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by L. H. Hall

Chapter 14 - Workaholic


by L. H. Hall

Chapter 14


I awakened with the first rays of dawn. Neither Julie nor I had moved during the night, and my arm was still her prisoner. I tried to move it, but she hugged it closer. I did not want to wake her, but I wanted to get to work; so, I gently, but forcibly, pulled my arm from her grip. She stirred a little, but she did not awaken.

I got up, got one of the fold up spades we'd found in the chest, and opened it only half way so I could use it like a hoe. It also had a pick opposite the spade. I had decided to dig up the sharp stubs in the path to the lake. We would have to have, either a late, or cold breakfast, because we could not start a fire until the sun was well above the jungle. If I worked hard, maybe, I could finish before breakfast. The path to the lake was rocky, but the earth between the rocks was soft, and digging up the stubs was not too difficult. I found that I could pull many of them, and those I could not pull, came out easily when I loosened the dirt a little with the pick. The roots did not go down very deep. There were exceptions, and with those, I dug down a few inches, and cut them off, and covered them with dirt. I had finished, and was taking a cool bath in the lake, when Sarah called me.

"Here I am, I'll be there in a minute."

"Are you going to dress the rabbit? or do I have to? and what about the fire?"

"I'll get it." I came up the path.

"Have you been swimming already?" she queried. "I thought you were going to work on the goat yard this morning."

"I am, but I decided it was more important to get the stubs out of the path to the lake. I just finished that, and took my bath while I was down there."

"I've been looking for you. I didn't even think to look down there. I've got the meat out, but that's all."

"I think the sun is high enough to start a fire. I'll do that first; then, I'll dress the rabbit."

When the rabbit was cooking, I turned to the goat yard. Dad would have a heart attack if he could see the work I've done the past few days, I mused silently. I can't believe it either, but there is so much to do. It's like something is driving me. Work, work, work, I can't rest or play without feeling guilty. So many things need to be done. By the time Sarah called me to breakfast, I had such a large pile of brush between the patio and me, I had to cut a path around it. I was hungry. I felt like I had really earned my breakfast.

"This meat would taste a lot better if we had some salt," I griped. "I don't think I will ever get used to not having salt."

"Maybe we could cook some in sea water. That might flavor it," Sarah suggested.

"Of course, it would, but we'd have to carry it up in buckets. That would be a lot of work with everything else we have to do. A bucket of water would get heavy before we got it up here, but it might be worth it. I'll go get a bucket after it gets too hot to cut brush." More work. I don't have time to rest or play now. Why do I do it? It has to be God.

"You'll get sunburned," Sarah warned.

"I'll cut the rest of the pants off the coveralls, and wear the top part, and I'll take it easy and rest in the shade if it gets too hot."

"Can I go with you, Timmy?" Julie requested.

"Not this time, Julie. It'll be too hot, and you have nothing to protect you from the sun," I refused.

"I got the top to my dress that the dolphins ruined."

"You do, at that!" I exclaimed. "We saved them for that very reason. I forgot all about them."

"So did I," Sarah confessed, "unless I needed a rag for something; then, I tore a rag off the skirt."

"Can I go? Timmy? Please? 'Member your rule; nobody's s'posed to go anywhere alone; and Sheba's gotta watch the meat."

"It'll be awful hot out there, and when we get back, it'll be our turn to watch the meat. The others will be tired of watching it."

"I don't care, Timmy. Please let me go."

I looked at Sarah. She gave me a slight nod, so I relented, "I guess so, but I don't want any complaining."

"What are we going to do with all that brush out there?" Jamie changed the subject.

"I don't know. We'll pile as much as we can on the patio and burn it after it dries a little. I thought about burning it right where it's at, but it might catch the jungle on fire if we burn a big pile. Let's pile it on the patio between the stream and the goat pen, but don't block the trail to the jungle."

"We could cut it into small sticks like we use on the fire," Sarah suggested. "We could stack it in the cave north of the stream. We never do anything over there anyway. That way we'd always have dry wood for the fire."

"It would take me a lot longer to get the goat pen ready."

"Maybe me and Jamie could do that," Sarah declared.

"Yeah, we could do it," Jamie agreed.

"That machete is an awful big knife. You could cut yourself pretty bad," I warned.

"We'll be careful," Sarah promised.

"If you'll be careful, you can use the old machete, and look out for those around you. I've learned that a little girl can sneak up on you really fast if she wants something."

