So your grandmother ran interference whenever Louis got in trouble?
Kate had heard all the stories from her aunties about Emaa and Louis Deems first two wives. Ekaterina Shugak had made a point of, at minimum, weekly post-marriage visits to both Jessie and Ruthie. If Kate knew her grandmother, those visits had included the offer (when Louis was out of the room, of course) of a spare room in Emaas tumbledown, riverside house in Niniltna the moment either one of them wanted to pack it in.
One day in the Park during an August vacation from her job in Anchorage, Kate had driven out with her grandmother to see Ruthie. Ruthie, not yet out of her teens, moved like she was twenty years older than Ekaterina.
Jim took Kates silence as assent. When did that start? When he got caught running for that bootlegger, what was his name?
Sandy Halvorsen, and I think it started when Louis was in grade school and he used to beat up the other kids and steal their lunches. The teachers learned that the best they could do was give him detention, and even then I remember one time he talked Robby Kanaback into bringing him a candy bar into the detention room and then he beat him up for the hell of it. He was a miserable little shit then and hes a miserable little shit now.
I hear his parents sucked.
They were drunks and dopers, and Louis was an accident Daisy couldnt get rid of, although the story is she tried hard enough. Wesley drowned in the Cordova small-boat harbor the year Louis was fifteen. Louis pretty much raised himself.
And I bet Mary Waterburys parents think he did a hell of a job.
There was no answer to that and Kate attempted none.
Little Mary Waterbury, brown as a nut and round as a ball. Homely, cheerful, kind to children and animals, born to be a mother, and so very young. Twenty-one years younger than Louis Deem, her first boyfriend.
And her last. Why didnt you do something? Jim had asked. She had tried. She thought again of Mary Waterbury, that young hopeful life brought to a sudden and violent halt at the hands of a man who had pretty much perfected the art of ridding himself of unwanted wives.
Yes, she had tried, Kate thought now, but she hadnt tried hard enough.
The rest of the journey was accomplished in silence. Twenty-five miles from Niniltna, they turned down the narrow rutted track that led to Kates homestead. Jim stopped the Blazer in the center of the flood of light pouring out of the tall windows that ran across the prow front of Kates house.
Her house. It still seemed so odd to come home to a whole house, all two floors and two bedrooms and two bathrooms and hand-carved pine dining set of it. To have so much room, to have hot running water instead of hand-pumped cold, to take a hot shower instead of a snowmelt bath in a galvanized round steel tub, to be able to keep half and half in the refrigerator instead of it freezing up in a cooler on the porch, and most miraculous of all, to be able to get up in the middle of the night to use a real live flush toilet ten steps from her bed instead of fumbling around in the dark for her boots and parka and traipsing outside to the outhouseit still seemed too much, and she still felt unworthy of the gift the Park had so generously given her.
She had learned the hard way not to say so, however.
She opened the door of the truck, and Mutt leapt over her in a graceful gray arc. She landed easily and loped into the brush at the edge of the clearing and to all intents and purposes vanished. Kate looked at Jim. Want to stay for dinner?
He was tempted, as hed missed dinner at Auntie Vis, where he was renting a room until he found a place of his ownwhich in Niniltna wasnt going to be easy, inexpensive, or any time soon.
Copyright © 2007 by Dana Stabenow. All rights reserved.
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