. Chairman bites cigar. “What’s on your mind, Melvin?” He takes cigar out of mouth and looks at it. No smoke.
Emma makes eating-lemons face.
Man-in-Black smokes cigar in kitchen. Says Oma makes eating-lemons face.
Melvin says, “Let’s forget about Robert’s Rules of Order—make this meeting informal. There is only one topic on the chalkboard.”
First letter of word in white chalk is circle. Oma starts with circle, but only three letters.
Emma pulls pencil from red hair. Points across table at Man-in-Blue. “Melvin, you’re the only one who follows those rules, anyway.”
“Part of my English-Irish background.” Melvin smiles. “Is that a second to my motion, Emma?”
“If that what it takes to get the ball rolling.” Emma faces Mr. Chairman with cigar. “I second Melvin’s motion, Walt.” Emma calls Mr. Chairman Walt.
Stands on one foot. Points and counts white letters on black board. More than five. Wants Walt to write Oma with chalk.
Walt holds cigar. “All in fav—”
Melvin says, “Excuse me.” Not Melvin’s turn to talk. “I would like a chance to explain my motion, Walt.”
Walt throws wet cigar stub in waste basket. He looks mad at Melvin.
Points and counts five people at table. Forgets to add Caleb. Asks Stella. “Is Caleb six?”
Stella says, “You’re only five. Now hush.”
Counts fingers. Almost topples over.
Oma and Nana play All-Fall-Down with Caleb.
Stella says, “Stand still.”
Walt asks, “What’s there to talk about, Melvin?”
Melvin says, “A special motion allows discussion.”
Walt shows big teeth. “Okay, but keep it short.”
Melvin points across table at Caleb. “If we’re going to discuss this boy’s future—”
“Caleb, Melvin. His name is Caleb.” Emma remembers. Puts head on Emma’s lap.
“We might not want our discussion on the parish record for everyone to read.”
Emma says, “And you get to print your version in next Thursday’s edition of the Journal.” She points pencil at Walt. “I withdraw my second to Melvin’s motion.”
Melvin stares across table at Emma. He pulls pencil from blue shirt pocket. Waves it and writes in little black book.
Policeman-in-Blue shows Oma little black book. Oma’s screams.”
Walt hits table with hammer. “We will proceed with minutes as usual.” He points hammer at Stella. “Don’t record this discussion so far. Go ahead and read minutes of our last meeting.”
Stella stands.
Crawls onto Stella’s chair.
She reads, “Parish Council met on November 10, 1899. Members present: Father Alexis Busch, Emma Kroft, Melvin Trask, and Chairman Walt Cunningham. Topic of discussion, accepting one orphan boy for adoption.”
Sister–in-White says, “We’ll just call you Orphan Boy until you tell us your name.” Caleb can’t say words.
Tugs Nana’s dress. “Caleb, not orphan boy, Nana.”
“Sit and be quiet until I’m done reading. Remember to call me Stella.”
“Forgot.”
She reads, “Member absent, Felix Gerhard.”
Emma says, “Felix has been dead for years. I’ve remarried and have a kid, yet you still read my husband’s name just to embarrass me.”
“No one told me to remove it.”
Walt says, “Please continue, Stella.”
“Each parish in the diocese is expected to take one orphan child for adoption from New York Foundling Hospital delivered on the Orphan Train. The council agreed to a male toddler if we can be assured not to get a diseased or handicapped child.”
Eyes find light bulb on cord above table like at hospital. Has glass hat with many colors.
Nana sewed “C” and “D” with colored thread on Caleb’s new baseball cap.
Stella takes Caleb off chair and sits.
Light bulb with funny hat moves little bit.
Father stops looking at hands. Talks loud. “Let’s get to the business of finding adoptive parents for this boy.”
“He is Caleb,” Stella tells Father.
Shows Stella Caleb’s happy face.
“Caleb, of course.” Father does Oma’s make-believe cough. “Thank you for reminding me.”
Nana say Oma coughs just to get attention.
Opens and closes one eye then other eye. Colored light jumps.
“Father says, “The bishop expects us to place this young man in a Catholic family.”
Sister-in-White says, “Young man, you are going be with many children who will want to know your name.”
Pees tiny bit. Squeezes legs together. Shakes Emma’s arm. Whispers, “Gotta pee.”
