Tuesday, May 26, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 21

After Karl left Dana at the Stauers’, and gave Melodie money to buy the toiletries Mary requested, he went back to the shelter. The men were deciding where to go for supper. They all decided to go to a sub shop and bring the subs back to their room.

As Shorty said, “Money is getting tight and none of us have found a job.”

When they were all back in the room eating, Karl spoke up,

“Have any of you thought of working for Wesson Farm?”

“Tell us more about it.”

“Mr. Cartright wants me to go up to Victoria this week, if I can get into it. He wants me to report on what repairs need to be done to the roads to have access to the Farm with big trucks. Then he wants us to repair the roads well enough for big trucks to go back and forth to the Farm. After the roads are repaired he wants an inventory of what farm equipment is useable and what equipment can be repaired. After that he wants the fields surveyed to know which ones still have crops growing, and what fields will have to be graded and bulldozed before they can be ploughed.

“It is a big job, but I think the way we worked together in Blytheville shows that we could handle the job.”

“When would we start?”

“Probably next week.”

“Who would we see?”

“Me. He gave me authority to hire who I needed.”

“How much will it pay?”

“Probably $25/hour. I will ask for $30/hour, but I might have to come down to $25.”

Jack Raymond spoke, “I am all for it. If the job could start by next week, I am going to turn up the heat and see if the Red Cross has any information on my wife and children. Karl found his family after someone turned up the heat. You know what they say about the squeaky wheel is the one that gets the grease.”

“So I can count on all of you?”

There was a chorus of affirmative responses.

Karl called the Stauers’ home. He asked to speak to Melodie.

“I realized that it was presumptuous of me to ask you to buy those items for Mary.”

“Not at all. It takes another woman to perform that sort of errand. Besides, with Dana here helping with the children, it is no bother to slip out and run an errand.”

“What time could I pick up the items in the morning?”

“I should be back by 10 a.m. I can get everything she needs at Walgreen’s.”

“Could I speak with your father-in-law?”

“Mr. Stauer, I want to go up to Marked Tree tomorrow and then see how far I can go toward Victoria.”


“I will have to rent a four wheel drive vehicle and I will have to have money for a motel and meals.”

“Find out where you can rent a four wheel drive vehicle and how much it will cost. When you come over here to pick up the items Melodie is getting for your wife, have the amount and the name of the dealer. Clifford will write two checks – one for you and one for the dealer. I’ll be anxiously awaiting your report.”

The next day Karl found a 2010 Ford F-250 diesel four wheel drive truck. The dealer agreed to lease it Wesson Farm for $1500/month. Karl went back to the Stauers’. Clifford agreed that a lease was best because they would be using it until next spring. He gave Karl a check for the dealer and a check for $1000 for his personal expenses.

Karl asked for their driver to accompany him so that he could return the Corolla he had rented.

Karl dropped off the bag of toiletries for Mary and was on the road by noon headed for Marked Tree. In Marked Tree he found a room in a modest motel. He walked around town looking for places that farmers and truck drivers might be found. He wanted to find out about the roads. They told him that the road to Lepanto was broken up in some places but was passable. No one had any information about the roads beyond Lepanto.

On Wednesday morning he drove to Lepanto. He found out that a couple miles north of Lepanto there is a long curve in the road. In the curve there was a “dune” about the height of a two or three story building. It came up out of the field. There was no way of knowing what the road was like underneath it. That was AR 140.

Going back to Lepanto, he tried going north on AR 135. Not far from town there was a bridge and the bridge had been torn apart by the quake. Looking across the bridge the road seemed to be in pretty good shape.

Tomorrow he would go north on US 63 to AR 69, go north on it to Bowman, from there go east to Black Oak where he could get on AR 135 and go south on it. If AR 135 was passable going south back to the bridge, it would just be a matter of putting in a temporary bridge like the Army Engineers put down.

While he was on the north side of the river, he would find out if the road from AR 135 to Victoria was passable. That was going to be a lot of driving. He decided to fill up his tank with diesel fuel, buy a sleeping bag and some food like hikers carry, plus several gallon jugs of water.

On Thursday Karl was able to get back to the north side of the ruined bridge on AR 135 by going up US 63, AR 69 and then east to Black Oak and coming south on AR 135. By then it was afternoon. He knew that if he simply retraced his route that it would be late at night by the time he returned to Marked Tree. He decided to drive north on AR 135 to the road which leads to Victoria.

He was able to go past the road to Whistleville and thought that he was going to make it to Victoria. Suddenly he came to a deep chasm in the road. He got out of the truck and looked down into the chasm. It was so deep that he couldn’t see the bottom. They could probably put one of those bridges like the Army uses across that chasm, but it was really scary to look at it.

By now it was dark. He had to back up a long way before he came to the dirt road leading to Whistlevile. He pulled up beside the cotton gin, parked the truck, took his flashlight and went looking for his father-in-law’s A frame cottage. He found it and it was open. He saw two oil lamps and lit them. He walked back to the truck and got his sleeping bag, food, and water. It wasn’t cold enough for a fire. He settled in for the night.

To think that just weeks ago Dana had found shelter here from the quake, had spent several nights here with her grandfather shortly before he died. How did she get across that chasm when she was running away from Victoria? How did men get a pickup truck across that chasm on their way to Whistleville to pick up Dana and her grandfather and how did they get across it on their way back to Victoria?

Friday, Karl arose early, put his things in the truck, drank some lukewarm, day old coffee from his thermos, and ate a couple toaster pastry bars. He remembered the stuffed animals Dana mentioned and went back into the house for them.

 Just as he was about to step up into the truck, the ground started bucking and heaving like an untamed horse trying to throw its rider. The A frame cottage came down in dust and splintering wood. The cotton gin collapsed with the rattle of tin and the grinding of steel against steel. When the quake subsided, Karl drove out to the road AR 158 which he had come in on. Looking to the west, which is the direction of his return, a huge section of the road had crumbled into the field on the south side.

He knew that east on AR 158 he would come to that huge chasm about where the National Ditch #6 crossed it. He decided to drive down that way. When he reached the chasm, it seemed to have come together. It could still be seen in both directions, but where it crossed the road it was only a foot wide. Karl knew that it could crumble away and become much wider if he crossed it in a vehicle, but he decided to try it anyway. He put the truck in four wheel drive and drove across it quickly. The rear wheels started to drop down, but with the truck’s momentum and the front wheels pulling, he made it across.

Karl realized that he would now have to go south on AR 181 and then west on AR 140 which would bring him to that big pile of dirt. He decided to go into Victoria before going south on AR 181.

Mary wanted the picture albums. He drove to the trailer. It had been rolled over on its side. The roof looked like a giant can opener had cut it out and rolled it back. Karl went to their bedroom. Everything was strewn around on the wall which was now the floor. He stooped and crawled to the dresser but he couldn’t move it or reach the drawers. Going back to the truck he got a nylon rope. Forming it into a lasso, he fitted it around the dresser. Then he tied the rope onto the ball hitch of the truck. He slowly moved the truck forward. The rope got so tight that he was afraid it would break. Suddenly the dresser came flying out of the trailer and landed in a mound of splintered wood and clothing. Karl left the clothing and retrieved the picture albums. Then he drove away.

Going down AR 181 and then on AR 140. National Ditch #6 crosses AR 140 east of Atheistan, but Karl saw no evidence of the chasm. Approaching Lepanto he kept watching for the twenty feet high “dune”. It was still there but the bulk of the dirt had shifted onto a field east of the road. The “dune” was now only five feet high. Karl knew that it would be loose dirt and that he could get stuck. If he did, he could walk the last couple miles to Lepanto. He put the truck in four wheel drive and got a running start. Going up the dune, the truck went slower and slower. Near the top it almost stopped, but it reached the top, tipped onto the downward slope and then the task was to keep control of the steering.

In Marked Tree he picked up his belongings and checked out of the motel. He drove straight to Little Rock and arrived at the shelter about 6pm. The men were about to go out to eat. They had decided to go to Jimmy John’s which claimed to have the best sandwiches in town. They all jumped into the crew cab truck and Karl drove them there.

They had all been trying to locate their families. Jack Raymond’s wife and two children were in a shelter. He wanted to take them with him to Marked Tree. Shorty’s wife was in a hospital in Fayetteville. He was going up there tomorrow to see her. One of the men was called “Snuffy Smith”. The Red Cross had no information on his wife so far.

Harry Davenport called his in-laws who lived in St. Louis, Missouri. His wife and three children somehow got away from Gosnell in their car. His wife had driven to her parents and didn’t know if he was living or dead. She didn’t know who to ask to find out. He told her that he had a job starting Monday. As soon as he had the money, he would fly up or somehow get up there to see her and the kids.

Slim Sam Walters was told by the Red Cross that they had no information on his wife so far.

After they ate, Karl took them back to the shelter and then went to the Stauers’. He told Dana that he would pick her up at 1pm to go see her mother. Then he asked to speak to Mr. Paul Stauer and Clifford.

He told them about what he had found – the dune on AR 140, the bridge that is out on AR 135, the section of AR 158 that collapsed. He told them about the chasm along National Ditch #6 which was open and then closed after a second quake.

“Our men can do the other road repairs, but we would need the military to come in and put down one of their temporary bridges on AR 135 and probably over the chasm. We would need permission from the State to make temporary repairs to their roads.

“If you want to go ahead with your plans to reopen Wesson Farm, you will need government cooperation and it will cost a lot of money. I have asked the five men who worked with me in Blytheville. They want $35/hour and full health insurance – no copay – because the hazard of working with the earth while it is still unstable.

“This near to the event is the best time to get government aid and approval for rebuilding. On the other hand, there is something to be said for waiting several years until the earth has quieted down below.”

