The Summer of Confusion
It’s late afternoon on Friday in the middle of July, May is busy working in the office, Kathy is at the bar, tending to the customers, Frank and the boys are outside building the veranda and the kitchen addition. Nana is at home watching over the younger kids. The humid blistering 101-degree heat of the sun is beating down making the Minnesotan summer a miserable day to be working in. all of them are trudging through the sweltering misery.
May gets up from the desk, turns on the air conditioner, walks out to the bar and grabs a flask and fills it with ice and tea, fills it half full and adds lemonade to it. Puts a few glasses on a tray and brings it out to her boys outside. “looking good, keep up the good work” All of them look at May and smile.
Julie and Pam are playing with their barbie dolls in their bedroom, Lori, Junice, Bonnie, and Mary are playing up in the tree fort. Junice rudely “Mary you’re fat!” Mary looks at herself “No I’m not” knowing that she is getting fat. Lori looks at Junice menacingly punches her on the arm “Shut up” Bonnie stands up “I’ll beat all yahs if you don’t knock it off” goes over to the box in the corner, pulls out 4 bottles of coke. Mary blurts “where did you get those?” Bonnie snickers “I went into Tom’s chest in the basement and swiped them, he isn’t coming back” Junice looks shocked “You’re going to get your ass beat if he does” Mary nods “You know he will find a way to hurt you, and blame you for it” Bonnie “I don’t care, I’ll tell dad, and watch him kick tom’s ass” all 4 sit down drinking their bottles of warm coke and chuckling.
The girls clamber down out of the tree fort, and start running in the fields where the hay is growing, playing tag. The cows are scattered everywhere. Junice “let’s go down by the creek” Bonnie “Yah we can go throw rocks at the fish.” Lori looks at Bonnie
“you’re such a bitch” Bonnie turns and starts chasing Lori through the field towards creek. Mary and the Junice take flight and follow.
Bonnie can feel Lori’s hair, brushing her hand as she reaches out to grab her, the two of them come up to the creek, Lori suddenly stops and squats, Bonnie wasn’t paying an attention took one to many steps, and flew off face first from the embankment into the creek. The pool was deep enough that all she did was create a big splash. Mary and Junice stop behind Lori, and start laughing extremely hard. Bonnie takes a handful of mud and whips it at them, they all get sprayed with the dark red and brown mud. They all jump in the creek and a mud fight commences. Screaming, hollering, laughing, and calling each others names.
Bernice the family pet slash milking cow, comes strolling out from the hay field, stops few feet up the creek from where the girls were playing, and ignores them, and drinks water. Mary walks over to Bernice and scratches her ear, and strokes the velvety nose. Bernice responds to her touch and starts walking towards her, and enters the creek. The girls started splashing water on Bernice, and the happy cow lets off a very long high pitch mew.
10 minutes later half the herd is in the creek, some laying down some just want to get splashed. Others just staring warily looking on. The girls were having a blast when Nana walks up to the edge of the Creek. Junice looks up and blurts out “OH SHIT!”
Nana angrily “Junice, get to the house I’ll deal with you later” looking at the girls, “look at you girls, you’re a damn disgrace, you’re caked in mud, you probably smell, and what in tarnation do you think you are doing playing in a herd of cattle?” Lori replies with a sneer “We were bathing the cows, it’s hot out” Nana in a demanding voice “you girls get out of the water this instant, get to the house and get cleaned up right now!” The girls run back to the house, standing on the porch, removing all their clothing down their undies, laying them over the railing, and stacking their shoes on steps,they run up to the bathroom and take turns at the sink washing off the mud.
Nana walks into the bathroom angrily, Grabs Junice by the ear and pulls her to the sink, grabs a bar of soap and shoves it in her mouth “you ever swear again, I’ll smack you!” storms out of the bathroom on her way down the stairs, the girls hear her yelling back “Five minutes Junice, then you can take it out”
Junice knew if she took it out Nana would know. The other girls were chuckling and taunting her. Lori “oooh Junie you got in trouble, Bonnie is only bitch junior now.” Bonnie turns around with a rolled up towel and smacks Lori in the face like a whiffle on a stick, starting a ruckus, and laughter and commotions, Nana walks back into a bathroom in complete disarray. “What!. What the HELL!”