Emma asks, “Can’t you go to the bathroom by yourself?”
Nods. “Caleb is a big boy.”
Oma on fire says, “Caleb is a big boy.”
Mr. Chairman raises hammer.
Covers ears. Runs.
Toilet door left open. Nobody waiting?
Nana says, “Always lock the bathroom door, Caleb.”
Reaches for hook.
“Mean men do bad things to little boys.”
No hook! Can’t lock door.
Sobs. Tinkles. Runs. Stumbles. Loses shoe. Carries it to table. No people! “NANA? PAPA? OMA?” Can’t breathe. Tastes Oma’s burning stick-soldier. Hears voices. Finds office door.
Papa’s voice. “The orphan can’t stay at the Rectory. What will people think?”
Man-in-Black tells Oma, “People in church will figure it out. They aren’t blind.”
Goes into office and stands between Oma and Nana.
Papa sees Caleb. Big smile. “What I mean is Caleb needs a family who will give him a place to sleep.”
Oma tells Man-in-Black, “Caleb sleeps at his home with Nana.”
Walt shows teeth. “A place in the county would soften the boy’s harsh city life.”
Shows shoe to Nana and Oma. They don’t look.
Papa says, “Farm folks are already burdened with large families. I can’t ask them to take another child.”
Shoe walks up and down back of Nana’s chair.
Oma stands and stuffs pencil in red hair. “If you’re looking for one of us to take him off your hands, count me out. With Buddy Junior about his same age…” looks down at Caleb. “How old are you, son?”
“His name is Caleb, and he recently had his fifth birthday, Emma.”
Nana scolds Oma.
“Just the thought of another child growing up in your café would exclude you.”
Shows Nana hand wearing shoe. Giggles.
“And, you settle down.” Nana sets Caleb on Oma’s chair. Puts shoe back on foot. “You must sit still. The meeting won’t last much longer.”
Oma looks at Caleb. “With my long hours and a husband never helping in the kitchen…”
Slides off Oma’s chair. Nana doesn’t make Caleb get back on.
Melvin in blue shirt points at Oma. “Other people in town have businesses, too, Emma. Except farmers like Hank Sturgis who retired and moved to Bovine.” Melvin laughs. “He voted for the town’s name change not knowing Bovine was another word for cow.”
Cow jumps over the moon. Little Dog laughed. Nana and Caleb laugh.
Melvin’s eyes find Caleb.
Giggles. Thinks Melvin and Emma jumping over moon.
“You’d like Hank as a grandpa. He has a white beard like Santa Claus.”
Nana and Papa jump over the moon holding Caleb’s hand.
Oma shakes finger. “Melvin Trask, why don’t you put those pretty blue eyes to good use finding a wife instead of nosing into other’s folks’ business?”
Counts five fingers. Counts other hand.
Melvin writes words and closes black book.
Policeman closes black book. “Caleb can stay just for his birthday.”
“I keep writing in my notebook, too, Melvin.” Oma taps forehead. “Up here.”
Walt peers into waste basket with cigar. “Emma, please.”
“Banging that gavel won’t shut me up, Walt.”
Hammer is gavel.
“We need to stay on track.”
“Sorry, Walt.” Oma smiles at Melvin. “An adopted son could get you a wife. Caleb could help you with typesetting.”
“No need for a wife, Emma. And, I can hire typesetters. Bring Caleb to the Journal and I’ll show him the printing press. Your kid, too.” He looks at Caleb. “Do you know your ABC’s?”
Pinches eyes shut, the colored light goes away.
Melvin’s voice. “Maybe Emma’s step children will take Caleb in memory of their father. Felix was a member of this board.”
Opens eyes, colored light comes back.
Oma stands. “As Felix’s widow, I suppose I am his adult kid’s step-mother. His daughter, Dory, is my age but she’s a nun. Her younger sister died in the ’94 Hinkley fire.”
Oma says, “Pray to your Little Sister in heaven.”
Oma glances around table. “I lived with Matt and the girls a few years before Felix died and a short time after. I doubt my step-son and his wife, Mary, will take another child.” Her eyes find Papa. “You know Mary won’t be making any more babies.”
Little Sister in Oma’s belly.
Papa clears his throat, puffs, but doesn’t talk.
