She could see right away that Seth had fixed himself not to like the woman. It was a way he had of souring good opportunities for no reason, keeping himself, and, by extension, them, in hard times.
For some reason, this time, it bothered her more than most. The woman paid better than good money for the chores she wanted doing around her place and she always gave Seth lunch or dinner and, sometimes, more to bring home. “Here, Mr. Tiller, the squash are coming in faster than I can freeze them. Can’t you take a few home with you?” he mocked the woman saying as he threw the yellow pattypans on the counter.
“Nothing wrong with that,” she told Seth. “She lives alone up there. You’d be happier if she threw them into the compost? I’ll fry them up the way you like.”
But it didn’t help. When he got this way about a job, or a boss, or a person, there was no talking him out of it.
It probably didn’t help that her brother, Eugene, had gotten Seth the work. Eugene was a plumber and he made good, steady money, even here in this mountain town. Eugene drove a new truck, and lived in a brick house, and his wife got her nails done every single week of the year. Seth talked football and hunting with Eugene, and never really bad-mouthed him, but she knew he resented Eugene: Eugene who liked everybody, made small talk with all of his customers, and seemed to come by work as easily as Seth lost it. Ridley’s used Eugene on their construction jobs and he’d chatted with the woman a few times when her house was going up and she’d driven out from the city to check on its progress. She asked Eugene if he knew someone who’d do yard work and odd jobs and Eugene, knowing how it was for them after Seth threw down his wrench and walked out of the Ford dealership, had given her Seth’s number.
After she’d moved in, the woman had called for help with some small jobs: hanging pictures, spreading mulch, clearing her driveway after that one big snow the first winter. Seth had pretty much quit looking for work by then, so the money and produce he brought home from those jobs was all they had to supplement her paychecks from Food Lion. She knew the blow-up was coming, but tried to not say anything to provoke him. Every week he went up there and came home with cash and some frozen soup, or ham slices, or okra was another week they weren’t getting evicted.
She put on her uniform and her work shoes and got ready to go; she was on the graveyard shift this week.
“Come home with a six-pack, baby,” he said. She didn’t answer.
“Oh, the old biddy’s having company this weekend,” he called as she grabbed her keys and headed out the door. “She needs someone to help cook and clean-up. I told her you’d do it if you could get off.”
/To Be Continued