The elder Mr. Cartright said, “People who are cautious never make any money. I don’t think that we are being reckless. We have 8,200 acres that are losing money as long as they are idle. Clifford, do you feel up to going up there with him on Monday.”

“I’ll be ready, sir.”

“Take the checkbook with you and I will be busy calling the Governor and some legislators – state and federal.”


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 20

On Thursday afternoon Dr. Kubicki came to Mary’s room.

“I’m going to tell you something that even your husband doesn’t know yet. On Monday you are going to be moved to St. Vincent’s residential physical rehabilitation center in Little Rock. I just got off the phone with Sister Catherine. Your husband had an interview with her this morning and she told him that she would call him when a decision had been made.

“After talking to me, she decided that they would admit you even though there are some on the waiting list ahead of you. I told her how highly motivated you are, how cooperative you have been as a patient, and what difficult obstacles you have overcome in just less than three weeks.

“The whole process of being fitted with a prosthetic leg, learning to put it on and take it off, learning proper care of the stump, and learning to walk with it on crutches and then with a cane can take as much as six months. A very few accomplish it in three months. Most take four to five months.”

“I want to do it in three months.”

“I’m sure that you, God, and Mamaw working together can do it.”

After supper Mary went rolling down the hall. She stopped at the nurses’ station and told Shawnda and Shawanda that she was leaving on Monday. She asked them if they were planning on going mudding this weekend.

“What? Do you think I’m a slow learner, Girl?”

Mary laughed. Further down the hall she stopped at Miss Helen Brumstel’s room.

“How are you doing, Helen?”

“How does it look like I am doing?”

She still had both legs in casts, suspended in the air.

“How are you passing the time? Do you play any of the games or read any of the books on the Kindle?”

“No, I don’t know how to use it.”

“I’m sure any of the nurses would show you how to use it.”

“Yeah, sure, when monkeys fly.”

“You can send emails on it also.”

“I wouldn’t know anybody to send an email to.”

“I’m leaving Monday to go to a residential physical rehabilitation center in Little Rock. I’ll send an email to Shawnda, she can get my address off of it and give it to you. Then if you send me an email, I’ll have your address and then I can write emails to you.”

On the way back down the hall Mary told Shawnda about her conversation with Helen. Shawnda wrote down her email address and promised to show Helen how to use the Kindle. Shawanda overheard the conversation and handed Mary her email address.

“You’d better send an email to me if you send one to Shawnda.”

The next day Dana came with Karl. While they were there and even after they left, the fireworks in her heart were brighter than all of the fireworks in the skies over Monroe and Little Rock that night combined.

On Saturday afternoon Rev. Rowell came by to see her.

“Reverend Rowell, I am so glad you came today. I am leaving Monday morning to go to a residential physical rehabilitation center in Little Rock. I want you to pray with me in thanking the Lord for all His blessings to me. They have just rolled in like white fluffy clouds in a blue summer’s sky. My family has been found. My husband and daughter were not harmed in the quake. My kidneys started working again. I am going to be closer to my family. I have so much to be thankful for to the Lord.

“After we pray, I wish you would go in to see Miss Helen Brumstel. She was injured in the same beauty shop as I was. She is so lonely and blue. I wish she knew the Lord. Tell her you are a friend of mine and that I sent you.”

Rev. Rowell prayed with Mary. After her prayers of thanksgiving, Mary asked the Lord to make Helen happy and help her to find Jesus as a Friend.

Sunday was the last day Mary would be in the hospital. She had said goodbye to Wanda, Ilene, Shawnda, and Shawanda. She hoped that Merrybelle would be working tonight. She had meant so much to her. She had turned her and treated her with special gentleness when Mary was still in a lot of pain.

Finally, Monday morning came. Mary was surprised how quickly everything happened. She had barely finished her breakfast when the men from the ambulance company came to transport her to Little Rock. They were as rough as Merrybelle was gentle. She was loaded onto a stretcher or maybe it was a gurney. It had a mattress pad that felt like it was an inch thick.

They stopped on the first floor. Someone from the hospital office signed some papers. Mary had to sign a paper. Then on out to the ambulance they rolled her. When they lifted her up into the ambulance, the wheels folded under the stretcher. Mary felt them when they hit the bottom of the pad. The ambulance did not ride like a cloud. Mary felt like a sack of potatoes in the back of a farmer’s pickup truck. There was a man riding in the back with her, but he never said anything. It seemed like he was having a hard time holding on.

When they arrived at St. Vincent’s there were more papers signed and exchanged. Then she was lifted from their stretcher into a wheelchair. A pleasant looking blonde nurse introduced herself as Sally Outlaw. She was wearing scrubs and tennis shoes.

“Mrs. Cusak, that will probably be the last time you will be lifted by someone else while you are here. I am going to take you to your room and then I will go over the program here.”