I went back to work. I had decided to clean the larger sticks as much as I could before I cut them. Then, I cut them up in three or four foot lengths. It would not be quite as fast, but I thought it would be safer. Even after slowing down to clean up the sticks, the goat yard grew quite a bit before the heat caused me to quit.

Debbie and Julie, with faithful Sheba, had watched the meat, while Sarah and Jamie had made a large dent in their side of the pile of brush.

When I watched the way Jamie and the girls jumped into the tasks that needed to be done, it was obvious that Sarah and I were not the only ones who had grown up over night. Each of us was eager to do what needed to be done. That had to be a miracle. Everyone accepted me as their leader, and followed my instructions. They might complain sometimes, but they always consented to my decisions.

"Jamie will you and Debbie watch the meat while the rest of us take a short swim to get the sweat and dirt off?" I asked. "Maybe after that, Sarah will watch the meat while you swim for a few minutes. Julie and I will go after the salt water."

"I s'pose, but you get to do everything first," Jamie complained.

"I scared the birds while you swam for a long time, yesterday. Besides, we're only going to be in long enough to cool off and take a bath."

Julie already had her dress top on, ready for the trip to the beach. "Can I swim with this on?"

"I guess so; it'll dry in a few minutes. It might even help keep you cool."

After a quick dip in the pool, I cut the rest of the bottoms off the dead man's coveralls, and put the top on. It was big enough for two of me, but it would keep the sun off better than my ragged shirt.

Half way to the beach I discovered my lips were salty after wiping them with the coveralls. I tasted the coveralls. They were salty too. "Does your dress top taste salty, Julie?"

She tasted the garment. "A little bit, but not very much."

"It might not. You might have rinsed all the salt out in the lake."

"What difference does it make?"

"This shirt tastes salty. That means, when it dried, the salt from the sea water stayed in it."

"Is that important?"

"I don't know. Maybe if we had a pan of salt water, and let it dry, there would be salt left in the pan."

"I don't know. Maybe."

"I'm gonna find out."

Just before we got to the beach, I noticed a big flat rock with a puddle in the middle of it. It was fresh water. "That must be from the rain we had, yesterday." I got all the water out of it that I could, and refilled it with six buckets of sea water. "If it doesn't rain too hard, maybe we'll get some salt in a day or so."

"I'll bet it won't work," Julie doubted.

"We'll just have to wait and see. It would be nice to let the water dry down here, and only have to carry the salt up the mountain."

Before we started back with the bucket of sea water, we rolled around in the shallow surf to cool off.

It was terribly hot by the time we reached the cave. It was good to be able to take off the hot shirt and relax. I took my Zane Gray book, which was really getting interesting, into the dim light of the west room to rest. It was much cooler than the main room.

After reading a half dozen pages, I remembered that I had not taken a turn watching the meat. The others probably wanted a break.

"Give me the tee shirt. I'll take a turn," I told Jamie.

"I've only been out here since you and Julie got back."

"You've been on guard off and on all morning. I'll take your turn. Where are the girls?"

"They went to the jungle bathroom."

I took the tee shirt and Jamie disappeared into the cool of the cave. The sun was high overhead. About noon, I thought. We had eaten a late breakfast, but I was hungry. I threw Sheba a strip of jerky, and began chewing on another. The delicious meat was almost dry enough. I hoped it would not rain like it had the day before. I scanned the sky. There was not a cloud in sight, but there were very few days it did not rain. Maybe this would be one of them.

The girls returned with a wild pineapple they had found on their sojourn. Sarah divided it into five pieces to go with the jerky and breadfruit for lunch.

After lunch, Jamie relieved me. I rested and read a while in the cool cave, but I soon got bored. I brought some brush into the cave to cut into sticks. Sarah got the other machete and came to help me. The little girls carried the sticks we cleaned, and stacked them against the wall.

"Lay them straight, and stack them neat," I told them.

"We're tryin', but they don't go straight," Julie murmured.

"Well, lay them as straight as you can."

"I would never have thought about bringing this in here to trim."

"I thought maybe I could cut in the mornings, and trim in here when its too hot to work outside."

"You can't work all the time."

"I know. We can swim and play in the evenings."

"Timmy, is it really that important that we have milk?" Sarah asked. "It seems like this is so much work."

"It'll be a lot of work for two or three weeks, but after that, we can have milk to drink every day. We can't go very far until we get used to the sun enough to stay out all day. It gets boring just sitting around; besides, something seems to be driving me to keep busy."

"Don't you get awful tired?"

"Yeah, but I don't think about home so much when I'm busy."