Marvin says, “Matt married an orphan. Mary came from Germany, arrived alone by rail much like Caleb from Ireland.”
Papa says, “His family record only guesses Caleb’s nationality because the tenement housed mostly Irish immigrants.”
Melvin shakes head. “With those hazel eyes and facial features—”
“Caleb’s face, his eyes, the spittin’ image of his father. A ready-made scandal at St. Patrick’s.”
“I’ll never understand your interest in Irish politics.” Emma shakes her head. “You an Englishman with blue eyes.”
“You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, Emma.”
Nana reads Caleb stories from jungle book.
Emma says, “Anyone who does morning coffee at the cafe knows your view on Irish independence, and we thank you for keeping the topic out of our local newspaper.”
“Wait for the boy to grow up and see what side he takes.”
“Enough of that kind of talk.” Chairman Walt hits table. “Emma, since you know the family, would you be willing to ride out with the boy and ask Matt?”
“I know Matt well enough not to go on a fool’s errand.”
Emma wants to fool Walt.
Papa raises his voice and slams table. “Matt Gerhard as father for Caleb is out of the question.”
“Is Papa mad, Nana?”
Nana whispers loud in Caleb’s ear. “You must call a priest Father, not Papa. And I am Stella, even if you have trouble with the ‘s’ sound.”
“However, other country folks might be possible.” Father—not Papa— looks at Stella—not Nana. “Check church records.” His fingers touch each other. Want to pray? “I believe most recent baptisms are from farm families.”
Kicks chair leg.
Stella puts Caleb on lap. “Now sit still. We’re almost done.”
Emma—not Oma looks at Chairman Walt. “I move to table this discussion until people get to know Caleb a little better?”
Walt shows teeth. “I’d like to tag on to that idea, Emma. The rectory was built with future bedrooms in mind. I move—suggest we convert one of the three upstairs dormers into a room for Caleb. I could send some of my crew to enclose the area.”
“Which dormer, Walt?” Emma’s grin gets big. “Not facing north?”
“Of course, not the north dormer. That’s—”
“Men’s secret place?” Emma laughs.
“Caleb has secret strawberry.” Tries to take off shoe. Stella pushes Caleb’s hand away.
Walt says, “I prefer we not discuss—”
Melvin laughs. “Stella knows, and Emma doesn’t give a damn about our cigar and poker night.”
Walt says, “Don’t write that comment in the minutes.”
Melvin smirks. “Why not the east window with its view of the graveyard?”
Oma says, “I’ll check every graveyard in New York for Caleb’s little sister.”
Walt says, “Maybe the west window facing God’s spectacular sunsets.”
“Like hot afternoon sun in summer?” Emma doesn’t like Mr. Chairman’s idea.
“Hot sun? Summer? Wait a minute.” Father isn’t happy.
Melvin in blue shirt shakes notebook at Emma.
Policeman waves black folder at Oma. “I’ll be back tomorrow for the boy.”
He says, “I agree with Emma. West would be a bad choice.”
Father starts to stand. “N-not just west but…” He drops back onto chair.
Walt shows teeth. “Even with its view of the cemetery, east dormer would be more sensible. In a few weeks the bishop will arrive for Confirmation of our seventh and eighth grade students, but Stella has taken over the spare bedroom.”
“I plan to sleep on a cot in the office when the bishop is here.”
Points at people. Lips count without words.
“Perhaps, we enclose two dormers. East and west.” Melvin grins. “With smoke-tight doors.”
“Only one, please.” Father sits back on chair. “And not just for the short time the boy will be staying.”
Walt says “East dormer it will be. I can get the walls up by this weekend.” He faces Stella. “Write this down. Cunningham Implement Company will supply materials and labor to partition the east dormer and create a bedroom for the orphan—”
Man-in-black says, “The boy should sleep in his own bedroom, not with his nana.”
Father says, “Not just for the orphan, please.”
Father forgets Caleb’s name again. Stella doesn’t tell him.
“And other guests such as…”
Slides off Stella’s lap.
Walt’s eyes and teeth show bigger. “What other visitors might we expect to spend a night at the Rectory?”
Emma waves her arm. “Just call it a guest bedroom, Walt, and get on with your generous offer written into the minutes.”
