Monday Afternoon, November 27, 1899
Stella opens café door and bells tingle-tingle. Dark inside. Eyes make tears. Smell hurts nose. Shiny bells jingle when door closes. Two ladies at table stop talking and look up. They like bells, too.
Stella pulls Caleb to ladies’ table. “Hello, Mrs. Cunningham.” She shoves Caleb too close. “Hello Mrs. Sturgis.”
Mrs. Sturgis says, “Please call me Betsy. I’ve been plain ole‘ Betsy for over seventy years. We just came from a Christian Mother’s wake.” Her eyes find Caleb. “Poor woman left an adult son that isn’t quite right in the head.”
Give him Mothers’ quilt, too.
Lady with Betsy sticks long pin in big hat with pink and yellow make-believe flowers. Nana made letters “C” and “D” and flowers with needle and thread on Caleb’s baseball cap.
“You and the boy may join us until our husband’s arrive.” Lady moves purse with pink and yellow flowers like hat.
Stella pulls back chair, doesn’t say name is Caleb. She takes off Caleb’s cap and yellow and brown scarf from Earl’s mother. Fire burned baseball cap with Caleb’s letters.
Climbs on chair without help.
Lady looks at Caleb, puts purse on lap.
Wouldn’t touch flowers on purse.
“You must be the orphan who came to see Mary Gerhard.”
“His name is Caleb.” Nana tells name, sits next to Caleb. “Say hello to Mrs. Cunningham and Mrs. Sturgis.”
Counts fingers touching each other. “Hello.” Nana pushes Caleb’s hands off table.
“You can call me Grandma Betsy. Mary told us how well you got along with her children.”
Grandma Betsy is nice.
“Without any success of placing the child.” Mrs. Cunningham tucks hair under hat.
Puts hands back on table. Tells Grandma Betsey, “Caleb rode Earl’s calf.”
“Who?” Lady with hat doesn’t remember Caleb.
“That’s nice.” Grandma Betsy’s eyes go away. “It’s a shame Matt won’t let Mary keep Caleb.”
“I stay with Nana.” Ladies look surprised.
“Nana?” Mrs. Cunningham shows sour face.
“Nana is his sometimes nickname for me”
“Interesting.” She looks at door. “Walt and Hank should be here by now.” Mrs. Cunningham with hat doesn’t like Caleb.
Emma carries three plates of food. Doesn’t drop any. “Where’s Father?”
“He should be here shortly.” Nana’s head turns one way and then back. “May we save him a place at our table?” Emma doesn’t hear.
Grandma Betsy says, “Oh, the men will probably sit by themselves.”
Mrs. Cunningham says, “Without the boy would be better. Our husbands will want to share what they learned at the convent in Harrington.”
Looks at shoe. Caleb has secret, too.
Emma comes back without plates. “Come with me, Caleb. Buddy needs help.” Back door opens and Buddy carries plate of meat. “Table by the window, Buddy.” She hands Caleb basket of bread. “Follow Buddy to Melvin’s table.” She gives little push.
Sees Man-in-Blue. “I don’t…”
“You know Mr. Trask. If Melvin wants to talk, just say hi.”
“Buddy can do it.”
Emma says, “Okay.” She looks around. “I see Father, Walt, and Hank are joining the ladies. Take this bread to Stella’s table.”
“Okay.” Holds basket with both hands. Careful not to drop. Man with white beard uses cane to walk.
Man-in-Black with shiny shoes walks with cane. Nana says from street fighting.
Man hooks cane on chair back and sits. Gives Caleb big smile. “What have we here?”
“Bread.” Looks down. “No apple butter and Strawberry jelly.” Finds man’s tiny eyes. “I rode Earl’s calf.”
“Did you, now?” His thumbs snap suspenders. Hand reaches out. “I’m Grandpa Hank. What’s your name?”
“Caleb.” Shakes man’s hand. At council meeting, Melvin said Caleb would like Hank for grandpa. Wants to sit on Grandpa Hank’s lap.
Father points. “Other tables need their bread, too.”
“Buddy can do it.”
Stella says, “You better help him. The adults want to talk.”
“Okay.” Looks at Grandpa Hank. “I’m the ginker bread man.”
Mrs. Cunningham opens purse with flowers. “Other documents—”
“One moment, Clara.” Father waves his hand. “Scoot. Your friend needs help.”
Buddy not friend. Goes to kitchen and tells Emma, “Caleb has secret, too.”
“What prompted that bit of information?”
“Nana doesn’t want Caleb to hear Father’s secret.”
“You’re better off not knowing. Take it from Oma.”
Emma’s not Oma.
Buddy picks up empty plate. He says, “Pa’s cooking a whole deer outside. Grab a plate and get some meat.”
“Caleb stays inside.” Looks at Emma. “Takes bread to tables.”
Emma says, “Now that’s team work.” Brings bread to two tables with Buddy. Sees Nana’s chair empty. Mouth can’t say words.
Remember to use your words. If you go silent again, words might go away forever.
Father shows Mrs. Cunningham brown envelope. “I agreed to a meeting with the Franciscans about the orphanage, but not at the Rectory.” He lays brown envelope on table. “The boy has caused enough of a scandal.”
“Here you are, Caleb.” Nana’s voice from behind. “Sit, Mr. Gingerbread Man. Your food is getting cold.”
Father smiles too big. “Hello, Caleb.”
Already said hello to big people.
Mrs. Cunningham puts brown envelope in pretty purse. She takes pin out of hat and pushes hair back in. “One more thing, Father—”
“Tomorrow at the Rectory would be a better time and place to discuss this matter.” His eyes move like dodge-ball in Nana’s game with Caleb. “You may bring Mrs. Sturgis along, if she makes you more comfortable, Clara.”
Father calls Mrs. Cunningham Clara. Mr. Cunningham with big teeth is Walt. Clara says, “I do not need support of a friend to speak to the pastor of my church.”
Grandma Betsy says, “I would love to go with you, Clara. After all, we Christian Mothers have supported the bishop’s plan from the start.” She glances at Father. “At least most of the women do.”
“But none have stepped up to the plate.” Clara peeks into purse and pulls string tight.
Grandma Betsy puts hand on Grandpa Hank’s hand.
She likes Grandpa Hank, too.
“He made some building blocks for you to play with. I’ll bring them to the Rectory when Mrs. Cunningham and I come to see Father.” She looks at Father. “When would you like to meet?”
“Tomorrow, I’m busy all afternoon.” Clara didn’t wait her turn.
Father says, “Morning will be fine. Perhaps ten o’clock.”
Walt shows big teeth. “I think I can find a cast-iron horse and wagon from our boys’ toy collection.”
Mrs. Cunningham shows him eating-lemon face.
Big teeth smile. “Caleb can use them to haul his toys around the Rectory.”
No toys. Only Locket and Mothers’ quilt.
“Not in the office.” Father and Stella talk together. They laugh.
“Caleb likes horses.” Words come back. Hopes the wagon is white.