She walked ahead and let Mary roll the wheelchair herself. Mary had never maneuvered a wheelchair onto an elevator before, but Sally stood aside and let Mary figure it out on her own. Mary rolled into the elevator and turned the wheelchair around so that she would be headed out of the elevator when the doors opened again.

“Very good. You must have done this before.”

“No, ma’am. This is my first time.”

“Really? Hey, we are going to get along just fine.”

In the room Sally had Mary demonstrate how she moved from a wheelchair into the bed and then how she moved from the bed to the wheelchair. Next she had her demonstrate moving from the wheelchair to the toilet.

Mary said, “Good. I had that three hours ride in the ambulance and I have been dying to pee.”

Sally laughed. “I like you Mary.”

When Mary came back out into the room, she and Sally sat at the table.

“I have called down for a tray because lunch time is over. Normally, you will eat your meals in the dining room. This facility is very different from a hospital. We make you do everything for yourself that you are able to do. You will see people crying and saying they can’t do something. We just cross our arms, wait for them to quit crying, and tell them again to do it. You won’t be spending much time in bed. You won’t have an afternoon nap unless the doctor orders it. You will be busy all day.

“Everyone’s schedule is different except for meal times. That is because the doctors have to see you individually. You will have one hour a day with one or two physical therapists. They work with you individually.

“You will have time each day with a prosthesis specialist. He will determine when your stump is ready. At first you will just wear a leather cuff, then there will be a weight attached to it. You will work up gradually to wearing an artificial limb. Even after you are wearing a limb, you can’t put any body weight on it for a long time. That means that you have to learn to get around on crutches.

“You have a lot else to learn here. For that reason there are only two hours on Saturday and two hours on Sunday when your family can visit. Do you have any questions?”


“Good, because I hear them bringing your tray. When you are finished eating put all the dishes, utensils, and uneaten food on the cart outside your door. No food is allowed in the room. I’ll go and call your family. They can visit with you for one hour.”

Mary’s head was spinning from all that had happened so far that day and all that Sally told her. She hungrily ate her lunch and went into the toilet to wash her face and hands. She tried combing her hair with her fingers.

Karl and Dana came about an hour later. She tried to recap the things Sally had told her about the program. Karl and Dana brought her up to date on their life especially that they would probably be moving up to Marked Tree or Lepanto and that Karl would be working in Victoria.

“Karl, see if you can get our photograph albums out of the mobile home. They were in the bottom drawer of the dresser in our bedroom. Also, ask Melodie to go to the store and buy me a comb, a hairbrush, a tube of medium red lipstick, some face powder, some hand cream, some shampoo, some tissues. She’s a woman; she’ll know what I need. You can bring them when you come on Saturday. I expect Dana will need some toiletry items also.”

“Daddy gave Melodie $200 to buy me some clothes. She left me to choose what I wanted and I stayed within the $200 limit.”

Exactly one hour later Sally was at the door.

Karl said to Sally, “I know that we can’t visit again until Saturday at    2 p.m., but my wife asked me to buy her some toiletry items like a comb, a hairbrush, toothpaste and toothbrush, and so on. Is there some place that I could leave those things for her tomorrow?”

“Sure, just leave them with the receptionist with your wife’s name on the bag.”

In the time remaining before supper, Sally brought me six elastic bandages.

“These will have to last you until next Monday. I want you to get whatever you need from the bathroom, move up onto the bed, remove the elastic bandage that you are wearing, wash the stump, put on one of these elastic bandages, then wash the bandage you are wearing now. Be careful to rinse out all the soap so that you won’t get a skin irritation on your stump. Then I will show you how to lay out the wet bandage to dry in such a manner that it won’t lose its elasticity.”

Sally was satisfied with how Mary wrapped the stump with the new bandage and how she washed and rinsed the old bandage.

“You don’t have to use this again. It is a cheap one-use bandage, but I can use it to show you the proper way to dry them and when it is dry, you can save it to use as a spare. When you dry them, lay them out on a flat surface with no wrinkling. Never let them hang down over something. If you do they will lose their elasticity. Put them away someplace safe. There are always people who would rather steal a clean bandage than to wash one.

“It is time for supper. Go down to the basement on the elevator, then follow the signs to the cafeteria. Show the cashier this card so she knows you are a patient and you won’t have to pay.”

Mary thought, “She really meant it when she said they expect you to do things for yourself. I am going in a wheelchair down to the basement on an elevator, then look for signs to get to the cafeteria. Once I am in the cafeteria, how will I manage taking a tray through the line and maneuvering a wheelchair?”

Mary found the cafeteria. Then she found several tables marked “For Wheelchair Patrons Only”. She saw a lady sitting at the end of the table and said to her,

“Excuse me, this is my first time. How do you manage to get food on your tray and your tray to the table in a wheelchair?”

