Family Meeting

Me negotiating with the computer.

The fire sparks behind its grate in the wall next to our table in the back corner of L & L pub. I scan the encroaching shadows, but no ember seems to escape the hearth. I tell Alfred that I’ll return in a moment. I cross into the shadows from our little circle of light provided by two lamps on the wall. The grate pulls away from the mantle easily. I add a couple of logs to the fire before walking back to our table.

I settle back into my chair while taking a sip from my glass of whiskey. The light from the fire moves the shadows back from the tables a bit. “So, Alfred, did you have the meeting the next day as Papa planned?”

Alfred laughs trying to ease his whiskey out of his beer glass. “Has anything gone according to Papa’s plan to this point?”

I chuckle. “No, I suppose it hasn’t completely.”

“Right, Edward, so we did have the meeting but not as Papa planned. I remember that day was hot. It was the hottest day that summer. I was working in the barn with Joseph and just beginning to think about going to the house. We milked the cows in this open space at the back of Papa’s barn. Both Joseph and I were a bit disappointed by all the wool left on the floor. Catherine had sheared sheep that morning and rushed out before I could convince her to clean up.”

I interrupt. “Well, Joseph would be there milking the cows, right? So, she had to get out of there.”

Alfred purses his lips but still smiles. “Yeah, you’re right about that. Anyway the barn door rushes open. We hear many complaints from the other end about the sheep not wanting to leave the fields yet. Catherine is explaining to Papa that their whole schedule will be thrown off. They will be difficult for days now. She can’t believe Papa is making her come back from the fields. She even tried to use me as an excuse. ‘Alfred will have to work twice as hard tonight to feed them and get them to sleep.’”

“Well, she isn’t wrong about that.”

“Oh, I know, but honestly it was just a ploy to avoid being in the barn. Anyway, Papa moves ahead of her and opens the first pen for the sheep. Catherine huffs and guides the first group into their pen. The sheep actually do better than I expected. They flow right into their places. I guess even the morning sheering did not help with the heat. They might have been glad to get out of the sun.

“Then, Papa herds Catherine toward the back of the barn. Joseph and I greet them. Joseph quickly turns to Papa and asks for an explanation of the change in schedule. Papa says he has something to tell his children. He looks at me and looks around the barn. ‘Actually, this will work as well as anywhere.’ I nod moving to grab some stools for everyone.”

I move to pour another glass. Alfred sees me lean forward and pauses. So, I look up from my glass. “Good move trying to make people as comfortable as possible. How did Joseph react?”

Alfred smiles while widening his eyes. “As Joseph would. He looks around the milking area. He agrees with the plan, asks for a moment to move the cow back to its pen. On his way, he kicks every piece of wool. When he comes back, he sighs and says that they might be more comfortable if the wool was cleaned up. Catherine balks at this with some excuse about the sheep being really difficult that morning and just not having the time.”

“Oh, I’m sure Papa loved that excuse with what’s on his mind.”

Alfred laughs. “He smirked at Catherine and told her that now was as good a time as any to fix the place. We all pitched in to clean the wool. Even Joseph grabbed a broom and swept a bit.”

“I’m glad to see that the family can come together on occasion.”

“Yeah, when necessary, the sister and brother can cooperate more than one might give them credit for doing. I worked close to Papa and took the opportunity to ask him again if he’s sure about this. I just saw this as another reason to delay this move. But, Papa shook his head. He made some point about them never being really ready. He reminds me of how unprepared we were and that the children have a better start than we did. I couldn’t really argue with that point.”

I nod. “Well, of course, you couldn’t. Papa has made the decision again, so how did you help with the announcement?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *