Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.
“I’ve traveled every road in this here land.”
My summer started with my family not understanding why I wanted to take a break in-between graduating high school and starting college. To them, it was the ultimate mistake because it may or may not possibly skew my results of getting in. To me, it was an escape from their insanity, control and a chance to finally get to know the rest of the family. There was a property that my parents owned on the Maryland and West Virginia border, a lot built when the canals rolled through, and had stayed for all the time after they failed. It was where I had spent every single one of my summers working, carrying on the dream of a man I had barely known and his wife that I had never gotten to meet.
My great-great-grandparents on my father’s mother’s father’s side, were people that you would use odd to describe while trying to be nice about their quirks. He (Mac) had worked for the railway, as that was the main employment in the town of Cumberland, as an engineer and many other things. When he retired from that, he worked for the school in Oldtown as a handyman of sorts, retired from that eventually and went on to take the record for oldest citizen of the town. He was 103 when he died in 2001 but it was not these collections of accomplishments that intrigued me, it was his other hobbies. When I refer to hobbies, I am of course referring to his sideline ways to make money which included being a mechanic and selling moonshine before and after Prohibition. This is the real gem of his life, in my opinion.
His wife (Kate) had died somewhere around 20 years before I was born and no one ever really told me exactly when she died. All I knew is that she was never there and hadn’t been for some time, leaving me the house and her craft projects as the only way to get to know her. She was in fact a witch, another thing I view as a highlight that other people shy away from.
“She was just a simple medicine woman with a knowledge of old remedies.”
“That’s not what the neighbors say.”
Who knows, she may actually be alive somewhere.
But the real beginning of my story starts at the point when I got to this house, unpacked everything, and found myself in the need of a job. I had worked many jobs in my short lifetime and could apply myself almost anywhere in any field. The people up here knew me and who my family was and most likely knew that I was not going to cheat them out of their money or their souls. I never did get around to applying anywhere that summer because my main source of income, came directly to me.
Her name was Maria G. Jones.
This woman was evidently an influential and powerful woman, wherever it was that she came from eventually, but she was now living out a very unhappy wife as the family matriarch. I knew of her as the older and much richer sister of my next door neighbor and she was described by the people in this town as a traitor. After nearly 50 years, there was still bad blood about how she left to marry some senator, how he died under mysterious circumstances and how she was now one of the most powerful women in the state of Virginia.
But here she was anyways, sitting on my back porch with a young-ish guy and a large brown retriever mix. Every so often she’d motion to the man to rap on the storm door and call out to me. While this proceeding was going on, I was hiding behind the old, red, wooden and rather thick kitchen door, slowly sneaking over to the window to see who it was. The second I saw her, I knew who it was, not from ever meeting her before but just from the description of her piercing eyes and hairdo. The one thing I hadn't expected about her, was the ensemble outfit of a parrot skirt, Hawaiian shirt and a large rainbow colored sombrero.
Not all that piercing to be honest. And what the hell is with the Hawaiian shirts?
The guy looked slightly like a picture I saw once of her husband, certainly too young to be one of her sons but possibly young enough to be a grandson. Either way, his style read back and forth as stuck-up ass with no taste for fashion.
The cycle continued three more times before I decided to let them in, this change in heart only happening because it was starting to rain. I stepped out onto the small concrete porch, nearly tripping over the dog resting peacefully under the banister and mustered up enough care to talk to them.
“Good afternoon.”“Yes, it is, isn’t?” Her reply was rather sweet compared to the Devil-ish cackle I had been told to fear.
“What do you want?”
“Going inside would be a nice start.”
My please drop dead face rolled across right on time but I let them in despite that. The dog’s tale was barely inside the door of the mudroom before it started pouring outside. He looked up at me in pure disgust and I still don’t know if he was reacting to me, to them or the raging thunderstorm happening outside that I had just saved his god damn ass from being left out in. Whatever that emotion was that I was facing, there were more important things to worry about than how the dog felt about me.
“But seriously, what do you want from me?”
“I need someone who would like to go on a road trip.”
“You heard me.”
“Yes I did but why? Why me?”
“All in due time dear. Now do you have a cup of tea?”
I drew water from the bucket and placed a kettle on the stove. Then took three mugs out of the upper cupboard and a large metal bowl out of one of the lower ones.
Pointing at the cups I said, "There. Tea. Nearly done. Now tell me about your trip."
"Oh it will be so grand, once I find good places to go. That's partially the reason I came to you, I need someone to find them with me. So would you like to take a leap and go on the possible adventure of a lifetime?"
Here I was, sitting in this kitchen with a woman I had just met and only ever heard bad things about. There was an even more unknown dog and young man lounging in the wicker chairs. After giving it a few minutes thought, I knew there was only one appropriate answer to her query.
"Yes. Just one more question, who are they?"
"My grandson John and the dog is named Harry."
"Well that's all I needed to know. Would you like that mug of tea now?"