Anyway, I was just curious… He cleared his throat and couldn’t pinpoint why this felt awkward. I was unaware that you had a background that involved fighting. I’m assuming it was in the war—did you engage with the enemy down in South Carolina?
Explain to me exactly how this happened, I demand from Mr. Linkous, the attorney who has, for the past ten years, handled Dr. Blum’s affairs in Liberty. It’s only my training as a nurse that keeps me from screaming.Isaac is seated at my side, immobile, hands balled up on his knees, eyes fixed on the attorney’s framed diplomas mounted on the wall behind his desk. (It’s so sad, really. When I first knew him, you could see his mind working in his very blue eyes, like minnows darting through a clear mountain stream.)
Well. The pale young lawyer clears his throat and flips his fountain pen back and forth between his fingers. I was left in charge of paying Dr. Blum’s mortgage and taxes when he and Mrs. Blum joined his brother’s practice in Charlottesville, but last year he stopped sending funds. I wrote him three times.Here he frowns and taps a file on his desk that I assume holds copies of the correspondence. I wrote to his brother too, November first, 1933, then I put a notice in the papers here and in Charlottesville on January first, 1934, but there was no response. Short of traveling to Virginia or paying the mortgage and taxes myself, there was no choice.We were in Perrysville, I snap, as if that makes a big difference. It’s about thirty miles outside of Charlottesville.
The house, all its contents, his clinic, and two acres were put up for auction by Mountain Federal on . . . Here he consults the documents again. February twenty-fifth, 1934. Mr. Churchouse, an investor from Charleston, bought the property for a song. I’m sorry. The prematurely balding attorney closes the folder, as if that puts an end to it.So we have no place to live? He has no home? I’m getting a little hysterical now.
Linkous glances at the doctor, then back at me. What happened? he asks in a whisper. I’m so sorry. Was it a stroke?
I’m too upset to sugarcoat it. The nerve doctors aren’t sure. Maybe a stroke, though they can’t determine the source of the damage. Maybe shock at his wife’s death.This coffee is good, I tell my hostess, but I can’t stay long. The groceries are three dollars. It’s twenty-five cents for the delivery. Mrs. Hucknell turns toward the pie safe and rattles around in a money jar while I try not to look.
My husband, Alfred, is employed by the PWA, the public works thing, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike at Bald Knob and he needs the truck for his job. That’s why I have to have groceries delivered. The girls miss their daddy, but we were getting so far behind, the bank threatened foreclosure. Him going away to work is the only way we could keep the farm, and he only gets home once a month to see the little ones.You and your children live here alone? Keep the farm up and everything?
We do the best we can. We don’t grow crops since Alfred left, just our garden, the chickens, a cow, and the hay fields, but we hold on all right. I get a neighbor to bring us wood . . . or coal, if we can afford it.It’s hard for everyone now, she goes on. At least we have a place to live and we have the girls. We are rich in girls!