"The manner of giving is worth more than the gift"
"He's muttering about the phony sales associate who was perving on his body and mine," Davey offered. "The guy would've been stuck like a fat hog if he'd touched any one of us. Right guys?"
The other four boys nodded their heads solemnly, indicating it'd be so- even the two youngest, Eddie and Jamie.
Noticing their response, I held up my hands. "Hold it right here! We'll talk about the phony associate in a minute. First, every one of you who is carrying a knife, raise your hand."
Five sets of eyes pivoted toward Robbie. Robbie, before venturing any further into this discussion, scrunched up his face in thought considering what the outcome of this question might be.
"You're not going to take them away from us if we do have them on us are you?"
My nephews were testing me much like Robbie tested Andy and lost. My answer or answers and how it was said it were important to my future relationships with them. I slowly shook my head from side to side.
"No, I'll not do that. A knife can come in handy many times on a farm, but I will ask you not to use it as a weapon unless your life or one of your brother's is in danger."
"How about if our ass is in danger?" Scottie asked.
"Okay, that too, but for god's sake try not to murder anyone."
"Can we cut his nuts off?" chimed in Jamie.
"Because when you cut the nuts off of a critter they bleed a lot and I don't want you ruining your new clothes. Now, what about this phony associate?"
I looked at Robbie for the answer. With a shrug, Robbie told me the whole story from the time the guy trotted over to help them, his own suspicions the guy was up to no good, to spotting the phony identification badge, Davey's open fly as a shout for help, and my entry into the changing booth.
"Why didn't you say something at the store?" I asked calmly. "I would've reported him to management. I know the man who is the manager of that store."
"He was long gone, Uncle Jacob," Robbie explained. "No way, no how will it happen to me again or any of my brothers," he muttered, "Good riddance to the mother-fucker!"
"Yeah, he took off like his ass was on fire and the nearest water was a mile away," giggled Eddie.
"Where did you hear that?"
"From Momma, Uncle Jacob, when she threatened to cut the social worker's pecker off and stuff it up his ass when he came to the house."
"Oh! What happened then?"
"We moved up here; left the same night."
"Yeah, Robbie drove most of the way, too," Scottie added, "except for a short ways Davey drove."
"Oh, my god," I moaned, imagining all that could have happened on the journey. "It's a wonder you all weren't killed or arrested for driving with no license."
"But Robbie and Davey are good drivers, Uncle Jacob, so there was nothing to worry about," Scottie added reassuringly.
I decided to make no other comments concerning my nephews' knives, the pervert in the store, or their driving habits. No, I came to the conclusion I best not under estimate what my nephews were capable of doing. Granted, they were still young physically, but evidently their experiences, many and varied, prepared them to be street-wise of that there was no doubt. I decided I'd call the manager anyway when we got home. I knew him and expected him to take some action. Perhaps the store captured him on surveillance video or been seen by store employees. I also decided not to speak of the sexual innuendos of the man, but only the phony identification badge my nephews recognized.
Andy's SUV wasn't parked at home when we arrived. I thought they might be still in town. After all, they had a doctor to see, an attorney, and some shopping to do. I hoped Janet wouldn't be too tired after coming home.
"Unload your clothes bags," I said. "You can show them to your mother when she and Uncle Andy come back from town. I'll put the van away and stop in the office. I want to talk to Mrs. Jenkins and Lee and Ted about the day. After I'm done, I'll come in and see what we can get started for supper."
The boys unloaded the van, carried their bags inside, and deposited them in the living room in anticipation of showing them to their mother.
"Save the chocolates until we've all shown her our new duds," Robbie said. Looking at Mattie's happy face, he grinned back, "Yeah, she'll be happy, you dufus."
Listening to a brief summary of the day's activities, to this point, from Lee and Ted, I was well satisfied things were under control and well in hand for the next day. They had several large orders for berries and the trucks were on their way back from the farmer's markets, sold out! The ones working the farmer's markets and the stand in town would earn not only their hourly wage, but a percent of the sales as well. The U-pick operation closed down shortly after noon when the selected field was picked. Ted had a crew moving some traveler irrigation guns into that field to begin irrigation in the morning.
