(This is part of a larger work detailing how a group of orphans living in the city came to live in the mountains. Lucy’s birth brother had contacted the government looking for her. She and her brother had visited each other. Now Lucy’s orphan family has come to visit their new adoptive grandpapa.)
Grandpapa – Old mountain man who took his infant granddaughter to live in a convent when her parents died.
C’TS – The grandson who grew up in the mountains with Grandpapa
Lucy – The granddaughter now 17 – raised in the orphanage at The Compound
Elspeth – C’TS’s infant daughter – (Her mother had run off.)
U’Nice – House mother for the orphans
A’Kee – House Papa for the orphans
Everybody else - Orphans who grew up with Lucy as family and their staff
The city children looked on visiting what would become their home in the mountains as an adventure. They’d never been camping before, but Aunt Sil had assured them that camping was fun. Mrs. Celia found them books on camping, and Papa Jake told them stories of camping with his college roommates. The children were out of school and on a camping trip. What fun!
C’TS had warned Grandpapa about his adoptive family, but the old man could not quite envision his rock being invaded by eleven youth who ran this way and that over the face of the mountain as they squealed and shouted about who would live where. Grandpapa soon longed for the peace and quiet he was accustomed to.
Grandpapa had forgotten the very idea of fun, and continued to grumble about not being able to eat rock and nobody wanting to buy rock. Everybody ignored him as they baked potatoes in the fire.
Mama U’Nice and Papa A’Kee eventually got the children organized and into their respective beds. They youth fell asleep early after their long day of travel.
Grandpapa took his headache to his bed and decided that he liked U’Nice and A’Kee. He was undecided about the blessing of the children. Grandpapa even went so far as to not congratulate himself for sending Lucy to the convent if the convent was now going to send all their children back to him. He wondered how on earth his small field would feed so many. They didn’t understand country ways. He knew full well you could not grow orange trees on rocks as Alan wanted to do. Grandpapa sighed thinking that Alan had no sense and the others were just like him.
Granpapa’s foul mood lifted the next morning when he woke up to the smell of food. The still morning air stood quiet around him. He could hear the fire and the occasional scuff of a shoe on rock. He thought the multitude of youth must still be asleep. He didn’t hear his great-granddaughter Elspeth fussing. He snapped wide-awake. Stark naked, Grandpapa ran from his hut crying, “Where’s Elspeth?”
Lucy sat by the fire on a cushion. “Grandpapa, go put your pants on.” Lucy looked into the fire with her face redder than the embers. “Elspeth is just finishing her breakfast. She’s fine. Now get dressed so you can eat and get started on your chores.”
Grandpapa had forgotten since her first visit that Lucy could be so shrill. She reminded him of her mother, Ann. As he wrapped what passed for pants around his hips he thought he heard the girls giggling and whispering around the fire. He left the hut and approached the fire saying, “Lucy, you are like your mother.”
Lucy blushed and slid into her disconnected dream-state.
“Ya, you like to boss a man about in a shrill voice, and Elspeth looks to be just the same.” His tone and words told Lucy this wasn’t a compliment.
Lucy died a little inside at the disapproval coming from her Grandpapa, and she remembered that he was the person who left her with strangers. She bit down on her pain and determined that he wouldn’t hurt Elspeth they way he had her. She smiled at her niece and rubbed noses with her. “Did you hear that, Sweetie? I am like my mama, and you are like your grandmama.”
Martha sat and watched the whole incident from under her eyelids. Grandpapa had broken one of the most important rules of the orphanage. He said something unkind about Lucy’s mother. She resolved to tell Mama U’Nice on Grandpapa.
Martha did talk to U’Nice about Grandpapa’s cruel words. U’Nice talked to A’Kee who nodded. So, it was with an extra twinkle in his eye that A’Kee stood up after the noon meal and announced, “Mr. S’TO will be here in three hours. Remember, the prosperity of this family depends on him now. Everybody must be cleaned up. Men, follow Alan to where we will bathe.
Alan brandished the battery powered hair clippers he’d dug out of a bundle. Their buzz startled Grandpapa who was not accustomed to electric noises. Alan had heard about what Grandpapa had said. He agreed that Lucy was inclined to shriek at a guy, but she was real smart and kept him from getting hurt or into trouble more than once. She’d stood up for him when the other boys teased him. He figured shrieking was her way and didn’t judge her for it. He clicked his hair clippers on again just to see Grandpapa jump. He slid the clippers into his toilet kit when A’Kee looked at him and led the men up the rock toward a tiny waterfall of water from a hot spring for bathing. “Come Grandpapa, you are an important and rich man now. You must bathe to meet Mr. S’TO.”
Grandpapa had liked the sound of being rich and important so he followed along nicely up the mountain to the stream below the spring. As the young men stripped off their clothes and crouched under the rivulet of falling water, he thought their laughter sounded more pleasant than the yelling had last night. They even began to sing.
Grandpapa decided he could sit on a rock beside the stream and soak his old feet in the warm water. He settled his old bones.
Surong yelled, “Come on Grandpapa, you too.” He grabbed one of the old man’s feet and pulled while Ukee pulled the other.
