This is a story I thinking about before Christmas. I was going to hold onto it until later this year, but it decided to pour out for Easter. Obviously, my muse cannot tell time. I thank my beta reader for her work correcting my bad spelling.
As usual, I am not making any money from this... or any of my other writing. (damn)
Ed Graham sucked the frigid air through his teeth and leaned on the gate, "Sure is cold out here."
Jim Dunbar felt the Indiana winter creep down inside him; felt it all the way down to the bottom of his lungs. "Sure is, makes you think all those stories about global warming are just so much… hooey."
"Hooey," laughed the old man, "are you trying to watch your language with your old uncle. Jimmy boy, I've shovelled more shit; of all kinds, than you can imagine."
"Just getting in practice, Uncle Ed, so I don't slip up in front of family tomorrow," Jim could feel Ed's smile.
Jim closed his eyes and breathed in the familiar scents of his uncle's barn. The aroma of hay, the underlying smell of dust and the pungent odour of cow manure all painted pictures in his head of the red sided cattle shed and the black and white Holsteins inside. This was his uncle's world; he was only a visitor who didn't come often enough. This was the first time here since the shooting four that stole his sight four years ago.
"You remember how to milk a cow, Jimmy," Ed asked as he turned to the lean to next the manger.
"Been a long time, but I probably could if I find the milk pail."
"It's in the same place it always; Aunt Jean would shoot me if I changed anything in here." Ed grabbed at Jim's shoulder, "how do I do this?"
"Just relax," Jim moved Ed's hand from his shoulder; gave the arm a little shake to relax it and wrapped his fingers above his uncle's elbow, "just walk normally. Tell me when we come to a door and I'll tell you what to do then. I don't want any bruises or black eyes."
"Kid, every time get together with your brothers you end up with bruises and black eyes." Ed patted the hand that rested on his arm. "Add any you get from the youngsters and you'll need a stretcher."
Indiana is the land of James Whitcomb Riley, stock car racing and the former Sally Graham. When seventeen year old soprano Sally went to conquer Broadway she never thought she'd come back to Indiana with her tail between her legs twenty years later. Sally never made it to Broadway in anything other than a cleaning crew. It was one of the jobs she got while her husband, Stanley Dunbar, drank himself to death. Then her oldest son, Jimmy, finished high school and signed up for the army. Before he shipped off to basic training Jim told his mother he could take care of himself and maybe it was time she took care of herself. One quick call to Ed and his promise not to say 'I told you so' got Sally and her sons Tom and Rick back home to Indiana. Now she was Sally Parker, married to her high school sweet heart, veterinarian Jeffrey Parker. In Greenfield, Indiana she watched over grandchildren and did all her singing in the church choir.
"Boys," Sally yelped as her grandsons ran through the kitchen, "look where you're going! I almost dropped a bowlful of peeled apples on the floor. That would mean no apple pies."
"Josh, Caleb and Benny won't play with me" Jaime started to whine but pulled up short, "Grandma Sally, we need apple pies."
"Yeah, Ma," Jim was carrying a bright, steel milk bucket as he and Ed came in from the barn, "we need a lot of apple pies."
"What'zat," Jaime asked Jim as he reached for the pail.
Jim lifted the bucket high above the boy, "watch out buddy, this is fresh milk."
"Why isn't it in a carton?"
"That's because Farmer Dunbar got it straight from the cow," came a voice from behind them.
"Ricky," Jim almost dropped the milk as he pivoted round and was engulfed in the wild embrace of Indiana State Trooper, Sergeant Richard Dunbar. "What are you doing here now?"
"Serving and protecting, what else," Rick stepped back and checked his big brother from head to toe. Last time Rick had seen Jim he was trying to get back on the street with the NYPD. He liked what he saw, "Ma, two police sergeants in one family… you must know how to beat sense into your kids."
"I never beat anybody." Sally snapped as she bopped Rick on the head with a wooden spoon. "Lordy, boys, I can see why your wives took off. You both look like something the cat dragged in."
"Yes, Ma," the two police sergeants chorused like guilty school boys.
Aunt Jean sniffed loudly, "Jimmy, you smell of cow. Go get cleaned up. Ricky, your boys are treating their new cousin like he's smells like a skunk. Ricky, you remind those three hooligans it wasn't so long ago that they were in kindergarten and if they can't be nice now they better not expect to come here on Christmas Eve."
The men turned to do what they had been told.
"Nice to know some things never change," Jim smiled.
"Hey, don't encourage them," Rick moaned, "Those two old women have no respect for the law."
After Rick Dunbar convinced his sons to treat Jaime Janssen with a bit or tolerance… or else, he hurried back to his big brother. He found Jim sitting on the white wicker sofa in the sun room, a cup of coffee in his right hand and his left resting on the back of his guide dog, Hank.
"This used to be the back porch. Remember when we'd sit here at night during summer vacations and watch the thunderstorms."
Jim closed his eyes and remembered the place, "yeah, we'd sneak down and count the seconds between the lightning and the thunder. When did Aunt Jean talk Uncle Ed into building this?"
"After he sold off the sugar bush and retired from active farming." Rick sat down next to Jim. "Now he rents this place to the Kowalski's and works as a hired hand during planting and harvesting but he's pretty much a gentleman of leisure." Rick started to laugh gently. "He sits by that damn police radio of his and asks me who did what, where and why can't I do something about it. Man, I am glad he isn't my Captain."
"I have got to get him to my precinct someday. He'd like Marty Russo; they both want to keep me behind a desk." Jim sipped his coffee, "he can't believe I can still work crime scene."
Rick looked closely at his older brother. Jimmy was still tall and lean, but he had that odd way of holding his head that so many blind people seemed to have. Dressed in jeans and a black turtleneck Jim Dunbar seemed more like a teacher than a cop. Rick wanted to ask so many questions.
"Jimmy," the shrill ring of Rick's cell phone interrupted him, "damn, I have to take this."
Jim listened as his little brother fell easily into 'cop talk'. From what he could pick up hearing half the conversation Jim knew Rick had to leave.
"Sorry, Jimmy," Rick apologised as he shut his phone, "some of the uniforms have found an old shed that looks like a chop shop. Seems to be abandoned and the district commander has asked me to supervise until they decide who is going to handle the case."
"Don't worry; it's the job we chose. Next Christmas I'll be sitting in the 27th precinct house in Chinatown being the acting boss man."
Rick was almost out of the room when the idea struck him. "Jimmy, wanna watch how the country cops handle themselves. It's got to be better than sitting here waiting for Christie and Joyce to come back from shopping in Indianapolis."
Jim almost jumped to attention. "You sure I won't get in the way, because I have gotta admit I am going stir crazy here."
"Sure, I'm supervising until the powers that be decide if this is auto theft or organized crime. Just watching some guys in uniform bagging and tagging and making sure they don't corrupt the evidence is all I'll be doing. We'll be back for supper."
"Great, I'll get Hank harnessed and be ready to go when you are." Jim slapped his thigh to command Hank to follow him. "Ask Ma to watch Jaime, okay."
"Uncle Ed will keep all the boys busy… and get one of his parkas to wear. It gets damn cold out in the boonies." Rick rubbed his hands together in glee, "I am finally gonna show you how I work, Jimmy boy."
"Come on Ricky," Jim called from the guest room where Hank's harness and his white cane were, "this is East Armpit, Indiana; what could go wrong."