“It isn’t as hard as it seems. Roll over to the beginning of the line, get a tray and silverware rolled in a napkin. Put them on your tray, then put your tray down on the bars in front of the line and slide it along until you see something you want. Point to it and the server will put it on your plate and he will wait until you have pointed to all the things you want. He’ll put the plate on your tray and 99 times out of 100 he will carry it to the check out line. You pick up a roll or bread and put them on your tray and get whatever drink you want. You show the cashier your card and she will ring it up with a code so the center pays it. Then she or someone else will ask where you are sitting and will carry it for you.”

“That is awfully nice.”

“Yes and that way they don’t have a mess to clean up if you drop your tray.”

Mary sat beside the lady, whose name is Nelly Lambeth. Nelly has diabetes and had lost a leg because her leg became infected and the poor circulation and poor healing caused by diabetes had allowed the infection to become gangrenous.

Observing other people at her table and nearby tables, Mary could see that some had spunk, some were whiners, some were depressed.

When she returned to her room, Mary found a pamphlet about the proper care of a stump lying on her bed with a note: “Read and study this. You will be given a test on its contents sometime tomorrow.”


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 19

On Thursday morning Mr.& Mrs. Cartright and I went shopping. Mrs. Cartright decided to go to Penney’s. She took us to the men’s department first. When a salesman came, she said to him,

“Find a chair for my husband. He just got out of the hospital yesterday. He can stand up if you need to measure him. Otherwise, let him sit. You bring the things to him and let him choose what he wants. He was in the earthquake and lost all his clothing. He is getting several changes of clothing to start. He wants four pairs of socks - all cotton, four pairs of underwear – all cotton boxer shorts and tee shirts with sleeves, two pairs of blue jeans and a pair of casual slacks, two colored tee shirts with pockets, two colored short sleeve shirts with button down collar, one long sleeve white dress shirt with button down collar. I’m going to be shopping in the rest of the store. I will come back for him and pay for his selections.”

Melodie took me to the young people’s department.

“Dana, you know what you need. Your father gave me $200 for you to spend on clothes. Keep track of how much the clothes you choose come to. I’ll be back to pay for whatever you choose.”

She walked away. I guess she was going to buy some clothes for herself. I looked for an inexpensive pair of shoes. Summer clothes were on sale even though it was July. I tried to find the things that I needed on the sale counter. I found a pretty dress, some pedal pushers, summer blouses, socks, and underwear.  What I chose came to about $175 according to my figuring in my head. There would be sales tax so I thought that I was close to $200.

When Mrs. Cartright came back for me, she had already taken her purchases to the car, gone for Clifford and his clothes, and was in a hurry to get back to the car. She had started the car and turned on the air conditioning for Clifford. My clothes, including sales tax, came to $188.12. I was proud of myself for staying within the limits of how much Daddy had given her for my clothes.

When we went back to the house, I tried to stay out of the way of Mrs. Stauer.

That night, after supper, Daddy called.

“Dana, I want you to be ready at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning. We are going down to Monroe to visit Mary. On Monday they are going to move her to St. Vincent’s in Little Rock. She will be in their residential physical rehabilitation center. We can visit her for one hour Monday evening after they have moved her into her room there. After that we can only visit her certain hours on Saturday and Sunday.”

“Okay, Daddy, I’ll be ready.”

Later, Mr. Stauer asked to speak with all of us.

“I have spoken individually to Clifford and to Karl about this. I want to speak to all of you together and see if it is all right with you. I really need all of you to be in agreement for this to work.

“Wesson Farm is 8,200 acres of rich farm land. We need to get it back in production as soon as possible. I have asked Karl and Clifford to survey the situation and make weekly reports to me. We need to know how many acres of crops will be able to be harvested and how many have been destroyed. They will also locate and assess what pieces of farm equipment are still useable and how many are fixable. If there are crops to be harvested we need to find and fix roads to get to them and then to haul them away to market. Karl will be in charge of gathering the data and then fixing the roads. Clifford will be crunching the numbers for us and paying the bills to survey the damage and make necessary repairs.

“Clifford and Karl will need to live as close to Victoria as possible. The only way Child Services will allow Karl to keep custody of Dana is if Melodie takes care of her when he is away from their home. My question is this: Are all of you agreeable to live in Marked Tree or even Lepanto so that Karl and Clifford can work out of Victoria during the day? For that matter, Clifford, do you want this job or do you want to find another job here in Little Rock. Since you will never be able to drive, it might be easier for you to live in Little Rock or North Little Rock where you could ride the buses.”

“Paul, I’ll do this job for you. It will only last for about a year. After that I think that living in a city with public transportation would be more suitable. Also, I would like to expand my experience beyond Wesson Farm.”

I went up to get ready for bed. I waited to take my shower until Melodie was finished getting the children ready for bed. While I was waiting, I took my new clothes out of the bags, removed the tags, folded them and stacked them on a chair. I didn’t want Mrs, Stauer throwing a fit if I put them into a dresser drawer. I put the pretty dress on a hanger to hang out the wrinkles. I’ll wear it tomorrow when I go to see Mother.

