A Proper Cleaning By Sherrill Fielhauer “Ida? It’s John. I’m afraid I have some bad news.

” Ida Baker had answered the phone in the kitchen, where she had been about to make some eggs and bacon for breakfast. “I tried to reach Dave on the telephone last night to see if he was going to come here and clean up as he usually does before church and, when he didn’t answer, I figured he must have run into town for something. So I tried again this morning and, when I didn’t get an answer, I took a chance and walked over to the cabin. When I got there I just let myself in. I thought he was asleep in the chair, except, well I guess he must have passed away yesterday some time. I called Doc Willis and he is on his way and the coroner will be coming along after that. Doc said he would call him.” “Oh, John, I just can’t believe he passed away so soon after Buck! Those two never could stand to be apart for any length of time, so I guess it is fitting.” Ida was worrying the phone cord as she spoke and her mind was racing ahead with all the work to be done. “Well, I imagine you are going to be there a while yet. I’ll send Walt over in a bit to get you. I’ll call Pastor Glen and arrange for the church service and then I’ll call the rest of the family.” “I can call Clara and have her get the word around. You go ahead and arrange the service. I can’t imagine we’ll want to wait more than a couple of days.” “Okay John, I’ll see you when you get here. Have you had breakfast? I was just making mine and Walt’s.” Ida looked nervously towards the counter at the eggs and bacon she had left. She realized she would have to add toast now. “Sure, if you have some extra, but I wouldn’t want to use up your rations. I’m not real hungry just now, either.”

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“Yes, but we all have to eat. I’ll see you shortly.” Ida hung up, wiped some crumbs she had spotted off the brown tile counter onto her hand then into the trash, and walked into the front room to tell Walt they would be holding breakfast for John. “Oh and just how is he getting here? I’ve been meaning to talk to him about driving that damn tractor to town. They took his license away because he is going blind, which they should have done years ago. Then in that godforsaken tractor, he almost hit Ella on her bicycle the other day!” “Not now Walt. Besides, most everyone around here knows to stay out of his way,” said Ida as she wiped her hands on her apron. “He isn’t driving over; you have to get him from Buck and Dave’s cabin. John stopped over there this morning and found Dave had passed away in his chair. He’s waiting for Doc Willis and the county coroner to get there. I want you to bring John over here to have breakfast. I have to call Pastor Glen and arrange the service. I guess after the church service we should have everyone over here again.” Ida looked around her own home for any evidence of dust or fingerprints that might have crept in since last night. “We can’t have it at their cabin. Lord knows what condition that cabin is in. I guess it will be up to me now to see that it gets a proper cleaning. Oh, I’m getting too ahead of myself! I have to make arrangements first.” “Now Ida, you know your sister and the other ladies from church will all help with the cleaning. You go on and call Pastor Glen and the rest will take care of itself.” “Only men say that because the women do all of the care-takin’!” Ida walked back into her pristine kitchen to get the ball rolling.

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The funeral was four days later on a Thursday afternoon at the local Presbyterian Church. The church was full of friends and relatives who lived in and around Cherokee Valley, but due to the war’s fuel rationing many family members from out of town were unable to come. Pastor Glen approached the pulpit and the rustling and murmuring settled down. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to say a final farewell to one of our own, David Larsen. It saddens me that most of us have not had enough time to put away our grief for his brother James, or Buck as he was called by many, and are now faced with the added grief caused by Dave’s passing. It seems fitting to incorporate Buck’s passing along with Dave’s, so if you don’t mind, I would like to tell a few of my recollections and then will invite you all to do the same.” “I have one family story I’d like to share. Some of you in this room were there that day. My oldest brother, Bill, was playing Cowboys and Indians with Buck, Dave, Ida, John and a few others at the Larsen house when they were all young children. Well, old Mr. Larsen’s eyesight was pretty bad by this time and all of the kids were running and yelling through the house. Bill was running by Mr. Larsen’s chair when he grabbed Bill and threw him over his knee and gave him a tanning. When Bill said, “But Mr. Larsen, I’m not one of yours!” Mr. Larsen’s reply was, “That’s ok, you probably deserve it anyway.” There was a wave of quiet laughter, either by those who remembered the story or the actual event. “Buck, Dave and John decided in 1898 to try their luck in the Klondike. Now I know this was mentioned three weeks ago at Buck’s service, but I think it bears mentioning again. I was only a small boy when those three gathered together their year-long supply of food and supplies to take with them. I can still remember watching those three men loading the wagon while their sisters, ma and pa oversaw the packing process. A fair amount of our men, and some of the

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women, went to the Yukon that year, but none had the fanfare or excitement surrounding them like the Larsen brothers did since they were the first to go.” Pastor Glen’s eyes sparkled with remembrance and a smile lit up his face. “They were all sure that they would strike it rich and come back and buy the whole town.” Another smattering of laughter filled the church. Ida bowed her head, not out of respect, but out of shame that all these years later all she could think about was the spelling bee.

