Thursday, November 1, 2007



Jimmie Freshcorn ran up the stairs and burst into the room!

"Wendi! What are you doing here! This isn't your house!"

Wendi was in the bed with her clothes on. She sat up and rubbed her eyes.

"You! Jimmy Freshcorn! Don't you give my any hard time. The snow's a-coming and I had to come here to town. I got to take care of myself, you know. It's cold out there in the country."

"But you can't just go into somebody's house and move in. Wilda called me. You got to get out of her house. I ought to lock you up in jail. But I'll just run you on home in the police car. Get out of that bed and come with me!"

"Dang you Jimmie Freshcorn! I ain't a gonna do it! I aim to stay right here until Spring comes."

Jimmy reached over and grabbed her by the arm. "You're coming with me Wendi and don't give me no lip." He half dragged her down the stairs. He opened the door of the police car, shoved her into it, none to gently, then started up Mouse Hill and out Indian Road to the former chicken house where Wendi made her home.

She got out of the car meekly enough, then turned and stamped her foot. "Dang you Jimmy Freshcorn. It's cold out here. I don't have no heat. And the radio said that snow is acoming. How do you expect a poor old lady like me to live this way?"

"Wendi, you've been living out here in this chicken house for years. Don't give me no argument. You got to stay out of trouble. And stay out of other people's houses!" Jimmy jumped in the car and drove off.

The next morning Wendi saw Doc Hefflin's car coming. She ran out to the road and waved him down.

"Doc, I got to go to town. Give me a ride."

"OK, Wendi, jump in."

He let her out in front of Wilda's Restaurant.

As she walked in the door, Wilda gave her an angry look. "What're you doing in town again? Why don't you just stay out in the country where you belong?"

"Now Wilda, don't get yourself in an uproar. It ain't good for you. Just get me a cup of coffee. I want a biscuit and gravy without none of that sausage in it. I got money." She laid a dollar down on the counter.

Wilda wasn't happy about it, but she took the money and set the coffee in front of Wendi.

Jimmy came in for his morning coffee. He saw Wendi and stopped in mid step.

"Wendi! What're you doing back here again!"

"Now Jimmy Freshcorn. Just settle down. I talked to the Wilkenses over on Front Street, and they are going to let me live in their back room this winter. Didn't charge me much at all. And it's warm. Now you just go on your way and let me alone."

Jimmy just shook his head, then went out, forgetting about coffee.

The first storm blew in that night. Down around zero and about six inches of snow.

Wendi had slept with her shoes on as usual. "I'm glad I'm in here where it's warm, " she said. She got up to put another lump of coal in the tiny stove. It gave off a satisfying glow of warmth. She just stood soaking in the heat.

"Breakfast is ready." Bertha Wilkens stood in the doorway. "Come and get it."

Wendi went into the kitchen and sat down at the table.

Bertha had made a big pan of biscuits and a skillet full of red-eye ham gravy. She poured Wendi a cup of coffee, then set a plate of biscuit and gravy in front of her.

Buford Wilkens came in. He sat down, gave Wendi a frown. Bertha set his food down in front of him. He took a sip of coffee, then began eating.

Wendi ate half a biscuit and drank a little coffee. "I'm full," she said. "That's sure good food. I like hot coffee. It gives me a warm feeling all over."

Then she went back to her room.

Wendi put her boots on over her shoes and bundled up good. She went out the side door and walked down the street to Wilda's restaurant.

"Gi'me a biscuit and gravy and coffee. That Bertha tried to starve me. I don't know how I'm going to get through this winter here. I wish I could stay at home."

Wilda frowned, and put the food in front of her.

Wendi ate a few bites, drank some coffee, threw some money down, and left.

When she got back to the Wilkenses, Bertha was packing a suitcase.

"We got a call that Buford's Grandma died up near Cleveland. We've got to go right away. You'll be all right here. There's plenty of food. Just help yourself. And please feed the dogs. We may be gone a week or so. You'll be all right here by yourself."

Wendi nodded her head, then went into the back room.

The next morning Wendi made coffee and ate a cold biscuit. Then she took a pan of food out to the dogs and fed them.

As she watched them eat, she became angry.

"Dad-basted dogs!" she mumbled. "I'm sure going to feed you!"

She walked back in the house and called the dog catcher.

"Fred Simms, you get out here to the Wilkenses and pick up these dogs! They don't want them anymore. Dogs is too much trouble. You come and pick them up!"

In about twenty minutes Fred drove up in his truck. Wendi came out to meet him.

"It's about time you got here, Fred Simms. You get those dogs loaded into your truck. We want them out of here! They're around behind the house."

Fred just shook his head, but what could he do? He followed her, led the dogs to the truck, loaded them in and drove off.

A week later the Wilkenses came home. After unpacking everything, they went out to see about the dogs. They came running into the house and burst into the back room.

