We had slipped out of the meeting a few minutes before it ended, and Jules and I were nursing cups of tea at a quiet table at the Inn.
“Before I saw Doc Kellerman, I was worried. Not sure if the ol’ ticker would make it.”
“Rather scary, eh? Especially here.” I gazed thoughtfully into the tea cup.
“You and I hadn’t talked about it. About what we’d do if one of us became sick. I wouldn’t want you to have to fend for yourself here.”
With misting eyes I looked deep into his own, “We’d do the same as we do now. We would take one day at a time …. together. I wouldn’t have it any other way. If something happens to you first, you’ll still be my breath as I grow old.” We silently held hands for a lingering moment. Then Jules got up to get things ready for the influx we expected when the meeting let out momentarily.
JJ was first through the door. When he saw me sitting, still deep in thought about other problems as well, he said, “Hey, Mom. Cheer up! It can’t be that bad.”
“Oh, JJ! I keep trying to look on the bright side, but overall things aren’t going very well,” I said, dismayed. “Now there’s another death, and another memorial service for your father to conduct. I don’t see things getting any better. There’s too much about this planet that we don’t know. And it seems so dangerous.”
As we walked over to Jules, who was fidgeting with the stove, JJ responded, “I know how you feel, Mom, but things will get better.” Putting a protective arm around my shoulder, he continued, “Honest, they will. RJ’s one resourceful dude: he included seasoned pros to manage our defense against the unknown. Let those guys figure it out. In the meanwhile, I’d like you to focus on another issue instead.”
“It’s difficult not to be anxious. But tell me, Junior, what’s on your mind?”
“Well, folks, the time has come: we need a layout for the First Inn. It’s almost next up on the construction schedule, and the best news is, we can build it strong…with rock!”
Jules look up from the coffee he had just started brewing and asked, “Sounds like you have a plan, son. Do tell.”
“John Pierce’s sister, Elana, is a geologist, and she’s specked out a quarry site. It’s just about a mile and a-half from here. Cut stone together with fieldstone would make for quite a sturdy roadhouse.”
“As soon as John and I finish at the Community Building, we could lay the foundation for the Inn. Our assignment on the punch list is to encase the building’s 10-foot stilt supports with rock walls, to provide a shelter and a more secure storage area for supplies. We’ve even started getting a supply of mortar in place.”
“I think it’ll take us about a week or ten days… no, ten days is a week on Alchibah, so about a week to finish that project. After this hands-on experience, I should have it down pat for the Inn. So, what do you think? Are you up for it?”
“Well, JJ, just between us, I can’t get out of this tent soon enough, and I’ll feel a lot safer when there are walls to protect me. As far as a layout goes, your dad’s already helped me draft some rough plans.”
“No time like the present, Mom. Get out those pencils and paper. But this time use a ruler.”
As Junior was leaving, I turned to Jules and said, “Imagine that, we’re going to be innkeepers! Let’s make one of my proverbial lists. We’ll need an eraser, too.”
Emily and Jaisa entered, laughing and whispering in soft tones. I could see that Emily’s pregnancy wouldn’t be a secret much longer, with her waistline expanding ever so slightly. Just the other day Linda asked what would we do for baby clothes and for Emily herself. Now the idea was born: we needed a laundry and a sewing room.
“Hello, Mrs. Parker.”
“I’d like your opinion about a problem we have. It’s been preying on my mind what to do about mending clothes, recycling them, and even the need for a laundry. There’s sew much to do here, and we need more helpers.”
Jai said, “Don’t look at me. Not my job.”
Emily wasn’t so quick to turn down the question. Actually, I could see her mulling it over. I think she got my drift. “Well, Granny, everyone needs a button or alteration now and then. I never did much sewing, but I think we’ll have to be more self-reliant here. I, for one, am willing to learn. Count me in.”
“Is it allright with you if I invite some others to join us?”
“Yes, please. Maybe we could even set up a swap shop. Where on earth,,, uhh rather, where on Alchibah can I get baby clothes? Might as well pass the word. I’ll need all the help I can get…. No kidding!”