“I really can’t but thanks for asking. I’m not supposed to sit down when we have any guests in the dining room.” Pointing to the bench seat opposite her, the lady wouldn’t take no for an answer.
“Sit down, please, I want to talk to you. Peggy Sue just left to do something with Lorie and Wade is in the barn with the guys. It’s just you and me. Sit, please.” Wow, she was persistent; I’d give her that. Well, what could it hurt if, truly, there was no one else in the lodge anyway. I sat down across from her.
“Okay, just for a minute. What is it? Can I get something for you or do you need to make reservations for next year?” She had already told me that she and her husband come here every year.
“No I don’t need anything. I’ve been watching you all week. I haven’t seen you sit down once and you seem to be everywhere, doing everything.”
“Well, that pretty much sums it up.” I was laughing but worried, too, that her comments might somehow get me in trouble.
“I don’t understand that. Where are the other workers?” Oh boy, this was shaky ground now.
“I reckon you should ask Peggy Sue or Wade that question. It isn’t really for me to say. I just do my work the best I can. Did I do something wrong in your cabin?” Now, I really began to worry. Why was she bringing this up if everything was okay? A lump began forming in my throat.
“No, you’ve done nothing wrong. Quite the opposite, but I am a little concerned that you don’t have any help here. If you get too tired, you could get hurt balancing on that ledge to clean windows and I’ve seen industrial kitchens – the large knives and huge pots. The kitchen is a dangerous place when one is too tired to pay close attention. Have you asked for someone to help with the work?” Oh no, my eyes started to burn. No, no, not now right in front of a guest. I choked out an answer.
“There isn’t anyone else and tomorrow there will be so many people here that I will have to sleep in a pup tent with Lorie so guests can have my cabin.” The flood began in earnest with this last bit of shared information. I just couldn’t stop crying.
“Have you talked to your parents? They might not really want you to put yourself in that situation.” In this age of cell phones for everyone who can talk, practically, this question may be considered strange. We had no such things when I was 14 and, in fact, there was only one phone in the main lodge. A wall-mounted rotary dial phone hung in the kitchen. I shook my head as I had not talked with my parents since they drove me here. The kind lady stood, squeezed my shoulder and left me a piece of advice. “Just think about it. They might want to know.”
After I had finished the lunch dishes and was standing at the ironing board, I couldn’t help thinking about the guest’s comments and concerns. I glanced up at the telephone on the wall and then down at the huge basket of ironing I was to do while the family was in town purchasing extra supplies for the deluge of guests expected to arrive in less than 24 hours. The pup tent would be put up after breakfast tomorrow so I could clean my cabin and prepare it for the guests. My stuff was already in the suitcase so moving would be easily accomplished. The thought of sharing a tent with Lorie, sleeping when the little girl let me sleep, while working so hard all day and evening…. I glanced at the phone again as I recalled the lady’s advice. “They might want to know.”
I finished Wade’s shirt and turned the iron off. My mother answered the phone but my sobs made it impossible for her to understand what I was saying. In today’s world, such a call would give a mother a lot of awful ideas of just what might have happened to her little girl to make her cry like that but, fortunately, these things were not in the front of a mother’s mind at that time. Finally, I managed enough of the story for her to respond.
“Daddy and I’ll be there as soon as we can. We’re leaving right now.” I hung up the phone and let the relief unleash the torrent of emotions. I shook in near-seizure force spasms until I had to, finally, just sit on the kitchen floor. No chairs in that room, you know. All the fatigue, fear, and disappointment came rushing out through my tears and groans. Gone was the “I’m grown up” bravado, leaving the little girl just wanting to go home.
I was packed already so I went back to the ironing as soon as I had written an “I quit” note for Wade and Peggy Sue. I wrote that they did not have to pay me since I had not stayed the whole time I had agreed to work. I had no idea what time they would return; but, like any kid, I hoped it would be after I had left!
The bosses had not returned by the time my parents arrived. We waited a little while but, then, drove away, with only the note to give them a clue I had really meant it when I said I didn’t think I could do this any longer. They were not listening then but would have to now. I felt so guilty for letting them down with all of those people coming. Still, I was so happy to be going home.
We were a fair bit down the country road when a pick-up came barreling down towards us, spitting gravel and dirt as they passed us. They were headed in the direction of the ranch so I turned just in time to see the tailgate. A tailgate I knew well; it was, most certainly, Wade at the wheel. Once home, I waited for the phone to ring and rehearsed the speech I would make to Peggy Sue or Wade. The call never came.
*Names have been changed.
****First Real Job, Reflections… Coming Tomorrow