As a young girl, all Ida wanted to be was a teacher and she read everything she could get her hands on. She was the person in the house who everyone would ask how to spell a word. She couldn’t recall how many times a day it happened, whether it was Pa asking how to spell ‘transaction’ while doing his books, or Ma checking to make sure she had spelled ‘kumquat’ correct in her recipe book. Her sisters would ask, but not her brothers. John would ask her later, when he was courting Mary and wanted to write her a love letter, but not Buck or Dave. Not once. They were too busy creating chaos and making Indian tepees and cowboy forts with their friends, so later they could destroy them. They always destroyed them, either with rocks or fire or on one memorable occasion, Pa’s shotgun. That memory brought a smile to her face. When Ida was in the eighth grade she was in the local spelling bee and won first prize. She then made it to the county championship and also won that one. Her family was so proud and only her Christian upbringing helped stave off her desire to brag. She was going to the northern California regional spelling bee held in San Francisco in one month. Her family rallied around her and so did the townsfolk. Mr. Barrett, who owned the General Store, would run out with his Bible in his hand whenever she passed by and ask her to spell things like ‘Methuselah’

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or ‘ambrosia.’ Even at school, little work was getting done as her teacher, Miss Cory, found more and more ways to work in vocabulary words as part of any lesson. The afternoon before they were to start their week-long journey to San Francisco, Ida was packing her best Sunday dress and bonnet on top of all the other clothes she was bringing. As she was shining her boots she looked out the upstairs window and saw Buck, John and Dave pull up in a wagon overflowing with supplies. She, along with all the other family members, ran outside to see what those three were up to this time. Buck announced that the three of them were going to the Klondike. They were following Pa and Grandpa’s footsteps and were going to be even more successful than their predecessors were in ’49. Dave looked at Ida and said, “So we’ll be coming along with you on the trip to San Francisco tomorrow after all. We’ll have to load our wagon on the ship by ten in the morning on Saturday, so we won’t be able to see you get another ribbon. But when we come back, I’ll bring you a whole wagon full!” Dave then picked Ida up in a great big hug and when he put her down she looked up and tried to give him a sincere smile. Pa, Ma, Ruthie and Clara were already planning on taking Ida to San Francisco, so they were all thrilled that they could both support Ida and see the three boys off on their adventure. Everyone was happy but Ida, whose grand moment had been stolen right out from under her. In that instant, she knew how great the sin of pride was and would spend the rest of her life trying to rid herself of it. News of the boys going to the Klondike had spread like a dam bursting, and it seemed like the whole town had come to see the family off to San Francisco. Miss Cory pulled Ida around to the side of the house and reminded her to concentrate on her spelling and gave her a brand new Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary to use for studying while they were traveling

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over the next five days. Ida hugged her and began to cry as Miss Cory held her with one arm and smoothed Ida’s hair with her other hand. In the end it took six days to drive the 89 miles to San Francisco. It would have only taken five, but Pa thought it would be wise for the boys to give their two horses a break for a day so they might be able to survive the trip. The spelling bee wasn’t until Saturday afternoon, and they arrived weary but excited on Thursday around supper time. Ida had been sure that something was going to happen that would cause her to miss her big day, but the brothers also had their own agenda and wanted to make sure they didn’t miss their boat on Saturday, or they would have to wait another three weeks for the next one. Pa arranged for the wagon and horses to be housed by a local drayage business and the brothers stored theirs at the Alaska Exploration Company’s port with all the other hopeful prospector’s. Ida was amazed at the amount of cars that sped along the streets of San Francisco. During the trip, Clara had reminded everyone endlessly how much faster they could have gotten to San Francisco if they had had a car. Pa finally told her when she married a rich man maybe he could afford to buy her one, but until that happened, put a cork in it. Saturday finally arrived, and the city was covered under a tarp of fog. The family trudged down to the port and the brothers were talking excitedly with their pa. Their ma had a worried expression, Clara was saying how she wished she could go on an adventure, while Ruthie told her to mind her tongue, and Ida was spelling every single word she could think of in her head. When they arrived at the ship they were met by a long line of people, horses, mules, oxen and wagons. Their pa went into the building to talk to the ticket master and see what the hold up was. Buck went to make sure their belongings had been loaded. They had paid an extra dollar to have the company load their animals and freight first thing this morning. Pa came back and told

