"Yes, Mom," Beth said.
"I guess so," her mother said. "You didn't tell me this part,"she added to Harry.
"I'll pay," Harry said.
"No. It's not the money. It's the work we have to do."
"Oh," Harry said.
"What work is that?" the lady asked.
"All the preparations Harry was so kind to explain to me."
"That's Harry," the lady said. "Honey, I do have weekly rates. You're just as likely to find uranium under one of my beds as in those hills. And it's a good ways more pleasant."
"Exactly what I was trying to explain. You're more succinct," Harry said.
"Of course I am, Harry."
"I think one night will do fine." Her mother shifted and her foot landed on the tail of a tabby cat. Both her mom and the cat jumped.
"Out, skedaddle," the lady ordered. "Don't mind him. He's been run over twice."
"Is he your kitty?" Beth asked.
"That one? No, darling. Wild as they come. Except the two cars have knocked it out of him a bit."
"How does he eat?"
"I have some guests who take care of that."
"And these folks are all the way from Ohio," Harry said.
"Lordy," the lady said, shivering her body.
"Can we go swimming?" Beth asked.
"Absolutely," the lady said. "That's the first thing I meant to say."
Beth saw her mother hesitate.
"I have bathing suits they can borrow," the lady said. "I keep a pile going. Some are pretty nice. Got one that would fit you, too."
"That's very kind of you."
"I like kids." She stopped for a moment and then she gave Charlie a big smile, probably because he had been silent and ignored all this time. She seemed like someone who wanted to make sure everyone was having a good time. "Mine are 17 and 18." She snapped her fingers, said "like that," and shook her head. "And I can wash their clothes while they're swimming."
"I'll be happy to do the washing if you show me where."
"Your choice," the lady said. But in the end she took all their clothes and gave them a good wash in her own personal machine. Beth put on the borrowed swimwear and jumped in the pool. Charlie quickly joined her. He was not one to give up the water. He did a racing dive in the deep end and stayed under and didn't come up until he was in the shallow end where three old ladies sat around a table in seashell metal chairs, painted yellow, green, and blue. They had set aside a card game and were having their drinks. Snatches of their conversation came to Beth, died of a stroke at what age? here it's Saturday and I thought it was Thursday. The tabby had returned and was hanging around the old ladies' feet. Beth looked over at her mom, lounging nearby in a borrowed bathrobe, and she looked pretty content. Oh that reminds me of Betty. Someone should let him know.
The lady manager in the bib overalls came out with a net attached to a long pole and she fished out the dead insects from the pool. "There," she said with satisfaction. "So you kids can get a proper swim." She returned with a tall drink for her mom, and popsicles for her and Charlie.
Beth stayed in the water until Harry came back from stocking up his truck with supplies. He asked if they wanted to go out to eat supper in a restaurant. "Let's go out," he said. "Do you want to go out?"
"Have you eaten at all today, Harry?" her mother asked. Her voice took on a concerned warning, but Beth knew she was avoiding an answer. Out here with no one she knew and no one to contradict her, her mother was building this new life and pretending to live it. Harry insisted about the dinner and her mother finally said they were all too tired which Beth knew meant Charlie, but of course she wasn't going to correct her and say but I'm full of energy! Her mother had told her these things were private.
From Lucky Strike by Nancy Zafris, pages 26-37 of the hardcover edition. Copyright Nancy Zafris 2005. All rights reserved. No part of this book maybe reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Unbridled Books.
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