I heard the children come out of the bathroom and then I heard a knock on my door.


“Dana, would you read a story to the children. They said you are the very bestest story reader in all the world.”

I went over to the children’s room and started to read a story from the Mother Goose Tales.

“No, not that one. Daddy read us that one last night.”

After reading a couple pages they were both asleep. At this rate they are never going to hear the end of any of the stories.

Friday, Daddy picked me up and we drove to Monroe. I told him about Mr. Stauer talking to all of us about Clifford and him working in Victoria and the families living as close to there as possible. I also told him that Clifford said that he would probably only work there for one year.

“Did you know that Mr. Cartright can never drive a car?”

 “No, I didn’t.”

“That is one reason why he only wants to work in Victoria for a year. In the city there is public transportation.”

When we were entering Monroe, Daddy said,

“It’s lunch time. Let’s stop at this Wendy’s for lunch.”

We both got a hamburger, fries, and a Frosty. Then we went on to the hospital. We arrived a little past 1 p.m. and were allowed to go to Mom’s room right away. 

She was sitting on the edge of the bed. I started to run to her and Dad caught my hand.

“Walk carefully so you don’t collide”

I came up on her left side. She reached down and hugged me with her left arm. Her right arm was gripping some handle hanging from a heavy bar overhead.

We both cried.

“I’ll be a lot closer for you to come and see me after Monday. Then I am going to be working hard to be able to come home and be with you all the time. They say that you can complete the process in as little as three months. That is what I am going to work toward.”

Daddy said,

Since I saw you last, Mr. Stauer assigned Clifford and me the task of getting Wesson Farm back into production. We will be working in Victoria. Mr. & Mrs. Cartright, their children, Dana, and I will move to Marked Tree or Lepanto. That will work out all right for visiting you because St. Vincent’s only allows visits during certain hours on Saturday and Sunday.”

Mother and I chatted nonstop telling each other what had happened since we had seen each other a month ago. It seemed more like three months or even three years.

Telling her about the horrible church camp shelter I had run away from made me wonder about Rosalita and her family. I wondered what would happen to those families whose fathers were killed.

Daddy and I had to leave when it was time for Mother to eat supper. We drove back to Little Rock. Daddy dropped me off at the Stauer’s. They were setting up chairs on the lawn to watch the fireworks on the River. Daddy drove back to the shelter. The men there were getting ready to walk down to the River Market to watch the Fourth of July fireworks.

On Saturday Melodie asked me to watch the children for the next couple days. She and Clifford wanted to go off by themselves to get reacquainted. She had gathered whatever pictures her parents had of them. All of her own pictures had been destroyed in the quake.

I knew that I would have to give Mrs. Stauer a wide berth, but I hoped that what her husband said might have calmed her down. I had a Sunshine Parade for the children and let them make a lot of noise while they were outside. Inside I let them watch one of the children’s channels on television, had a numbers and letters game for them, taught them a few simple songs, read them a story that they didn’t fall asleep on. By 4 p.m. they were tired and so was I. I put them in their room for a nap and then I went to my room and lay down for a nap.

I was awakened by an angry Mrs. Stauer.

 ”Do you know where those children are?”

I could hear Jamie and Joy marching up and down the hallway singing one of the noisy songs we had sung outside.

I got up and went to the hallway.

“My, oh my, you certainly learned that song well. Let’s see how well you learned the numbers and letters while we wait for supper.”

“You will wait a long time. Paul and I are going to a restaurant so I can get out of this noisy house.”

When they left I took the children into the kitchen and sat them at the kitchen table. I don’t know how to cook! I found a box of cereal, some raisins, a bottle of milk and we had a breakfast-supper. The kids thought that was a lot of fun. After that we watched Sponge Bob Square Pants and Dora the Explorer on television. After that it was bed time. By the time the Stauers returned to their home, the children and I were asleep.



Wednesday, May 6, 2015

EARTHQUAKE - Chapter 18

Karl returned to the motel, loaded his tools and clothes into the car, and checked out of his room. He drove back to Little Rock and went to the shelter. After he carried his tools and clothes to the room, he called the Stauer residence. Melodie answered,

“Mr. Cusak, you had better get over here. The police came and were going to take Dana back to the shelter in Ferndale. We went up to her room, and it appeared that she had run away. I might know where she’s hiding, but I’ll wait until you get over here. Also, my father wants to talk to you.”

Karl carried his tools back to the car and put them in the trunk. That was a safer place than in the shelter room. He told the other men that his daughter had run away, so he would be late coming back.

When he arrived at the Stauer’s, the police had left, promising to return the next day. Mrs. Stauer was going around all aflutter,

“Never in all my years have we had police come to our home. That is the kind of thing you expect in the neighborhoods of riff-raff. We are respectable people!”

Melodie said to Karl, “My father wants to talk to you. Then we’ll go look for Dana.”

Mr. Paul Stauer took Karl into the library, away from all the excitement.