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them all the ship would be delayed until the fog had burnt off. When Buck came back he told them that although the horses and supplies had been loaded, they would have to sell the wagon and get another one in Dawson. So Pa and Buck went to the drayage company to see about selling off the wagon while the rest of the family went back to the hotel to wait. Ida was getting more nervous by the minute and Ruthie finally spoke up, “Ma, the whole point of coming here was for Ida, so no matter what happens with those lackwits I call my brothers, I will be taking her to that spelling bee!” Ida felt like Ruthie had lifted a heavy rock off her chest and found that she could breathe a little bit easier. “Ruth! What a way to speak of your brothers! Of course Ida will get to the spelling bee, after all it doesn’t start until 2 o’clock, and we will all be going. I’m sure your brothers’ ship will have left by then.” But as it happened, the fog still sat over the bay like an unhappy bullfrog by 1pm. Ida and Ruthie finished ironing her dress and hair ribbons, got dressed and arrived at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel where the spelling bee was to take place. Ida was ushered to the wings of the stage while Ruthie staked out three other seats for her delayed family members. There were twenty eighth-graders taking part and promptly at 2 o’clock they filed onto the stage and took their seats. Ida was the fourth person called, and she was told to spell the word ‘colloquialism.’ She couldn’t think or speak for a moment; all the letters and words she had been repeating to herself had vanished. She looked panic stricken and saw Ruthie sitting in the third row, who gave her an encouraging smile and Ida suddenly found her voice, repeated the word and spelled it correctly in a clear and confident voice. On and on it went and after an hour and a half, there were three people left, including Ida. A girl from Sacramento was called up and given the word, ‘elocution’ and misspelled it by

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adding an ‘i’ after the ‘u’ so she curtsied and left the stage to the sound of applause. A boy named Philip from San Francisco was called next and asked to spell the same word. He spelled it correctly and after shooting a smug smile at Ida, sat down. Ida got up and approached the podium and was given the word, ‘verisimilitude.’ She again searched out Ruthie, who still had three empty seats next to her and looked back at the judges and spelled the word correctly. She did not glance at the snobbish boy as she sat down. Philip was again called and asked to spell ‘catafalque’ and he spelled it with a ‘k’ instead of the correct ‘que.’ He was dismissed and Ida was asked to spell ‘peregrinate.’ Ida wasn’t familiar with the word, and after she spelled it she waited nervously while the middle judge wrote something down. He announced she had spelled the word correctly. Ida had won! She was shaking as they announced her name and pronounced her the winner. She saw Ruthie jump up out of her seat clapping madly. She saw the rest of her family entering just as one of the judges, a woman with severe eyes, pinned the blue ribbon to the shoulder of her dress.

As the memory faded, Ida wiped her tears with her handkerchief while Walt patted her back in sympathy, thinking she was crying over her brothers. The preacher continued his story. “Of course, sorry John, they didn’t come back rich, but all three made it back to Cherokee Valley safe and mostly sound the following year. Not to say they didn’t have any luck! They had some and Buck and Dave used their portion of the gold to buy the land across Cache Creek. That was when the two brothers decided to build the cabin and plant the orchard and farm the other ten acres of land. When John married Mary in 1901, Buck and Dave gave them a plot of land near their own. Dave and Buck lived together in that cabin for more than forty years while working their orchard and still took time to help their neighbors with harvesting and planting

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when needed.” Hmph, Ida thought, they may have helped the neighbors, but where were they when she needed them?