Girls are trying to stifle their laughter, Junice is gagging and laughing at the same time, Nana yanks the soap out of Junice’s mouth “What the hell are you girls doing?”Junice tosses her cookies in the toilet, and the girls couldn’t help themselves started laughing again
Nana starts yelling “I don’t care how long it takes, you kids get this place cleaned up NOW!” Mary responds “Yessum” Nana red in the eyes, “If you girls can’t stop your nonsense, I’m going to pull out the bobby”
Bonnie’s mouth drops open in shock. She starts cleaning the other girls follow suit, quietly putting things away, with in 10 minutes the bathroom was clean. Nana still standing in the doorway, “Now get downstairs and start cleaning the kitchen since you have so much energy” The girl’s single file trotted down the stairs as fast as they could. Nana smirking and shaking her head, lets out a long sigh, and follows them down the stairs.
Jim, Kenny, and Frank come walking into the house full of sawdust and sweat, smelling of body odor and wood, see all 6 girls sitting in the living room watching cartoons, Nana is in the kitchen sitting at the table with three empty bottles of beer, working on a fourth, she looks at Frank, red in the face, she sneers. Frank looks at his other “What’s wrong?”.
Jim and Kenny ignore the commotion and walk up the stairs, not caring, Marc grabs a bottle of coke out of the fridge and goes to the barn to do his afternoon chores. Nana walks out of the kitchen onto the porch, Frank follows her. “Son, I’m not watching those monsters anymore, I can’t deal with it, you need to find a babysitter or something?” Frank looks at her with frustration “What now ma?”
Nana sits down on the porch swing, swigs down some beer “Those little shits drove me to a nervous breakdown today, playing in the middle of the herd, mud over everything, destroying the upstairs bathroom, and swearing!”
Frank peaks into the house, looking down the hall into the living room, then back to Nana “you’re kidding me right?” Nana gets up from the swing “Get cleaned up Frank, supper is in a half hour” Frank grabs his mother elbow “Mom, they’re just kids, let them have their fun. If they’re not in the house, you have it to yourself do you not?” Nana yanks her arm away, walk into the house annoyed.
Not thinking twice, Frank walks to the back bathroom and shuts the door.The girls get up from the television and disappear up stairs, knowing that when Frank gets home, the television is his domain. They don’t like what he watches, so they find something to do in their bedrooms.
Frank comes out of the bathroom and flips the telly on and flops down on the chair, Tom Brokaw is reporting current affairs about President Nixon and the war efforts in Vietnam. Nana get’s annoyed at the news “Frank shut that off!”
Nana finishes setting up the table and yells “Dinner!” everyone starts piling into the dining room. Kathy arrives in the Buick. Walks into the dining room “Mom is closing tonight, don’t expect her”. heading over to the sink and washes up “She yells out the kitchen window. Marc! Get your ass in here” and goes to the dining room table and sits down. Marc comes running in from the barn, washes up, and sits with the rest of the family.
Jim is reaching for the Rolls, Nana lets out a whip crack smack across the wrist, “you say grace tonight Jim.” Jim sighs “Yessum” Jim looks at everyone with their heads bowed “Lord bless this family for the bounty you have granted to us, and bless our business, health, and keep us safe from harm”
Nana smiles at Jim “Dig in kids”
Half way through dinner there’s a knock at the door. Frank gets up and sees two men in uniform outside the screen. “What can I do for you gents?” A gruff voice speaks out “Sir we need to speak to you and your Son Jim” Frank looks at both of them, “What’s this about?” The sharp dressed shorter one blurts out “Sir this is important, is Jim home” Jim comes walking to the door “I’m Jim”. Frank pushes Jim back into the house and steps out and closes the screen door behind him and stands in front of it “You gents have not answered my question. What is your business?”