"I know."

"After we bring the meat in, I'm going to take Sheba back into her den cave, and get two more machetes, so that we don't have to use that one with the loose handle."

"Do you want us all to go?"

"Come if you want to, but I didn't plan to be in there more than five minutes. You're welcome to come. Maybe Mr. Wilcox hid something else in there."

"I don't think I will, unless you want me to. It's my turn to relieve Jamie. He's probably pretty hot." Sarah said. "I'll give him the knife. Maybe he'll take the hint."

"Naw. Just leave it here. He'll come if he wants to."

When Sarah decided it was time for her to be relieved, she tested several pieces of meat. It was dry enough. She picked it up, and wrapped it in a poncho for storage in the cool room.

It was still early when I finished burning the wax, or grease, off the new machetes, but I was ready for some rest and relaxation as my dad used to say. I could not keep from thinking about the lake below, and decided we would take advantage of it.

"Aren't you starting the cave fire a little early?" Sarah questioned, when she saw me laying wood on what was left of the fire stick.

"If we had started the fire this early yesterday, I wouldn't have had to snuggle Julie all night. She wouldn't have been scared."

"It wasn't that bad, was it?"

"No. After five minutes, I didn't even know she was there until I awoke this morning."

"I think she has a crush on you," she laughed.

"You gotta be kidding!"

"I don't think so. Girls get crushes on older boys they look up to."

"What do I do about it? She's just a kid."

"Nothing. She'll get over it before long."

"Let's go swimming." I changed the subject to a more comfortable one.

"Don't you think it's a little early?"

"Maybe, but I'm tired, and I'm willing to take a chance. We are all tanning nicely, and it doesn't look like we'll peel much. Let's try it."

"I'll get the kids from the other room."

Jamie hit the water with a splash, but I went down the path with the girls. I was really tired, and didn't feel like the big plunge. I was hoping that a cool dip would rejuvenate me. Julie started practicing her breathing as soon as she hit the water. She had a little trouble at first, but soon she was breathing like a professional. The other two girls were awkwardly lifting their heads out of the water, and throwing themselves off balance to breath. I suggested that they practice the exercises that Julie was doing. Then, I filled my lungs, lay on my back and floated into the deep.

In a few minutes, I was nearly asleep when Debbie grabbed my hand, and pulled me back to the shallows. "How do you do that?"

"I just take a deep breath, put my head way back, and relax on my back."

"But how do you breath? You can't hold your breath all the time."

"I just breath out part of the air in my lungs, and breath in again. When I'm floating on my back, I never breath out all of my air. That way my chest and face always stay out of the water."

Debbie tried it. "It works!" She exclaimed. "I can float on my back."

The other girls wanted to try it; so I had to repeat the instructions again. In a few minutes all three girls were quietly suspended in the water, not moving except to breath.

"Be careful, Julie, stay where you can stand up. You're not ready to float into the deep yet."

She didn't hear me. I had to swim to her, and lift her out of the water to warn her. She was headed for deep water. If I had not stopped her, she would have been in water over her head within a few seconds.

"I think I could actually go to sleep here," Sarah commented.

"I know I can," I maintained. "I always have to watch myself and wake up before I lose consciousness."

After an hour in the water I felt like a new person.

Sheba had been lying on the bank watching us. She swam out to check on each of us; then, returned to the bank, shook herself, barked once, and was gone.

"You'll have a job to do in a few minutes, Timmy." Jamie commented.

"I know. I hope she doesn't bring in more than we can eat."

"Me too!" Julie exclaimed. "I don't wanna have to watch meat for two more days."

"Neither do the rest of us," Sarah agreed.

Another hour passed. Jamie and I each made a few trips to the edge of the patio for the big plunge, but we could not talk Sarah or Debbie into it. Actually, I did not talk very hard, and I stopped Jamie before the teasing started.

Sheba returned and gave a little bark to let us know we had work to do. "All Right, girl, I'll go take care of it." I said. "What did you bring us this time?"

Sheba ran up the path ahead of us, and before we could see what was happening, we heard a lot of growling and yelping. I ran up the path in time to see Sheba standing over her kill, a large piglet. The puppies were scampering away, yelping. Apparently, they had been at the piglet when Sheba arrived, and she had run them off.

After supper I returned to the goat yard for a couple hours. Sarah and the other girls carried the brush into the cave while Jamie cleaned it so it would stack.

We settled into a routine of work and play as the days passed. On Sunday we had Sunday School and rested.

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Copyright 1995
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.

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