Ida graduated at the top of her class and was asked to teach in a town twenty miles away. She was given room and board by Ed and Vielda Johnston, who lived in town with their threeyear-old daughter, Amelia. Ida taught at the one-room schoolhouse and in addition to teaching, she was required to bring coal to fill the furnace. Every morning, she left at seven in the morning and walked ten minutes to the schoolhouse. Upon arriving, she would fill the furnace, write the lesson on the chalkboard and organize her thoughts for the day. Most children arrived with their siblings, who also attended, but there were a few who were walked to school by their fathers, and one child arrived every day with his older brother, Walter. Walter was nineteen and worked at the lumber mill on the other side of town. His little brother, Douglas, was one of her more promising students. For the last two weeks, Douglas had been arriving earlier and earlier, and Walter had found some reason to need to speak with Ida. Once it was the math homework, another time, his brother’s trouble with spelling. Every time Walter looked at Ida, she would feel her face grow hot under his gaze and at night when she was asleep it was his face she dreamt of. Ida found herself taking more care with her appearance in the morning. One morning she even sprinkled soap in her eyes to make them sparkle, as she had seen Ruthie do before going to a dance. The Johnstons were sympathetic and encouraging; they had only been married four years and were still very much in love. Ida knew that this infatuation couldn’t go any further or she would risk losing everything she had worked so hard for. She would lose her job and teaching certificate if she was caught courting anyone.

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But nothing prevented her from tutoring pupils after school, in fact, it was encouraged. When Walter asked her that morning if she would consider tutoring Douglas in elocution, she readily agreed. Douglas had the misfortune of speaking with a stutter. It was as if his mind was so fast his tongue simply could not keep up. Ida assured Walter she would work with him in the evenings after supper; she only needed to ask the Johnstons for their approval. The Johnston’s gave their approval, but Vielda warned Ida that there were people who made it their business to be the moral monitors for the town and would be only too happy to write to the school board about anyone they thought was improper. Ida pretended not to know what Vielda was talking about, but took the warning to heart. Over the next couple weeks, Walter brought Douglas around to the Johnston’s’ after supper, and picked him up an hour later. Douglas was showing signs of improvement and his family was thrilled with his progress. His mother had Walter bring Ida some flowers to say thank you, and after Walter left there was a knock at the door. As Ed opened the door, he saw two of the town elders, and the Widow Marsten who was the former schoolteacher. She was forced to retire because of her age five years ago and had made a habit out of watching the new teachers who came to town. “We are here to see Ida Larsen.” The widow had a self righteous look to her, while the men glanced around the room and shuffled their feet. “Hello, can I help you?” Ida walked out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron. The widow spoke up before either of the men could open their mouth. “I’ve been watching you, young lady, and you aren’t fooling anyone! The California Board of Education states young women may not have men courting them or they will be excused from their post. Tell her Mr. Langdon!”

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“Just what are you accusing Ida of? Where is your proof?” Ed asked the two men, disbelief clouding his features. “Whose flowers are those on the table?” demanded the Widow, pointing towards to the table. “Why, those are mine. Mrs. Baker sent them along with Douglas, to thank me for tutoring him,” Ida said, looking confused. “Liar! I and three other people saw Walter Baker hand those to you and you blushed like a bride. I demand that this harlot been removed from her post!” “Mrs. Marsten, I implore you to watch your language,” Mr. Langdon sighed and turned back to Ida. “Miss, I am sure you have not done anything inappropriate, but if anything else happens, you will be dismissed.” The widow and two men left the house, and Ida sat down hard on a wooden bench by the door. She knew she would have to tell Walter tomorrow that she could no longer see him, and to please not try and contact her. Unfortunately, she would have to cease tutoring Douglas; it was far too risky. Ida didn’t realize she was crying until Vielda handed her a handkerchief and wrapped Ida in her arms. Two very long weeks later, Ida received a letter from her mother, asking her to come home as soon as possible. Her father had taken ill, and she was needed at home. Ida immediately called on Mr. Langdon and told him of her predicament. He assured her that Mrs. Marsten could step in until she returned, and not to worry about her post. She told him she would like to teach the next day and would be leaving shortly thereafter. After receiving his approval, she went back to the Johnston’s and told them the bad news. She waited to tell her class until the end of the school day, and told them she would be coming back soon and to behave for Mrs. Marsten. Some of the more dramatic girls in class

