Multiple Muse Disorder: 1970

Chapter 9: Up on the Farm

• 28 June - Saturday - Ann Arbor

[This chapter is where I am currently working.]

I woke up about 5:30 a.m. as it became light in the tent. Maggie and Sean were still asleep, so I lay there for a while, thinking, until the need to pee became too great to ignore. I unzipped my sleeping bag and sat up, which woke Maggie, who followed me quietly out of the tent.

It was fairly chilly just before dawn, and the car windows were fogged over, but we managed to see that Anna and Nan were curled up under the blankets in the back of the wagon, sound asleep. Maggie and I headed for the restroom and did our business, then sat on camp stools watching the sunrise and talking quietly.

Once it was full light, Sean woke up. He headed to the restroom while Maggie and I rolled up the sleeping bags and began taking the tent down. When Sean returned, he helped us finish.

"Guess it's time to wake those two so we can have breakfast and repack the wagon," he said.

As expected, Anna and Nan had not slept very much and weren't pleased at being woken so early. We ate our cereal and fruit, then packed the car. Nan and Anna pleaded to be allowed to curl up in back and sleep some more.

"Absolutely not," I said. "You sit in seats and wear seat belts." They managed to fall asleep before too long, anyway.

After about an hour we stopped for coffee and soda pop. Uncle Kevin and Aunt Brigid were expecting us around noon, so our plan was to eat lunch with them.

— ∴ —

The farmhouse was not far off a two lane paved road a few miles northwest of Ann Arbor. We turned into the long gravel driveway a little after noon, then parked near a couple of other cars between the house and the barn. We all climbed out of the station wagon to stretch and look around. Off the highway it was quiet enough to hear the creaking of a windmill left over from farming days.

We heard a door open and two people stepped out on the covered porch that wrapped around the front of the large old farmhouse. These must be Kevin and Brigid Davies. I had been expecting stereotypical college professors, but they each looked like they had grown up on the farm. Short, stout, weathered and dressed for the role, they were smiling and waving. Aunt Brigid's right arm was in a cast, supported in a sling.

"Hello, hello!" said Uncle Kevin. "Come on in. Lunch is ready. We can bring your gear in later. I'm hungry."

Sean and Nan looked at each other, nodding. "Same old Uncle Kevin," said Sean. "But what's happened to Aunt Brigid?" whispered Nan.

I now was quite certain I had never been here, and never seen these people. When Anna and Maggie looked at me, I shook my head slightly to let them know.

We walked up the steps to the porch. Uncle Kevin slapped Sean on the back and took him into the house. Aunt Brigid put her good arm around Nan, stating that she must have grown two inches in the last year. "Lisa, how are you doing?"

"I'm okay," I said, my standard response to that query.

"Sarah told me a little about your situation. We'll have a talk after lunch. And these are your friends?"

"This is Anna," said Nan, taking her hand. "She's my friend now, too."

I put an arm around Maggie's shoulder and giving her a quick squeeze to remind her to let me do the talking. "And this is Maggie. She and Anna are friends from my theater group who also need some time away from Tulsa."

"Well, you all certainly can relax here for a few days. In fact I could use some help, as I broke my arm yesterday, missing a step on the back stairs and landing wrong on the arm. Come on in and wash up. I'll begin putting food on the table. Kevin, give me a hand with that, please."

We followed Aunt Brigid inside. I tapped Nan on the shoulder. "Where is the bathroom?" I asked, using an unvoiced whisper.

"Oh, right, I forgot," she replied in kind. "Let's go upstairs so I can explain the floor plan."

She headed for the stairs near the front door, calling out, "Wash your hands, Sean! We'll be back down in a few minutes."

At the top of the stairs, Nan pointed to the bathroom on one side of the hallway. "That's pretty much over the downstairs bathroom. There are five bedrooms on this floor. The master bedroom is downstairs, along with the dining room and living room. The kitchen is kind of added on to the back of the house, as originally it would have been a separate building. Uncle Kevin said that the house is so old it didn't have indoor plumbing, so rooms that were originally parlors or sitting rooms were made into bathroom and closet space. The bedrooms have wardrobes or tiny closets.

"There's also a third floor, with dormer windows. It has a planked floor, and it's all open space; no rooms. I always thought it'd be a neat writer's hideaway. There's a huge fan that pulls air up through the house and exhausts it through a set of louvres it forces open, so it's survivable in summer, at least at night. It'd be awfully cold in winter, though, as not much heat makes its way up there. Not that there's much heat or air conditioning on the second floor, as the air ducts are of course also later additions. But the first floor is cozy year around.