Alan stood behind Grandpapa and pushed him into the water where the others had started a water fight that involved throwing foamy shampoo at each other.
Grandpapa screeched and crawled back onto his rock with water and shampoo dripping from his hair and beard. He called for his grandson to help him.
C’TS knew of the plan to wash grandpapa and rushed forward to help while exclaiming that grandpapa’s clothes were wet, and he would help him out of them. Once Grandpapa stood naked on the rock, C’TS exclaimed happily, “Right, now let’s get you a proper shower. He slung grandpapa over his shoulder and stepped into the stream depositing grandpapa under the falling water.
The old man shrieked as warm water cascaded over his body. He shrieked when he realized his naked bum sat in the water. He had never in his life been this deep in water before. Where he sat, water came almost up to his waist and poured over his body from above. He shrieked and clawed for the rocks beside the stream.
“Grandpapa, you are not being a good example for the younger boys. How are we going to raise them to be good men when their grandpapa shrieks like a girl over getting a bath?” A’Kee’s voice sounded stern.
C’TS pushed the old man back into the water and called for soap. Grandpapa whimpered when C’TS pulled his feet out of the water and soaped them good. He shrieked again when C’TS soaped his bum and the same privates he didn’t care if the girls had seen earlier. After some more shrieking, the men allowed Grandpapa to crawl out of the stream.
Grandpapa rather liked how Surong rushed forward to wrap a towel around him and lead him to a rock in the sun. “Come sit here, Grandpapa, and let the sun dry you. The sun feels glorious.”
“Yeah, that glorious sun will burn your skin if you don’t get your shirt on young man.” Alan warned, speaking from his recent experience. “Now Grandpapa, you have a big family, and are we are going to make you very rich and modern. First, we will give you a modern haircut.”
A’Kee took the clippers from Alan and stepped behind Grandpapa. “Grandpapa C’TS, I wish to speak to you about the rules we have for the children, so you will know that all the children follow rules.” A’Kee turned on the clippers.
Grandpapa jumped at the buzzing of the clippers then when A’Kee put the hair clippers to his head, Grandpapa shrieked.
C’TS sounded impatient with his Grandpapa for his shrieking. “I didn’t put up a fuss when I went to the barber. We are going to be modern Grandpapa, and that means cutting our hair and our beards.”
Grandpapa clutched at his heavy matted beard that may have contained bits and pieces of meals he ate a year or two earlier.
A’Kee turned the discussion back to the topic of rules as the heavy mats of hair fell from Grandpapa’s head. A’Kee explained about how all people have good traits and traits that might irritate others. All people have balance. He went on to talk about how the orphans had not experienced their parent’s good traits and had not had the chance to be loved by their parents, therefore it was unfair to talk about any irritating traits the parents may have had. “If we cannot experience the good, talking about something not so good created imbalance. It hurts the children when they do not have balance.”
While this lecture was wise and delivered kindly, A’Kee wondered if Grandpapa heard it over the sounds of his shrieks when the clippers pulled at his matted hair.
An hour and six sets of clipper batteries later, C’TS helped Grandpapa to his feet saying, “You are a handsome man Grandpapa. The dairy woman will be bringing you gifts of cheese and not asking you to muck out the dairy if you are not careful.”
A’Kee admired his handiwork and the mass of smelly hair at his feet. “Better get back in the water and wash the loose hair from your body or it will itch.
Alan produced another bottle of shampoo designed to kill anything that might still be crawling on the old man and C’TS scrubbed his grandpapa again with much less shrieking this time.
Finally, the exhausted old man crawled out of the stream again to be wrapped in another soft towel. He decided the towels were nice, and he might wrap one around his hips for pants.
Grandpapa discovered the towel would not be needed as the boys presented him with gifts. They gave him two pairs of pants to wear at the same time one short pair to wear under the long pants that went down to his ankles. Alan again explained that yes, rich men wore two pairs of pants at the same time. The boys were happy to show Grandpapa that they too had underpants. Once the old man had been shown how the zipper on his pants worked, A’Kee helped him into a shirt the girls had sewn.
C’TS lectured, “See Grandpapa, it is as we have been trying to tell you. You have many children now, so you are rich, and they have gifts for you.” Knowing his grandfather, C’TS wanted to make certain the crusty old man did not order these new brothers and sisters off of his rock and out of his mountains. In his heart, C’TS told himself that if that happened he would go with Lucy and his new family. C’TS had never really forgiven Grandpapa for taking Lucy away just days after Papa had died.
After almost three hours of strenuous work, C’TS, Alan and A’Kee led Grandpapa back down the hill to meet Mr. S’TO. Grandpapa didn’t quite know what to think, but something that broke in his heart the day his son died seemed to hurt just a little less. He hadn’t liked the bath, but he liked the gifts and the way Alan had knelt at his feet to strap new sandals on them. He liked the flowers on his shirt. They reminded him of the flowers he planted on his wife’s grave. Music from the girls singing drifted up to him. Choked with feelings he had long thought dead, he put his hand on Alan’s shoulder and squeezed. He would keep his new family even if he didn’t know what they would eat.