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burst into tears, but it was Douglas that made Ida’s heart ache. He looked at her with pleading eyes that welled with tears. He waited until all the other children had left then ran to her and gave her a crushing hug. She promised him she would be back, and hoped she would be given the chance to make good on that promise. Ida was packing her books in a wooden crate when Walt walked into the otherwise empty schoolhouse, his boots loud on the floorboards. “I don’t want you to go.” Walt said, holding his hat in both his hands. Ida looked at the man she had fallen in love with and tried to tamp down her excitement. “I wish I could stay, but I’m needed at home. My father is sick, so I have no choice, I have to go. I’ll be back as soon as I can. I appreciate you coming by, but you really shouldn’t be here.” Ida glanced out the windows to see if anyone else was loitering outside. “I know, Ed came by and told me what happened with Mrs. Marsten. Nosy old biddy!” Walt took a few steps forward and shifted from one foot to another, looking uncomfortable. “I don’t have much to offer you, but I’m a hard worker and I’m building my own place. It won’t be much, but it will be sturdy, and I promise I will look after you for the rest of my life. I would like you to be my wife, Ida Larsen. Will you have me?” Walt had never looked so vulnerable, and his eyes pleaded with Ida to say yes. “You’ll have to speak to my father, but yes!” Ida rushed into Walt’s open arms and rested her cheek against the warm flannel of his shirt, which smelled of sunshine and sawdust. “Ah ha! I knew you were a floozy! You’ll never teach anywhere in this state again once the school board hears of your indiscretion. And you have the gall to do so in the sanctity of the schoolhouse, no less!” Mrs. Marsten had spotted the two from outside the school window and crept in quietly to the school house to catch them in the act. But she hadn’t heard what had

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transpired. The two spun around, but Walt refused to let go of Ida and clamped his arm around her shoulders. “Well, we know that already, seeing as how Ida has just agreed to be my bride.” Walt told the older woman with a smirk on his face. Mrs. Marsten triumphant look faded into sadness and a touch of envy as well. “Hmph.” Mrs. Marsten straightened to her full height of 5’2”, and narrowed her eyes at the couple. “Good riddance, I say. Off with the both of you then! I have a lot of work to do so I can get my school room back up to snuff.” Mrs. Marsten marched towards the blackboard as Walt grabbed Ida’s box of the desk. Ida was trying not to laugh, but wondered at the fleeting look of envy she had spotted on Mrs. Marsten’s face. All’s well that ends well, Ida thought as she looked up at Walter with a loving smile. She focused again on the preacher’s eulogy. “More than a few people thought they were crazy when they ripped out apple trees and planted the almond trees in the ‘20’s. Remember, by this time Buck and Dave were 50 and 45 respectively. They proved all the nay-sayers wrong and made a success of it, but neither one ever rubbed anyone’s nose it. Buck and Dave were always willing to help out a neighbor in need, even when it left them with very little. They were good Christian men who rarely missed Sunday service, and in their lifetime performed some service or another for almost every person in this room. “Losing Buck three weeks ago was a blow to this community and to lose Dave so soon after is overwhelming. I truly believe God in his wisdom saw he had to reunite these brothers in heaven, as they had been together all their lives. God has taken Buck and now Dave home to their heavenly reward. Buck is again walking tall and straight, and Dave can see as well as he did

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as a young man. We must take solace in the many memories we have of them and provide comfort to one another. Before I invite others to speak on behalf of the brothers, let us pray.” Pastor Glen then led the congregation in several prayers which left many of the people clutching damp handkerchiefs.

After the service and the burial, many of the mourners went to Ida’s and Walt’s for supper. Most of the woman brought a dish to pass and were huddled in the kitchen getting the food ready while a good portion of the men were telling stories in the backyard where the liquor flowed freely. The somber part of the day was over. Now it was time to laugh along with others while trading remembrances. Many people talked about the brothers’ willingness to help out their neighbors, but how they would in turn shun any suggestion to have people, even family, into their home. Doc Willis spoke of Dave’s love for onions, how he would eat them like apples and how the odious smell clung to him like a shadow. John talked of nights spent in the Klondike and glorified their adventures to the children who hovered near. Ida, her sister Clara, and a couple other ladies agreed to meet on Saturday at the brothers’ cabin to start the cleaning process. Several of Ida’s nephews requested any token from the Yukon, and Ida promised them she would look. Buck and Dave had been highly independent, and had always refused any offers to help keep the cabin up. Ida had no idea what she would find in there, but after forty years of two men living without a feminine touch she was sure it would take at least a couple of days of hard cleaning. It was the least she could do for her two older brothers.