“Melodie told me that you were in Monroe, Louisiana looking for a job. I can understand that you want to be near your wife. However, she can probably be moved to Arkansas soon.

“You still have a job with Wesson Farm and we need you, unless you want to quit. We need for you to go back to Victoria as soon as possible and assess the damage up there. Report to us the damage to the roads - what equipment and how many days it will take to make them useable. After that report, we want you to visit all the fields. Tell us which ones are undamaged and have crops still growing, which ones are damaged and what must be done to repair them. Another report will be if there is undamaged equipment, useable buildings, and what buildings or sheds need immediate replacement. You will be working closely with Clifford. When I found out that he was found, that is when I started thinking about rebuilding Wesson Farm.

“Now as far as your daughter is concerned. I know that you want to find her and I pray that she is unharmed. Assuming that she is found, I will call our company’s law firm tomorrow morning and tell them to get an injunction barring the police from removing her from your custody or the custody of your designated caretaker until the whole matter can be adjudicated. The company will pay for the lawyers.”

“Thank you very much, sir. When do you want me to return to Victoria for that survey?”

“As soon as you get the injunction AND find a place for your wife here in Little Rock. I would suggest that you and Clifford find houses or apartments that are adjoining. That way Melodie can be Dana’s caregiver while you are in Victoria. My suggestion would be that you all live in Marked Tree, but wait until you get up in that area before deciding where to live.

“By the way, I know that when Melodie found you in Blytheville, you were working with some other heavy equipment men. Are you still in touch with any of them?”

“Yes, sir. Five of them are in the shelter with me.”

“You tell them that I’ll hire any and all of them until we have this farm back up and running. You and Clifford can decide what wages are fair”

Karl returned to the living room. Melodie said “Clifford, see if you can get Jamie and Joy upstairs and ready for bed. I’ll get a flashlight and help Mr. Cusak look for Dana.”

Clifford said to the children, “Let’s go upstairs and get ready for bed.”

The children led him to their bedroom.

“What do you do to get ready for bed?”

Jamie said, “We have to wash our hands and face real good. Then we brush our teeth. After that we put on our pajamas.”

“Okay. Go to it.”

Jamie giggled. “That’s what you always say, ‘Go two it, go four it.’”

After the children were in their pajamas, Clifford held back the covers for each of them as they got into bed. Then Jamie said,

“Now you read us a story.”

Clifford said, “Boy, you have a real routine.”

“What’s a routine?”

“Never mind; but what should I read?”

“Dana found a book of Mother Goose Tales. It’s in here somewhere.”

Clifford looked around in the room and found an old book on the dresser. He began to read it to the children, but before he finished the second page they were asleep with smiles on their face. He thought it was strange that he didn’t remember them. After being with them for less than two hours he felt like he knew them from somewhere. Stranger still was how deeply he loved these two children about whom he had no memory.

It was the same with Melodie. At first she was a stranger to him. He could not explain to himself why, but he loved her and knew that he loved her at some other time in his life that he couldn’t remember.

Karl and Melodie went out into the dark night.

“I grew up in this house. I know that from upstairs she heard every word the policemen said. When they said that they would take her back to the shelter in Ferndale, I think that she tiptoed down the upstairs hallway to the back stairway. At the bottom of it is that door.”

Melodie shined the flashlight’s beam on the door.

“It was chilly last night so she would have looked for shelter. The nearest shelter is the garage. Let’s look in there.”

In a couple minutes Melodie was shining the beam into the back seat of the big car. Dana woke up. She began screaming,

“No. Don’t let them take me back. Oh, I wish I could reach my Daddy.”

Karl stepped around Melodie and reached out his arms to Dana.

“Here I am and I’m not going to let them take you away. Now, get into the house where it’s warm.”

“Mrs. Stauer doesn’t like me. She doesn’t want me in the house.”

“I want you.” Melodie hugged Dana.

Inside the house Melodie told Dana to take a shower and put on the nightgown she had given her to use. When Dana was in the shower, Melodie took her clothes down to the laundry room, put them in the washer, and turned it on. Then she went into her bedroom. Clifford was lying on top of the covers still dressed. She helped him get undressed and then put him under the covers. Then she undressed and put on a simple cotton nightgown. She crawled into bed beside him.

“Don’t be embarrassed, Clifford. You’ll remember me the first time we cuddle up together.”

An hour later Clifford was sleeping soundly. She slipped out of bed, went down to the laundry room and put Dana’s clothes in the dryer. Back upstairs she climbed back into bed and snuggled close to Clifford, She felt happy and complete for the first time since the earthquake.

Karl arrived back at the shelter about 11 p.m. Shorty got out of bed and let him into the room. The next morning at breakfast, Karl told the rest of Baker’s Coffee Klatch about the offer of employment at Wesson Farm. All of them were interested in the job.

“Okay, next week, Wednesday or Thursday we will start.”