"Wendi! Where are the dogs? What has happened to them?"

"Them dogs was too much trouble. I called the dog catcher and he came and got them. You'll be glad I did that. You need to get a cat."

"Wendi! How could you!" Bertha wailed. She ran to the phone to call Fred Simms, the dog catcher.

"Fred! Wendi had you pick up our dogs! Don't you know how crazy she is? Why did you do it?"

"Now, Bertha. Settle down. I've got them here safe and sound. I know all about Wendi. You can come and get them anytime. I will have to charge you, though. It costs something to run the dog pound and they do eat a lot. You do have to pay a small fine, too. I'm sorry, but it was out of my hands."

Bertha slammed the phone on the hook.

"Wendi, you are sure lucky Fred kept those dogs. Don't you ever do anything like that again! I'd make you pay what Fred is charging us, but you don't have any money, do you?"

Wendi turned up her nose and went back into her room.

A few weeks later Bertha came into Wendi's room.

"Wendi, this just isn't working out. We can't take it anymore. You have got to go. Right now. If you give me any trouble, I will call Jimmie Freshcorn and have him throw you out."

"Bertha, it's cold outside. You can't do this to an old woman like me. You got to let me stay until Spring when I can go back home again."

"Don't give me that poor old woman stuff. We've known you for years. You have to find another place to live. That's it."

Wendi went around gathering up her clothes and things and put them in a paper bag. Then she shook her fist at Bertha and went out the door.

Martha Cheltenham, Effie's mother, was nearly blind, and lived over on Back Street.

Wendi pulled her scarf tightly around her head, and shivered in the cold. She walked around for a while, thinking of where she could go. She wandered over to Back Street, and then up to Martha's door. She found the door unlocked, and went in.

"Is somebody there? Who is that?"

"It's me, Martha, Wendi. I've come to stay a while. I'll put my stuff in the upstairs bedroom."

"You can't do that! What're you doing! You must go somewhere else!"

But Wendi went on up the stairs.

"Wendi, you get down here. You can't stay here!"

Martha felt her way around the bottom of the stairs, but what could she do?

Effie came straight home from work.

"Mother! I'm home."

"Effie, is that you? Help me! That Wendi came in here and then went upstairs. She says she is going to live with us. I can't stand having her here. You've got to do something!"

Effie ran up the stairs and into the bedroom.

"Wendi! Right now! Get out of here! Mother is calling Jimmie Freshcorn and he will be right here."

Wendi sat up.

"You can't put me out. Where will I go? It's cold out."

Effie grabbed her arm and started dragging her down the stairs.

Jimmie Freshcorn was just coming in the door.

"All right, Wendi," he said. "Let's go." He led her out and took her away.

"Dang you, Jimmie. My clothes is still back there. I got to go back to get them."

"Nothing doing. You're going out Indian Road and staying where you belong."

By now Spring was not too far away, but it still was cold! Wendi was back in her chicken house, but she had no water, and no heat, and only a little food in cans. She got up that morning with a cold in her head and some pain in her chest. She already had her clothes on. She had slept that way. It was cold. When she went to see about her cat, she could see that it was sick, it's eyes matted.

"I got to get help for that cat," she said. She went out to the road and hitched a ride to Preacher Scott's house, which was not far from town.

She banged on the door. "Preacher Scott! Take me to town. I got to get medicine for my sick cat."

"Just as soon as my wife gets ready," he said. "We were about to go into town anyway."

Wendi sat on the couch. She sneezed and blew her nose. "I got to get medicine for my cat."

"It sounds like you ought to get medicine for yourself. Can we take you to the Clinic."

"Naw. I'm all right. Just a little cold in my head."

By the time they reached the Veterinarian's Office, Wendi was in bad shape. She got the medicine for her cat. But when she came out, she staggered and nearly fell.

"Wendi, you need help. You're really sick! We're going to take you to the Clinic."

At the Clinic, the nurse took Wendi into a room. She came back to speak to Dan Scott.

"I'm worried about Wendi," she said. "She comes here every month for medicine for her heart. She has lost a lot of weight, and today she is running a fever. Are you responsible for her?"

"No. She calls on me because I'm the preacher out on Indian Road. We try to help. I don't think her family has much to do with her."

"Well, I'm going to give her an antibiotic. I wish you would check on her from time to time. She isn't well at all."

"We'll do that.

In a few minutes the nurse came out of the room. "Wendi's niece is Kayla. I called her. She is going to come in about an hour and take Wendi home with her. I'm glad she does have family to look after her. Thanks for your help."

"Thank you," Dan said. "We appreciate your concern. We wouldn't want her to be out there and all alone."

Wendi came out of the room. "Kayla!" she said. "Kayla has two big dogs! How am I going to get along there? What about my cat?"

The nurse just shook her head.

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