The gruff voice “Sir your son is being drafted” Frank “What’s your name son?” Gruff voice “Sergeant Wikimson sir and this is Private Brackson. Your son is required by law to come down to the recruitment office for a physical and testing”
Frank with a dead stare “I served in the Korean war as a decorated marine, My family already did their civic duty! You are not taking my son. He is needed here on the farm to run it”
Sergeant Wikimson “Sir these are perilous times, we do not have a choice, President Nixon has ordered all able bodied men to join in the effort to keep the communist north Vietnamese from invading their southern counterparts” Frank looks at Sergeant Wilkimson. “When does he need to be there?” Sergeant Wilkimson “Technically we are supposed to drive him in right now for testing, But if you wish you can bring him on Monday” Frank stands there silently for a few moments “Fine, I’ll drive him there on Monday myself. Now if you please, you are interrupting our family dinner” motioning them to leave the porch.
The two gentlemen walk to their green studabegga with a large white star on the door. They climb in and nod at Frank before they drive off. Frank turns around and walks into the house, Jim is standing there looking at his father, Frank dead tone “We will discuss it after dinner when the kids are in bed” Jim nods and follows him back to the table. They all sit in silence eating their dinner.
Nana gets up from the table to get the honey sweet cake for desert. Lori blurts out “Daddy is Jimbo going to fight the rice eaters?” Frank jerks his head “Lori, you watch what you say, NEVER disrespect someone. I swear I’ll smack the stars out of yah” Lori sighs “Yes daddy, but does Jimbo have to leave?
Frank looks at Jim, “Well honey, that’s up to your brother really. We will be discussing his options later tonight” Marc looks at Jim “If you go, I’ll enlist to” Jim pushes Marc off his chair “you’re too young, and you’re a pussy” Marc gets up and punches Jim in the face. Frank angrily “Marc sit your ass down right now!” Jim in a forced whisper, “I’m gonna beat you later” Marc flips him off under the table.
Frank looks at the girls, Kenny and Marc, “Take your desserts and go watch some television.” Nana sits down next to Frank “Jim, I forbid you from going” Jim shrugs, Frank blatantly states to Nana “he doesn’t have a choice Ma” Nana interjects “Like hell, he doesn’t 5 generations of this family has seen every war since the civil war. ” Frank shaking his head “It doesn’t matter Ma, it’s a presidential order, you might as well consider it Martial Law
Jim looks at Frank “I heard Mr. B at work the other day say something about something to do with agricultural deferral” Frank nods “That’s the option I was going to present to you, but there is a catch to it” Jim nods. Frank continues “If you get the agricultural deferral you will have to quit your job at B’s Feed and work on the farm round the clock. You will have to increase the livestock almost 4 times what we have, and you will have to provide some kind of crop. ” Jim nods again. Frank stares at Jim. “you do realize what this means right?” Jim shrugs, “not really pops” Frank puts Jim on the shoulders, “You’re going to be working yourself into an early grave. You will be getting up at 4:30 in the morning, working until 10 at night. You will not get any pay. You will not have any help. Your mother owns and operates the bar, I drive semi, and the kids will be in school in a few weeks”
Jim looks at his father and contemplates. “I’ll think about it and give you my answer on Sunday, tomorrow I am going to go see My girlfriend, I am going to discuss it with her.” Frank nods “Fair enough, just remember, your choices are limited, and once you decide, you have to commit or you will end up in a stockade with a court martial” Jim nods.
Jim gets up from the table and walks upstairs. Nana looks at Frank with painful eyes and as she is about to say something, Frank blurts out “Don’t Ma, I already know what you are going to say.” He gets up and grabs a bunch of plates from the table, walks into the kitchen and stands over the sink while running water over the plates. He begins to silently weep, and mumbles under his breath, “Curse you lord for your need to allow men to kill one another” Nana overhears what he said bringing in more dishes. She puts her arms around him and whispers “Everything has a reason”
Frank drops the plate in the sink, breaking it in half, he walks over to the fridge, grabs a 6 pack of Miller, and walks out to the barn. He grabs his fly fishing equipment off the walls, and clambers into the truck and drives off. Nana watches with sad eyes. “Lord save my family”
May comes rolling up the driveway around Midnight to see Nana sitting on the porch swing with her coffee cans smoking with sage. She parks the vehicle. Walks up the porch stairs and sees she has drunk 7 beers, and working on an 8th. “Well shit Ma, I know you can put them away, but what’s bothering you” Nana looks at her “You will have to talk to Frank and Jim. Frank is probably sleeping in the back of his truck drunk near First island”
May confused, “seriously tell me whats going on? The only time you drink this much is when something serious has happened” Nana looks at her trying to act angry “I’m too drunk, tired and sad to discuss it with you tonight” Talk to Frank tomorrow.