Mrs. Jenkins reviewed my bills with me and the day's receipts; checked over the time sheets, and indicated my mail was on my desk.
"Nothing really important," she explained. "I pulled out the bills and payments for products. The bills are in the stack to your left and the money ones on your right," she commented as I sat down at my desk.
"Oh, you did have a call from Rose Boyer concerning you seeking a full-time housekeeper and cook. Wants to know when she can come in for an interview. You also had a call from the warehouse you're supposed to pick up the tomatoes from on Thursday letting you know they still had blueberries if you wanted any and they're short of help so you'll have to bring someone along to help you load."
"Call them and tell them we'll take one hundred lugs of blueberries if they have them. I think we can sell that many. They should have some fresh fruit from down south as well. Check to see if I can get any radishes and green onions, bundled, and some peppers, green beans, cukes, zucchini, maybe some broccoli and cauliflower. Check last year's sales for this time and order accordingly. Our bibb/ butterhead lettuce will be ready next week so see if they have some regular head lettuce."
I made a note to line up help for Thursday, then asked, "This Rose Boyer; know her?"
"Actually, quite a bit. She was a school mate of your mothers, a grade or two behind her. Left after graduation to go to college somewhere down state to study music. She was the accompanist for all of the high school choral groups. Don't know if she ever finished college, but I do know she married an over the road trucker, raised five kids, lost her husband in an accident, and moved back here after her youngest son died. She has family here yet."
"When would I be able to talk to her?"
"How about tomorrow morning when she brings her grandson to work?"
"Which one is he?"
"Paul Boyer, the youngest on our crew; started this year. Ted has him working the fields."
It identified to me who the young man who spoke up when I mentioned to Ted and Lee my need for a housekeeper.
"Give her a call and set it up, okay?"
I thought a moment before adding, "Give Beth a call at the market stand in town and have her call Pastor Wilson if she had any perishables that won't keep until the next day. He'll use it in his free meals program."
"Nope; many thanks for watching the Farm today."
"By the looks of the size of your family, Jacob, it won't be the last time. No complaints understand; more sympathy for you and Andy since it's just been the two of you in recent years."
Andy was helping Janet into the house when I left the office. I hurried to assist, but we were quickly replaced by Robbie, Davey, and Scottie.
"We'll do it, Uncle Andy and Uncle Jacob," Robbie said as he took one of his mother's arms and Davey the other. Scottie sort of stood behind her to help steady her walk.
"The little boys have a pillow and a blanket ready at the chair so you'll be comfortable when we show you our new clothes," he said to his mother.
Janet managed a smile and a "thank you." Her sons loved her so much and she was going to be so, so, sad to leave them!
"Help me unload my car," Andy asked me. "I've got several bags of clothes Janet picked out and I stopped by the super market to pick up some groceries. Supper will be hot dogs, brats, buns, potato salad, baked beans, and lettuce salad from our place. Ice cream and strawberries for dessert. I also picked up three gallons of milk, two gallons of orange juice, three dozen eggs, fresh mushrooms, and a package of flour tortillas. Its breakfast burritos and juice in the morning for breakfast, using the eggs, mushrooms, and leftovers from supper; if there is any."
It didn't take long to unload the SUV and put items in the refrigerator.
"I'll start the grill while you take Janet's clothes in to her," Andy said.
"How's she doing?"
"Later, Jacob, later."
Mattie was in the process of just finishing showing his mother his new clothes. I held up my hand, leaned over to her asking, "Anything I can get you?
"How about a Brandy Old-fashioned, brother dear?"
"Done; Mattie, why don't you, Eddie, and Jamie go out front and help Uncle Andy with fixing supper while Robbie, Davey, and Scottie show your mom their clothes. I'll put your mom's clothes in her room and fix her a before dinner cocktail."
The "little boys" scampered out of the living room heading toward the porch and their Uncle Andy.
I returned from the kitchen with Janet's drink, fluffed up her pillow a bit, rearranged her blanket, and quietly asked, "Bad day?"
"Yes and no; yes, I'm so fortunate to have six lovely, loving sons and a loving, forgiving brother. The no part is, it's going to happen sooner than I wanted or expected."
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