Walt’s eyes close and lips cover teeth. “I’m trying to think of the proper way to show our having important guests.” He faces Stella. “Read what I have so far.”
“Oh, for God’s sake, Walt.”
“Emma, please, no blasphemy.” Father isn’t happy. “Write what Walt just said but leave out the orphan part.”
Not Caleb’s bedroom?
“Please add that it will be done this weekend, Stella.”
Emma smiles. “Nice touch for the record, Walt.”
Walt wipes forehead with white cloth. “The upstairs is already plumbed for steam heat, but plastering will have to wait for warm weather.” He glances around the group. “No need to write that into the minutes.”
“Don’t forget the door, Walt.”
“Of course, Emma.” A big-tooth smile. “I’m sure Ben over at York Mercantile would give the parish a good deal on some bedroom furniture.” Teeth hide and eyes find hands. “Ben and I have had problems over the past decade, and it’s about time we bury the hatchet.” Walt faces Father and waits for Father’s eyes. “Father Busch, I recommend we ask Ben York to join our council as Felix Gerhard’s replacement.”
“B-but the b-boy…” Father’s tongue is tired, wants to nap.
Emma says, “Bang your gavel, Walt. I gotta get back to the café.”
Gavel hits table. “Adjourned.” Walt stands at chalk board and wipes off word that starts with Oma’s letter.
“What about Caleb, ’Tella?”
“You stay with Father and Nana.”
Stella smiles.

CHAPTER FOUR (posted 8/25/2019)

Friday, November 24, 1899

Crayons in box on table point to picture of Jesus. Want Caleb to pick color for Jesus’ beard.
Nana’s Jesus has a brown beard. Oma said Jesus beard should be black.
Doesn’t like black. Fire makes stick-soldier turn black. Asks Stella, “What color is Jesus’ beard?”
Stella turns from stove and points to brown and yellow. “Some shade between these two colors.”
Face wants to cry. Knocking on the kitchen door makes stomach jerk.
“Please see who’s there, Caleb.”
Voice shakes. “Maybe Papa.”
“I told you not to call him Papa. Besides, Father wouldn’t bother to knock.” She points. “Open the door and surprise whoever it is.”
“But, Nana.”
“You can call me Nana, for now. At least until you learn to pronounce your ‘s’ words.” Nana keeps eyes on Caleb.
Whimpers and does slow walk. Opens door and sees lady with red hair from café. She grabs arm of boy bigger than Caleb. Boy’s lip curls, eyes glare at lady.
“Hello, Caleb.” She pushes boy into kitchen.
Backs into Nana. Looks up at her and points. “Oma.”
Boy slams door shut. Oma takes green and yellow candy suckers from brown purse. Boy grabs green one. She shows Caleb yellow one.
Shakes head. Wants green one.
She puts yellow sucker in her mouth. “Good morning, Stella. Who the hell is Oma?”
“Good morning, Emma. “Oma was Caleb’s mother. I’m Nana, his grandmother. We can deal with it later.”
“I’ll rather like the idea of role-playing his mom.” Yellow sucker between teeth, Oma grins. “Nana, I would like you to meet my son. Buddy, this is Miss Reinhardt, Father Busch’s house keeper.” She points at Caleb, teeth crush yellow sucker. “And this, I suppose, is your new brother, Caleb. He’s about your age.”
“Caleb is five.” Words left lips without permission. Sits and looks at Jesus’ beard with no color.
“Close enough.” Oma sets purse on table and takes off boy’s cap. He sticks out green tongue.
“Father Busch isn’t here, Emma. He’s in Harrington making his rounds at the hospital.”
“I know. Every Friday morning after Mass. Father used to stop at the café for breakfast before you became his cook.” She licks finger and pats down bunch of boy’s black hair. It pops back up.
“Then why…?”
She brushes red hair from her eyes. “I could say we just happened to be in the neighborhood but it would be a white lie.”
Oma tells Nana not to lie to Caleb.
“Sorry to barge into Father’s private quarters. I rang at the office entrance.”
“Caleb and I were involved in some serious art work, but I try to listen for visitors to the Rectory when he’s not here.” She frowns. “You rang the office bell knowing Father was out?”
“My first lie for the day. Okay?”
Oma says, “Don’t lie to me about my baby, Sean.”