The next morning Saturday, by noon the boys completed their chores. Jim tells the boys to get in the back of the truck, they are going to go find their father. They drive down to the shores near First island where they know their father loves to fish. They find him laid out in the back of the truck, all the beer bottles empty and a basket of brown trout rotting and stinking in the afternoon sun.
Jim walks over to the truck, grabs the basket of fish and tosses it into the river, comes back and tosses the basket in the back of the truck and yells out “WAKE UP!” Marc and Kenny followed Jim and started shaking the truck. Frank in a loud voice “Get the fuck out of here, go home!” passes back out with his head resting on the wheel well.
Jim looks at Marc, “you drive that truck, I’m going to drive this one. Stay behind me and don’t fuck around!” Marc runs to the truck and starts her up, Kenny jumps in the passenger and blurts out “This is fucked up you know that?” Marc nods. Jim throws all the gear into the truck and closes the gate. Gets in and starts driving slowly down the dirt road.
Both trucks come rolling up the driveway as May and Nana are standing on the porch. Both trucks stop in front of the porch. Marc and Kenny get out of their truck and walk over to the truck with their father in and open the gate. They reach in and grab Frank by his britches and pulls him to the tail gate, lifting him up and wrapping his arms around their shoulders they help him into the house, and dump him on the living room couch. Jim walking behind them looks at his grandmother and mother “let’s talk”
Nana and May are sitting on the porch swing trying not to cry or be upset, but they can not hide the red eyes or the beat red faces. Jim comes walking out of the house “I’m going to see my girl, we have a lot to talk about. I won’t be home for dinner, don’t wait for me”
Sunday morning Jim walks into the kitchen, washes up and heads over to the dining room and sits down. Everyone is staring at him silently. Frank takes a drink of orange juice and gulps loudly and intentionally and shoves bacon in his mouth while staring at his plate.
Jim clears his throat “I see you said grace already” as he reaches over to grab the biscuits. Kenny speaks up “Jim… Don’t go, stay here I’ll help you with the farm” Jim smiles at Kenny. Shakes his head and grabs the gravy. Nana speaks up “So you made up your mind didn’t you?” Jim grabs the coffee pot and pours some coffee and looks at Nana while shoving the coffee cup into his face. Frank speaks up “Your grandma asked you a question son!” Frank and Jim lock eyes.
“My girlfriend threatened to leave me if I join, I don’t want to run the farm single handily, and I do not want t go to fight with a bunch of niggers and grunts!” May gets up from the table and walks over to Jim, Smacks him across the face, “Don’t you ever say that word under this roof again. You will respect everyone!” Jim rubbing his face “I’m sorry ma”
Frank pushes his plate away from him with anger “You’re a disgrace, Jim. I taught you better than that” Gets up from the table and walks out to the barn. Jim is looking bewildered. He continues to eat his meal in silence.
A few hours later Jim walks out to the gnoll where his father is laying out bales of hay for the cattle, “Why are you so angry Pops?” Frank shuts off the tractor, jumps down, strolls casually over to Jim and punches him in the face. “We are Not racist people Jim. I fought next to Indians and blacks during the Korean war.” Jim tries to rub his jaw as he lays on the ground, looking up at Frank “But, why do so many people in town use that word?” Jim sighs. Offers his hand to help, “Son, they are ignorant hateful people, that is not an excuse to disrespectful of people.” Jim grunts as he yanks on his father’s hand to stand up “I’m sorry pops” Frank nods
Frank climbs back on the tractor, before starting it up he looks Jim dead in the eye “You’re going aren’t you?” Jim looks down, and sighs. Frank nods, starts up the tractor and goes about his business. Jim stands there looking over the cattle, contemplating. He turns around and walks towards the house. He sees Kathy, May, Kenny, and Marc in the car driving down the driveway.