"Most of the rooms up here have two beds, with minimal furniture. They really are only intended for sleeping. I'm guessing that Anna and I will share a room, you and Maggie a room, and Sean will be on his own in the room that only has one bed."

Surprisingly Maggie didn't object, though she frowned at Nan.

"I just remembered something," said Nan, opening one of the bedroom doors and looking inside. "Yes! The two rooms on this side have a connecting door. So we girls can take those two rooms. Okay, Maggie?"

"Thank you," said Maggie. "It will make me feel better to be able to reach you two quickly if anything should happen."

"We'll lock both doors at night," said Nan.

"These doors won't stop me," said Maggie, looking at the old fashioned skeleton key locks, "and they won't stop anyone else, either."

"On that cheerful note," I said, "let's get washed up and go have lunch."

— ∴ —

"I'm afraid this is mostly store-bought," said Aunt Brigid. "I was going to bake a couple of pies, but I can't do that with the one hand."

"I'll be happy to lend a hand," said Nan.

"And I'll be glad to help, too," I said. "I'm not a very original cook, but I can do the basics and follow recipes."

"I can chop things up, and do any slaughtering needed," said Maggie, earning a sharp glance from Anna.

"Oh, we don't have animals for that," said Brigid. "Just chickens for laying, and a goat for milking. Though I may have to return her to the neighbor's farm. They have half-a-dozen goats, and lend one to us in exchange for access to our apple trees. I can't quite milk with one hand, either, and Kevin is squeamish about doing it."

"No problem," said Maggie. "I know what to do with a teat in my hands, and I'm not at all squeamish about it."

Anna turned beet red and became very interested in her potato salad. "Maybe I can help with the garden?" she managed to say.

Uncle Kevin coughed. "So Sean, are you still interested in Computer and Communication Science as your major?"

"Yes, sir," he replied, with a glance at me. "I believe computers and connections between computers are about to be the cause of many changes in our world. I'd like to be part of that. Perhaps even shape how things go."

"Well said! Lisa, are you also interested in this area?"

"Somewhat. The private school I've been attending has a computer club; one of the parents works in a small firm that has an IBM 1620. It's just about at end of life for that model, so they were able to let the club have time on it during the weekend. I know a bit of FORTRAN and am familiar with both 026 and 029 keypunches."

"You don't say! Oh, this is fantastic! Oh, my. We'll have to try and talk you all into staying for a while, won't we dear?"

"Well, I am going to need help around the house until this cast come off. And seeing as how your research assistant decided to run off with my research assistant last week to spend a summer of love in Europe, we both need help preparing for the conference."

"I can touch type," offered Nan, "and I've spent hundreds of hours in libraries, looking things up and taking notes."

"All, right," said Uncle Kevin, rubbing his hands together and chuckling. "I think we can do this! Are you all willing and able to stay though the conference in August? I think we can even pay you."

"What conference is that, sir?" I asked.

"The annual NICOPP North American Conference. The University of Michigan is hosting this year, and we'll be lodging several attendees in our house." He paused, thinking. "You all would have to stay on the third floor while they were here, if that's all right. With that big fan running, it's not too bad at night, and you'd be too busy to be up there during the day."

Anna, Maggie, Sean and Nan each looked at me. "The National Investigation Committee on Out of Place Persons," I said, slowly.

"Yes, I'm sure you'll find it quite fascinating! Learn things that most people never even imagined. Might change the way you think about the world. What do you say?"

"You're right, "I said. "I think it could be very useful to find out about NICOPP and what it does and knows."

— ∴ —

After lunch we brought our things in from the car. The camping gear we took up to the third floor. We put our rather minimal clothing and personal items in our rooms.

"If we're staying here all summer, Anna, Maggie and I are going to need to do a little shopping," I said. "Otherwise we'll be doing laundry every few days."

"I'll ask Mom to send us some more of our clothing," said Sean. "Can you make a list of what you want, Nan? I need to call them and let them know that Uncle Kevin and Aunt Brigid want us to stay and help with the conference."

"Anna? If you're okay sharing with me, I'll just ask Mom to send all my sensible stuff. I don't have all that much, but it should do."

"Sounds good," said Anna. "I'm kind of a minimalist when it comes to clothes."

Maggie rolled her eyes at that comment. "Okay, Lisa. You and I can go shopping at some point. I intend to get some exercise every day, so I'll need a few more changes of some things."


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