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Ida missed Ruthie more than ever. Ruthie had been the oldest and passed away four years ago. She would have taken charge and made sure everyone knew what their job was and then made sure they did it. The role of matriarch did not sit well on Ida. She did not have the forceful personality of Ruthie, nor did she possess the commanding presence of Buck which made people listen to him. Even still, she had used guilt to get Clara and the other two ladies from church to join her, so at least she wouldn’t be doing it all by herself. She had always prided herself on being able to keep her home in impeccable condition. Her house was free of dust and clutter at all times, and she took great pride in being able to welcome an uninvited guest in because she never feared her home would be found lacking. She would make sure her brothers cabin would be in the same spic and span condition when she was done. On Saturday morning, the ladies decided to meet at Ida’s for coffee then head over to the cabin together. Each of the four women wore an old apron and had an assortment of brushes and rags and different homemade cleaning solutions that were sure to cut through any amount of grease or dirt. Walt drove them over in his car and said he would check on the orchard and tool shed while they were busy cleaning. Walt parked on the dirt driveway on the right side of the cabin. Ida, along with Cissy, Clara and Marge, got out of the car and collected their supplies. Walt walked to the front door, unlocked it and opened the door to the cabin for the ladies. They were assaulted by a musty stench emanating from the doorway. It was filthy. Not just messy, or a little dirty, it was completely, utterly, and disgustingly filthy. Ida stood and looked around the cabin in shock at the filth that surrounded her. Several work coats, which were smudged with dirt and creased with age, hung on pegs on the wall. A soot covered lantern hung beside the coats. The wooden floor had dark grease spots all over it and there was mud caked on

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and between the floorboards. The windows didn’t appear to have ever come in contact with soap or water. The table in the large room had several high stacks of papers, while newspapers, yellowed with age, were stacked against the walls from the floor to the windowsill around the entire room. There were ashes from the fireplace floating in the air; opening the door must have kicked them up. The bricks on the outside of the fireplace and the mantel were black with soot. The matches and striker sat on the mantel next to a couple picture frames but the glass was so filthy Ida couldn’t make out who was in them. There was just enough room to wedge a couple logs in the hearth between the two piles of ashes that had overflowed onto the floor of the main room. With the amount of newspapers stacked everywhere except beside the fireplace, it was a wonder this place hadn’t burned down. Looking up, Ida glanced at the two beds in the loft that most likely housed seven generations of bugs. The blankets that were skewed on the beds were an indeterminate dark color with holes the size of tea saucers and were thin with wear. Returning her gaze to the ground level she looked in their makeshift kitchen and was appalled all over again. Milk had been left out on the scarred, greasy wooden counter and was partially to blame for the noxious smell. The dishes in the sink had mold growing abundantly on them. Just to the left of the kitchen entrance was Buck and Dave’s gun rack. The four shotguns gleamed in striking contrast to the squalor that housed them. Cissy and Marge flat out refused to step one foot inside. Ida, with Walt and Clara peeking behind her, hovered just inside the thresh hold, amazed at the pig sty that the brothers had lived in. Ida took out her crisp, white handkerchief, thinking to place it over her nose. She looked at it and thought it might become spoiled by the grime floating in the air, so she tucked it back in her apron pocket.

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Ida threw her hands up and they came to rest on her hips as she thought of what Ruthie might have done. It was almost as if Ruthie was right beside her and had whispered in her ear, because all of a sudden Ida knew just how to handle this mess. Ida turned around and waved her hands to shoo Walt and Clara out of her way. She walked out and said, “Walt, you move the car away from the house and Clara, get away from the house.” Walt immediately went to the car and parked in front of the shed, “Is this good?” he asked and at Ida’s nod, he turned off the motor, lit his pipe and walked back over to Ida. “What are you planning to do now Ida?” Clara asked, with her arms crossed and her left eyebrow pitched in angry speculation. “Had those two brothers of ours ever given a lick about this place they wouldn’t have let it deteriorate to this, this haven for vermin! No wonder those two were always out helping one of the neighbors. They couldn’t stand being in their own home! This explains why they cleaned up at John and Mary’s on Sunday. I cannot believe that John has never said a word about the shape of this place!” Ida shook her head in frustration and said with quiet resolve, “All of you stand back.” Ida marched into the cabin. Walt and the three women stood in disbelief as they watched Ida walk in and grab the four guns, two at a time. Walt and Clara had followed her to the door and she handed the first two guns to her shocked husband and the last two to her sister. “Go and put those in the car,” she demanded and Walt and Clara hurried to mind the mad woman. Ida turned around and walked back in and over to the mantle, struck a match, and lit the pile of papers on the table then newspapers on the floor by the door. She came back out with the pictures off the mantle, shut the door and, as the flames rose inside the cabin, said with a triumphant smile, “Now that’s what I call a proper cleaning!”

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