He walks into the house, grabs a beer, and goes out to the porch and sits down on the swing. Nana comes out and sits next to him. Looks at him “Jim, I do not like it, not one bit. But if you do not have a choice, you have to do what is necessary.” Jim gulps down the beer angrily.
The next morning, Frank and Jim get up early and drive down to St. Paul to the recruitment office. The sergeant on duty motioned them to sit down. He started going over options with Jim. Jim stands up jams two fingers on the desk, looks the sergeant in the eye “I’m not joining the army. I’m joining the military!” And turns to walk out the door. The sergeant stands up “But Sir, the army is a better choice for someone like you” Jim opens the door “No it’s not. My father is military, so I will be too.”
Frank walks out of the office gets into the vehicle, sitting down next to Jim and smiling “You made a fine choice son” Frank starts up the vehicle and they drive down to the USMC recruitment office.
Later that evening everyone is sitting down around the table. Frank clears his throat “Jim is joining the military, and because his aptitude is off the chart, he is being sent to a military training school for education. My son is going to be an officer” Nana, with a smile “You mean he won’t be fighting” Jim speaks up “No mam, I am going to military school and training on the east coast. It’s a 27-week training and 6-week boot.” May in shock “You’re going to be away for almost a year?” Jim nods “Possibly more when I am shipped overseas.” Nana speaks up “So you are going to be fighting” Jim responds “no I will be working in the officers quarters”
It’s the towards the end of September, Jim was shipped off to West Point, the kids are back in school. May is working in the bar. Frank reduced him over the road hours to tend to the farm more. Kathy moved out of the house into her boyfriend’s house, whom she was just engaged to a few weeks prior to Jim’s departure. It took the family some time to get over the emptiness and sadness of Jim leaving. Kenny is still working at Bjerges feed after school, Since he is a senior he’s allowed to drive the truck. Marc was able to get a job there too since he just turned 17, and Kenny put in a good word. Turned out Marc is a hard worker, he went from stock boy to granary foreman in a matter of months. Thomas moved back home shortly after Jim. He was forced to live in the loft of the barn Since Nana wanted nothing to do with him being in the house.
May was in her office when she got a call from the Nurses office at school, claiming Mary needs to go to the hospital because of her intense stomach pains. May calls up the house and asks Frank to come to the bar and watch over it while she runs to the Highschool.
Frank jumps into the truck and drives over to the bar, he leaves the truck running as he walks in, May kisses him on the cheek as she walks out the door. Frank “Hey! Not in public!” May “Oh shoosh Frank!” and leaves.
She arrives at the school 15 minutes later, parks the truck and walks into the office. The clerk recognizes her, “Hello, follow me. I’ll take you to the nurse’s station”. She gets up from the desk and May follows her down the long hallway.
May enters the office, and the Nurse immediately greets her with rather a cold statement “Your daughter is experiencing extreme stomach distress, she is so fat, you really ought to stop feeding her so much!” May looks at her like she is going to knock her teeth in, walks over to Mary. “Come on hon, let’s get you to the doctor”
Couple hours later after a thorough examination of Mary, the doctor pulls May into the hall way “Mam, I have some pretty disturbing news for you” May “Yes.. and..” Doctor nervously responds “Your daughter is having contractions. She is going to have a baby soon” May’s mouth drops, she practically falls over forward almost fainting. The doctor stabilizes her. “Are you alright mam?”
The doctor helps her over to the chairs outside the room, and gets May to sit down. He motions the nurse over, “Get some water for me quickly.” May sits quietly for a while, and starts to tear up. “My baby, my poor little girl” Doctor changes his tone, “You had no idea what was going on?” May shaking her head and through sobs “I just thought she was gaining a lot of weight like typical girls do during that age” Doctor responds with concern “should I notify the authorities?” May goes into a shock response, “No one is to know, this is a family matter got that?” Doctor nods.