“Am I forgiven? Nana?”
Nana? Not Stella?
“You’re forgiven, Emma. Take off your coats and sit down.”
Buddy drops coat on floor and sits on Father’s chair feet facing wrong way. “Buddy, please let your mother have that chair.” Nana moves chair too close to Caleb’s chair. “Sit here and I’m sure Caleb will share some of his crayons.”
Picks crayon from box. Colors Jesus’ beard green. Careful to stay inside the lines.
Nana shakes her head and turns away.
Shoves green crayon back and closes box. Makes eating-lemons face.
“Cookie for you, too, Emma? With a cup of coffee, perhaps?”
“Aha, a peace offering. Yes, I drink it black.” She drapes coats over back of Father’s chair.
Slams coloring book shut. Wants Nana’s eyes to scold.
“Be nice to your new friend and share.” She pours Oma’s coffee. “Careful, it’s boiling hot.”
Opens coloring book to Jesus green beard. Shows Buddy other page. Pushes box of colors little bit closer.
Buddy dumps crayons onto pile. He doesn’t color careful. His mother should tell him to color inside lines. She says, “Buddy, tell Caleb thank you.”
Buddy colors with crayon in each hand. He doesn’t say thank you.
Oma should scold her son. She pours coffee into saucer and sips. Tells Nana. “I came to apologize for my rude comment yesterday.”
“I don’t know what you’re sorry about, Emma.”
“Having been with Father Busch barely a year, you aren’t aware of local gossip.” Oma’s eyes find the couch in living room with Mother’s quilt. “Father keeps you hidden away in this house.”
“I want to live with Caleb and Nana, but Sean keeps me hidden away.”
Nana moves crayons and sets down two glasses of milk with plate of cookies. Sniffs. Not cookie like Caleb’s real Nana made. Buddy grabs two cookies and dunks one with fingers into milk. He jams whole cookie into his mouth, licks fingers.
takes small bite and makes Oma’s eating-lemons face. Spits cookie into milk and pushes it down with finger. Nana doesn’t look at Caleb.
She tells Oma, “I just quietly do my job as Father’s housekeeper and avoid gossip, Emma.”
Buddy’s mother looks at his scribbly picture. Smiles?
She faces Nana. “That’s not how the real world works, Stella.”
“I’m just Stella now, not Nana. Done role playing with names?”
“I was only trying to amuse the kids. With adults, I’m still Emma and you’re Stella.” She looks at Caleb, “Kids will say anything to get attention.”
Nana should tell Emma not to hurt Caleb’s feelings.
“Sorry I interrupted. You were describing the real world.”
Emma says, “Well, you won’t find it at the nunnery in Harrington. And not at the nun’s house here in Bovine.”
“Teachers here are Benedictines. I was preparing to be a Franciscan sister.”
No brown dress and bonnet. Not Nana. Not Fran…
Stella looks sad at Emma. “Until Mother Superior made me drop out before taking my final vows. Told me to serve God as a lay person. She felt I wasn’t ready for the cloistered life.”
“Amen to that.”
“I still feel bound by chastity, poverty, and obedience.”
Emma waves her hand at ceiling. “After a few years of marriage, all women look favorably at chastity, can’t avoid poverty, and we should be used to obeying.”
Policeman says Oma must obey the law.
Stella says, “I’m still wondering how you were rude to me yesterday.”
“I accused you of keeping my dead husband’s name on the record.” Emma takes a big breath. “I was your age when we married, Felix was in his sixties.” She pauses. “Thank you for not gasping.”
Stella’s face is surprised.
“Before you became secretary, Father Busch kept the minutes, summaries he called them, until Cunningham got all uppity about rules of order.” Emma drinks from sauce and then blows into coffee cup. “I imagine that’s how his wife, Clara, runs her household. I’ll have to admit, meetings have gone much smoother since.”
“Back in high school, those rules of order were barely mentioned. Teachers enforced rules, and in the convent, Mother Superior—”
Buddy’s mother slaps the table. “That’s the kind of top-down thinking that we have to put up with when dealing in church matters. Case-in-point, the Orphan Train business.” Lady with red hair pours hot coffee into saucer again and slurps from it. “Dumping New York street kids on us.” Café Lady looks angry. “And the Matt Gerhard matter.”