A little after 9 a.m. Karl received a call from the law firm that handles all of the legal work for Wesson Farm.

“Mr. Cusak we need for you to come to our office at 785 Fifth Street as soon as you can. We need information from you and your signature before we can request the injunction you want.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

 Karl gulped down the rest of his coffee and drove to the address.

Inside the office there were wooden bookcases, a wooden railing, and wooden desks. All the men were dressed in what appeared to be expensive suits and shoes.

One of the “suits” came toward Karl.

“Mr. Cusak?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I am Dexter Nolan. I’ll be working on the request for an injunction. The first thing I want you to do is answer some questions for my secretary.”

“Mr. Cusak, I’m Betty. Have a seat.”

“Give me your daughter’s full name…

What is the date of her birth and where was she born?

What is your full name?

What is her mother’s full name?

What is the hospital and town or city and state where she was born?”

After she had that information she typed a form which contained all the information and had Karl sign it. The form was a request for a duplicate birth certificate. She sent it out on the fax machine. Next she had him sign a form requesting that Dexter Nolan be his legal counsel in the matter of a request for an injunction to halt the return of his daughter Dana Delania Cusak to a shelter from which she ran away. 

After Karl signed the form she asked him for a dollar to make the contract be in effect.

Betty asked Karl, “Who are you appointing as your designated caretaker for Dana? Is it Mrs. Melodie Cartright?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

After Karl left the lawyers’ office, he went to St. Vincent’s Hospital. He asked at the Information Booth where the residential physical rehabilitation unit was located.

“The unit itself is in another building. However, if you want to ask for information about transferring a patient into the unit, they have an office on this floor.”

A volunteer led Karl through a labyrinth of corridors and offices to the offices of the residential physical rehabilitation unit.

A woman in a nice business suit greeted him.

“Good afternoon. I am Sister Catherine. I am in charge of admissions to the residential physical rehabilitation unit. Is that what you came to inquire about?”

“Yes, my wife is currently a patient in St. Francis Medical Center in Monroe, Louisiana. She was in the earthquake on June 13 and was trapped in a building. After she was rescued they flew her to Monroe because all the hospitals in Little Rock were crowded beyond capacity.

“She had to have part of her lower right leg amputated. Now the doctor says that she is ready to be moved to a residential physical rehabilitation unit – I guess to be fitted with an artificial leg and learn to walk with it.”

“What is her doctor’s name?”…

“What is the hospital insurance that you have?”…

“Who is your employer – are you still employed?”…

“Here is my card. Give me your phone number and I will call you this afternoon with an answer for you.”

Karl hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast. He asked directions to the cafeteria and found a sandwich, a fruit salad, and chocolate milk. Just as he finished eating his cell phone buzzed. It was the law firm.

“Mr. Cusak. The judge signed an injunction for thirty days. You have that much time to persuade Child Protection to drop their charges. You can come to the office before 4 p.m. and pick it up.”

Karl hurried out to his car and drove to the law offices. Then he went back to his room in the shelter to await Sister Catherine’s call. He also called Melodie to let her know that he had received the injunction and also a separate paper designating her as Dana’s caretaker.

Back in his room Ray and Shorty wanted to know more about the job.

“We are going to go to Marked Tree and drive toward Victoria. We are supposed to mark on the map where a road is too badly damaged to be used by trucks and what we need to do to make it useable. We won’t be doing any paving, just filling in holes or crevasses or whatever so that trucks can get through. Once we have a useable road to Victoria, we go out the county road that passes through the farm land as far as the farm land extends.

“When we have roads, we look for the farm equipment, tow it back to Victoria, put it in sheds, and fix it up. We mark on the map which fields still have crops growing. We mark which fields have been buckled and have ravines from the quake. They will have to be reengineered before they can be ploughed.

“We’ll be rebuilding the farm so that it is ready for planting season 2015.”

Just then Karl’s cell phone buzzed.

“Mr. Cusak, this is Sister Catherine. I have had a conversation with Dr. Kubicki in Monroe. I have also spoken with Blue Cross-Blue Shield here in Little Rock. We are ready to admit your wife to St. Vincent’s Residential Physical Rehabilitation unit. Come to my office on Monday morning. As soon as you sign the paper, I will call an ambulance company in Monroe and have them transport Mary to our unit. When she is in the unit, I will call you. Then you and your daughter may visit with her for one hour. After that you may only visit during the designated hours on Saturday and Sunday. Do you have any questions?”

“No, ma’am. Thank you.”

At 6 p.m. Karl left the shelter heading for the Stauer home. He stopped at a Wendy’s and ate a baked potato with chili and cheese.

At the Stauer’s he gave Melodie the papers and told Dana that her mother was being moved to St. Vincent’s. He told her that they would only be allowed to visit on Saturdays and Sundays but that Monday afternoon or evening after Mary was admitted they would be allowed to visit her for one hour. He gave Melodie $200 and asked her to buy Dana some clothes.