May asks the doctor about some pain medications until they can figure out how to deal with it. She didn’t want Mary to know what was going on. The doctor prescribed some heavy sedatives that would have her sleeping a lot.
May grabs the medication from the pharmacy, comes back to the room and gathers up her things and Mary and head home. When they arrive the girls were on the porch drinking lemonade with Nana, May ushers Mary into the house up to her bedroom. She grabs a heating pad and a glass of water from the bathroom. She gives Mary the medication, puts the heating pad on a pillow and lays it on her stomach, and instructs Mary to lay in a fetal position until she gets home and not to move.
May watches as Mary falls asleep, and walks down to the kitchen, picks up the rotary and dials up Kathy. Kathy picks up “Hello?” May “Kat, no time to explain, I need you to come to the bar. Emergency” Kathy “Be there shortly mom”
May gets into the truck and drives to the bar, she sees Kathy pulling up at the same time “Great timing Kat, I need you to close up. Family emergency, your father and I need to have a long talk” Kat looks at May confused. “ok sure thing mom” May walks into the bar and tells Frank to follow her to the truck.
The two of them drive down to the island where Frank likes to fish, and where she knows there is no one around. Frank looks at May “what the hell is going on May?” May looks out the window, and starts crying really hard. Frank is confused and feeling helpless. “MAY! What the HELL!”
May looks at Frank “Mary is pregnant and she is about to give birth” Frank stares at her with disbelief. May continues to cry. Frank just sits there staring. A while later, May composes herself. And it hits her like a punch to the face. “I know who did this!” Frank looks even more confused. “Talk to me May, don’t leave me hanging!”
“Last February I caught Mary coming up from the basement, she had a limp, and she said she was patching up his face. You remember the nasty gouge he had on it. Well, I think he might have raped her” Franks’ face turns bright red, “That Fucking Piece of Shit, I’m going to Kill him!”
After about an hour of talking, they came up with several plans. Then the two of them drive home. When they arrive, May walks into the house, Frank walks into the barn. Frank climbs the ladder up to where Thomas is lying sprawled out on his couch. He grabs him by the scruff of his neck and tosses him off the loft. Thomas in shock and pain “What the Hell, what the fuck did I do?” Frank climbs down the ladder walks over to the work bench, picks up an ax handle laying on it, and starts swinging it at Thomas “You get the fuck off this property, Don’t ever come back here. You are not a part of this family. You are no son of mine” Thomas avoiding the swings and in tears “What did I do pops” Frank runs at Thomas’ shoulders rolled forward and tackles Thomas to the ground and starts beating him “you raped your sister you piece of shit!”
Thomas realizes what has happened struggles to get out from the beating and runs to the far side of the barn “I’m sorry Pa, I’m sorry” Frank angrily “I’m not your pal, you are nobody to me, now get off this property before I get the twelve gauge” Thomas in tears and frantic “Where am I suppose to go? I have nowhere!” Frank “It makes no difference to me, you are are trespassing, now get the hell out of here” Thomas “fine I’ll grab my shit.” Frank responds “No you wait right there!” and climbs back up the to the loft grabs the big duffle bag off the top rack which he used during the Korean war. Packs all Thomas’s stuff into it. And throws it at him. “If I ever see you on this property again, I’ll kill you!” Thomas throws the pack over his shoulder and walks out of the barn, down the dirt road. Not to be heard from again for many years.
May is upstairs packing Mary’s clothes, and getting her ready to leave. Frank walks into the house. Nana notices what happened and simply walks into the kitchen not wanting to know. The expression on Franks’ face was definitive. Everyone knew not to be around him in this mood. He walks up the stairs. May grabs the suitcase, and Frank picks up Mary who is sound asleep. The two of them walk quietly down to the truck, May tosses the suitcase in the box, Frank lays Mary in the middle seat. The two of them get in and drive away.