“Woman! Where the hell is my supper?” roared the short bulldog of a man as he came through the doorway. He glared into the dim interior of the small dogtrot cabin. He had been considered handsome at one time, with his powerful broad shoulders and blue eyes that seemed as deep as a lake. His hair had once been the color of a summer sunset. But, the bitterness of an unfair life had turned his hair a dull dead color, his eyes were now cruel glinting slits, and his shoulders slumped under the crushing load of his defeat. A small child-like figure rose slowly from the fireplace where she had been stirring a pot of stew. He cuffed her carelessly as one might hit a dog to move it out of the way.
“You know I like my supper hot and on the table when I get here.” He fell onto the only chair at the table. “Where is that sorry excuse for a son of yours at? I owe him a whuppin’ for lettin’ that cow get out yesterday. You better not be a hidin’ him, I’ll whup you too,” spit out Lem viciously. He continued, “Clara, you hearin’ me? I want that boy in here by the time I finish my supper.”
Clara stood slightly swaying as if to unheard music and she strained to erase any outward show of feeling or weakness. She was small built with black hair that hung to her waist in a thick braid. Her eyes were the green of new spring grass after a long winter and so large they almost overwhelmed her petite features. These eyes had been young and expressive a long time ago. But, now they knew never to show a hint of emotion. She had learned through many hard lessons the best way with Lem was to not be afraid or mad or anything. She just wiped her true self away. Finally she straightened her shoulders and turned towards Lem saying forcefully, “Lem, I’m a cookin’ you a stew, but it still lacks about a half an hour.” She rushed on breathlessly, “Lem, you know that cow got out because you didn’t fix the fence. I told you little Frank and I, we tried, but didn’t have enough wire to fix it right.” Before he could reply she continued on hurriedly “I baked you a peach cobbler. I’ve been saving some dried peaches for a special occasion, but I decided we didn’t need no special occasion to have peach cobbler,” she stopped abruptly, not sure how to go on.
“Well, I guess you figure that cobbler of yours will make me forget about whuppin’ the boy. I’ll just whup him after I finish that there dessert and then I’ll whup you too!” Lem stated matter of factly. He was a man drunk on the power he welded over his wife and son.
He leaned back in his chair, puffing out his chest and thrusting forward with his chin. As if he was going to force his will on the whole world. Then he proceeded to tell Clara of his latest get rich quick scheme.
“Old woman, I have done gone and sold this sorry two bit farmin’ place. With the money I got I’ll have me a stake to go to the Yukon Territory in Canada. That’s where my gold is awaitin’ on me just come pick it up out of that old Klondike River. O’course I cain’t afford to take no weak whinin’ woman such as you and that ungrateful whelp of a son you give me. I can send you to live with Mama, she needs someone in her old age to tend to her and Pa. She’ll be right pleased to have you long as you do all the work she needs a doin’,” Lem said with a self-satisfied air.
Clara dipped up a huge bowl of stew and served it to Lem, who dug into it like it was surely his last meal. This was her chance her mind was working furiously, this would change things. She certainly was not going to go to live with Lem’s parents, but the death of her own parents was the reason she had so hastily married. She did have a distant cousin, Ella who lived in Fort Worth Texas. Clara was sure Ella would help her. She had never mentioned Ella to Lem, Clara was not sure why, she just hadn’t. She sat the steaming hot pan of peach cobbler on the table.
Clara breathed a sigh of relief as the train pulled into Fort Worth. There stood her Cousin Ella on the platform. Frank sat beside her in his new suit and he smiled happily up at her.
“Mama, is this where we are goin’ to live now?” he asked in an awed whisper. Clara hoped he would soon realize he did not have to whisper any more. The monster in their lives was gone forever.
It had all worked out so well. Lem had of course already to told the whole town he was goin’ to Canada long before he told Clara. As he had sat at the supper table he had expounded on his grand plans and about how he had the money in his pocket. It was quite simple after that. Clara could not believe her good fortune. She had thought she would just do the best that she could to raise Frank and eke out a meager living on the worn out farm. But, for once in his life, Lem had done something right for her. She now had enough money for a small start at a new life.
When she said her good-byes to the few friends she had had in the small town, she explained how excited Lem had been. He had just gone off on his horse for Canada, saying he would buy his provisions in the first big town he came to.
Thankfully, Frank had not come home from hiding until she was through with her job. Lem was gone, but he would never see the gold fields. He had commented to her on the tartness of the peaches in the cobbler. He had said couldn’t she ever do anything right. Well, this time she had done something right. Yes, Clara had finally done something that had needed to be done. She had buried him in the garden spot that she had been tilling near the barn. A peach cobbler with arsenic in it was just the right thing for Lem.