“Father Busch just wants Matt to repent.”
Lady with red hair smiles funny. “It’s more serious than that. Even the pope got involved.”
“I’ll take it all the way to the pope.” Man-in-Black laughs.
“Mary had problems when she carried her last baby. She almost died giving birth to their daughter, Rose.” Emma whispers secret too loud.
Nana says Little Sister came out of Oma’s belly.
Picks up black crayon. Wants to scribble all over Jesus.
Man-in-Black said Little Sister died. Nana and Oma cried. Caleb cried, too.
Puts black crayon into empty box. Buddy off of his chair.
“Mary already had her son, Earl, who, by the way, is about our boys’ age.”
“Caleb, isn’t my… I mean I’m not his mother.”
“Of course not by blood. She sips coffee from cup. “You and Father are a family unit.”
“Just until Father finds Caleb a home.”
“Your boy can’t stay with his grandmother.”
“And after hell freezes over.” Emma sets her cup on dirty saucer. “Unless Matt and Mary adopt Caleb. They can’t have any more children.”
“Oma won’t give you another Little Sister.”
Stella lifts her cup but doesn’t drink. “Can’t have?”
“Matt had some surgeon fix his wife to never have any more babies.” Emma shakes her finger. “Father Busch handed down Mary’s penance.” She smiles mean. “Avoid having sex for the rest of her life.”
Oma says sex is a bad word.
Stella Stands. She sits back down.
“Matt complained—a fist to the holy schnoz before their argument ended.” Another mean smile.
Buddy goes into living room.
“Ask Father about his crooked nose, some time.”
Stella goes to ice box, but just holds handle, doesn’t like Emma’s talk. She turns and asks Emma, “Will your step-grandson, Earl, start school next year with our…these boys?”
Emma says, “A welcome change of subject. Buddy will be in the second grade in town, and Earl will start at a country school where they hardly even count grades. Every cluster of farm families built their own one-room school house. Except for church on Sunday, those kids don’t get to town much.”
“At the Council meeting, you didn’t sound too hopeful about presenting the idea of adoption to…your step son, Matt.”
Plays peek-a-boo with Buddy behind Mother’s quilt.
“He’s a couple years older than me and didn’t approve a teenager marrying his father. Before he died, Felix told him to take care of his young bride. Matt bought me off with a few sacks of oats and some bushels of potatoes.”
Oma says, “You can’t buy me off with some crazy promises.”
“I’m okay with the deal. I got Bud and the café to keep me going. And my son, Buddy.” Emma smiles big. “I was hoping Caleb and Buddy might strike up a friendship. Do some playing together.” She looks surprised at Buddy’s empty chair and his colored-up picture. She doesn’t see Buddy wearing Mother’s quilt like a cape.
“Oh my gosh, Emma.” Stella’s eyes move from Buddy’s picture to Caleb’s. “What have we been saying in front of the boys?”
Stella is sad that Caleb colored Jesus’ beard green.
Buddy runs and slaps his mouth. Makes woo-woo-woo sound. He drags Mother’s quilt. Emma chases him and takes it away. “That’s Caleb’s. Gives it to Stella.”
Buddy’s game with Mother’s quilt is funny.
Stella folds it and puts it back on the couch. “I’ll be glad when Caleb gets his own room.”
Oma says, “Caleb sleeps in his own bed.”
Emma tells Stella, “I have an idea. Let’s drive out to Matt’s farm. Give our boys a chance to burn off some of their pent up energy.”
Smiles at Buddy. He smiles back.
“I’m still under the vow of obedience.”
“Would it make a difference if I told you to come with us?”
“I am bound to obey Father.”
Father is Stella’s Papa?
“You get his permission and I’ll stop around noon tomorrow.” Emma gives Buddy his coat. Buddy puts hood on head and pulls sleeves under chin. He runs around kitchen making scary face.
Giggles. Buddy is funny.
Emma says, “Put your coat on the proper way.” She takes coat and picks up purse with no candy.
Buddy shoves arms in the wrong sleeves. “Button it in back, Ma.”
She laughs and pushes him out the door. She waves back at Caleb. “Don’t worry, we’ll find you a place to live.”
Lifts arm. Hand won’t wave back.
“Good Lord, what kind of mess did I just get into?”
Nana is sad.