‘All right. Please do. '
‘Donald and I are not going to be able to live here. '
‘I'm sorry to hear that. '
‘I'm sorry, too. But it's the truth. '
‘When are you leaving? '
‘Don't you want to know why we are leaving? And where we are going? '
‘You will tell me if you wish to tell me. '
‘It's because we can't stand being treated like prisoners in a jail! '
I made no answer. The silence stretched out, until finally my daughter said, ‘Don't you want to know how you've been mistreating us? '
‘If you wish to tell me. '
‘Uh. .. Donnie, you tell her! '
‘No, ' I objected, I'll hear from Donald any complaint he has about how I have treated him. But not about how I have treated you. You are right here, and I am your mother and the head of this house. If you have complaints, make them to me. Don't try to fob it off on your brother. '
‘That's it! Orders! Orders! Orders! Nothing but orders, all the time. .. like we were criminals in a prison! '
I recited to myself a mantra I learned in World War Two: Nil illegitimi carborundum. I said it three times, under my breath. ‘Priscilla, if that is what you mean by orders, nothing but orders, I can assure you that I won't change it. Any complaints you have I will listen to. But I won't listen to them second hand. '
‘Oh, Mother, you're impossible! '
‘Here is another order, young lady. Keep a civil tongue in your head. Donald, do you have any complaints about my treatment of you? You. Not your sister. '
‘Uh. .. no, Mama. '
‘Priscilla, do you have any specific complaints? Anything but a general objection to taking orders? '
‘Mother, you - There is no point in trying to reason with you! '
‘You haven't tried reason as yet. I'm going to bed. If you leave before I get up, please leave your latch keys on the kitchen table. Goodnight. '
‘Goodnight, Mama, ' Donald answered.
Priscilla said nothing.
Priscilla did not come down for breakfast.
‘She said to tell you she doesn't want any breakfast, Mama. '
‘Very well. Fried eggs and little sausages this morning. How do you want your eggs, Donald? Broken yolks and vulcanised? Or just chased through the kitchen? '
‘Uh, however you Nave yours, I guess. Mama, Priss doesn't really mean she doesn't want breakfast. Shall I go up and tell her that you said she has to come to breakfast? '
‘No. I usually have my eggs up and easy but not sloppy. Suits? '
‘Huh? Oh, sure! Please, Mama, can't I at least go up and tell her that you said breakfast is ready and she should come eat? '
‘Why not? '
‘Because I have not said that and I do not say it. The first child to try a hunger strike on me was your brother Woodrow. He lasted several hours but he cheated - he had stashed vanilla wafers under his pillow. When he finally gave up and came downstairs, I did not permit him to eat until dinner time, which was several hours away. He did not try it again. ' (But he tried everything else, with lots of imagination! ) ‘I don't coddle hunger strikers, Donald, or tantrums of any sort. .. and I think no government should. Coddle hunger strikers, I mean, or people who chain themselves to fences or lie down in front of vehicles. Grown-up tantrums. Donald, you have objected to my orders twice this morning. Or is it three times? Are you catching this from Priscilla? Don't you have it through your head yet that I do not give unnecessary orders, but those I do give, I expect to have carried out? Promptly and as given. If I tell you to go jump in the lake, I expect you to return wringing wet. '
He grinned at me. ‘Where is the nearest lake? '
‘What? Swope Park, I guess. Unless we count a water hazard at the golf club. Or a landscaping pond at Forest Hills. But I don't recommend disturbing either corpses or golfers. '
‘There's a difference? '
‘Oh, certainly, some at least. Donald, I don't mind that Priscilla chooses to skip breakfast this morning, as I need to talk with you without having her hanging over you and putting words in your mouth. When do you two plan to leave? And where do you plan to go, if you don't mind telling me? '
‘Shucks, Mama, that was never serious. How can we leave? No money, and no place to go. Except back to Aunt Marian and we won't do that. We'll never go near her again. '
‘Donald, just what is it you find so poisonous about Aunt Marian? Six years ago you both elected to stay with her when you could have come with me. What happened? Did she punish you endlessly? Or what? '
‘Oh, no! She hardly ever punishes anybody. Sometimes she would have Pop work us over. Like this last hooraw with Gus. '
‘What happened there? Gus is a year older than you are and bigger. .. or was the last time I saw him. You said, "He had her down and was giving her a bad time. " How bad a time? Was he raping her? Or trying to? '
‘Uh. .. Mama, I'm in a prejudiced position. Jealous, I guess. '
‘So I would guess, too. Was it really rape? Or - What is it you young people call it today? They were "getting it on"? '
He sighed and looked hurt. ‘Yeah, they were. I - I got sore. '
I patted his hand. ‘Poor Donald! Dear, are you beginning to realise that you aren't doing yourself any good by falling in love with your sister? Or doing her any good? You are probably harming her even more than you are harming yourself. Do you see that, dear? '
‘But, Mama, I couldn't leave her there. Uh, I'm sorry we didn't come with you six years ago. But you were so strict and Aunt Marian wasn't, and - Oh, I'm sorry! '
‘How was Marian about housework? I am about to assign each of you your share of the work. But Priscilla seems to be clumsy in the kitchen. Yesterday she filled the freezer, dumping stuff in any which way, then didn't turn it on. I just happened to catch it or we could have lost the whole load. Did she take her turn at cooking along with Mildred and Sara and whoever is the right age now? '
‘I don't think so. No, I know she didn't. Granny Bearpaw does all the cooking. .. and doesn't like having anyone else in her kitchen. '
‘Who is Granny Bearpaw? '
‘Aunt Marian's cook. Black as coal and a hook nose. Half Negro, half Cherokee. And a swell cook! Always willing to fix you a bite. But you had better ask for it from the door. If you step inside, she's likely to wave a frying-pan at you. '
‘She sounds like quite a gal. And it sounds like I'm going to have to teach Priscilla to cook. '
- I am not going to batter your feelings or mine by describing…
- (Nelson had found it. ) There seemed to be evidence that…
- Some said the cause was high taxes. This sounds more reasonable;…
- But all was not lost. Or should not have been. Once that jack…
- ‘All the way! A fair exchange is no robbery. ' I didn't…
- ‘But I'll design a better one. Mo, where did you hear of KC's…
- ‘Good. I have the train schedules and the Pullman reservations;…
- The rest of 1898 was one long bad dream. Our men had gone to…
- He looked sheepish. ‘It's bright sunlight, Mo. This is awfully…
- No use pretending anything else. I had too little to eat and too much…
- ‘How can I tell, Maureen? ' Father looked terribly thoughtful.…
- ‘Certainly. You want it to show to your customers? Darling girl, I…
- ‘Pardon my raised eyebrows; I thought you had sworn off. Very well;…
- Donald made no comment. I went on, ‘In the mean time we must get transcripts…
- Brian did manage to ‘correct' his War Department age, simply because his…
- ‘This is the sort of nudge the Circle of Ouroboros specialises…