Hurricane honeymoon, part 2

By Stell Shevis | Feb 11, 2016

When the weather became much colder, we couldn't keep that huge space warm, even with a roaring fire in the big fireplace.

One night we took the small electric two-burner stove from the kitchen and put it under the bed in the small back room and huddled in the bed with the dog and cat, under every blanket we could find. We were just getting cozy when I smelled smoke! The mattress was smoldering! I quick ran to get a kettle of water while Shevis got the mattress turned over so we could douse it before it really burst into flame!

We had to find another place to live. Sylvia, of course, knew just the place. A young man friend of hers, who was away at college, had the use of his parent's house while they were in South America for months working on some scientific project. Sylvia was sure he'd be delighted to have some rent money — and he was — but don't tell his parents. The house had suffered some damage from the hurricane. It needed a good cleaning and some repairs. Three windows had been smashed, rain had leaked in and soaked curtains, rugs, books — especially in one bedroom. Tom said he couldn't afford to hire a carpenter, so in lieu of one month's rent, $20, we did the best we could to board up the windows and dry things, turned on the furnace, and built a fire in the fireplace of that room. An old house, it had a fireplace in every room. After a couple of weeks we had made the place clean and comfortable, even cheerful. It was a Sunday morning and we were relaxed, enjoying a second cup of coffee, when the kitchen door crashed open and Sylvia shouted "They're back! They're coming! You have to get out of here QUICK!" "Who's coming? What are you talking about?" "Tom's parents! They don't know you're here. He just got a phone call, they're on their way... HURRY...HURRY they're on the way, you can move to the inn!"

She was so upset that I quickly packed up or clothes and went with her. Shevis remained calm. Surely these people would appreciate the fact that we had cleaned up the place. Said he would tidy up the kitchen and bring the animals and the rest of our stuff a little later.

He was washing the dishes, when again the door burst open and a tall gray-haired stranger stomped in and yelled "What the HELL are you doing in my house? Get outta here!" Shevis tried to explain... said Tom had rented it to him, but that just made the man more enraged. He made fists and threatened bodily harm so Shevis didn't argue, didn't stop to take anything, except the animals, got in the car and left. he met me at the inn.

The inn, the only one in town, had been built as a roadside tavern probably 100 years ago, and was called Green Shadows. It was set back from the main road by a well-kept green lawn, surrounded by ancient oak and maple trees whose leaves were beginning to turn color. Sylvia introduced us to the proprietor to whom she had already explained our predicament. Mrs. Green (of course) was very sympathetic. "Oh, those people," she exclaimed. "They're always away in some foreign country doing their science thing, biology or something, they don't know our ways, nor they don't want to! They just go off and leave that boy to get along as best he can! Why shouldn't he get a bit of money by renting the place?" She pushed a curl of gray hair back from her wrinkled face, took off her rimless spectacles to give them a quick wipe on a corner of her apron. Then putting her hand on my arm, she said, "Come along, dearie, I'll show you one of our cabins." I know you'll like it better'n that shabby old house." Taking a key from a bunch by a desk in the lobby, she led us across the road, Shevis and Sylvia trailing along. There was a cluster of small log cabins up a little incline from the road and she headed for the one in the center of the group. Unlocking the door, she held it open for us to enter a pleasant room. A large couch in one corner, wide enough for two, a table and chairs, minimal kitchen equipment, large closet and a small bathroom. There were four windows, electric lamps, and an electric heater. "This cabin is well insulated," she said. "My daughter did stay in it one winter when we were having rooms renovated at the inn. So I know it would be comfortable for you. What do you think?" "It's perfect!" I sputtered, giving her a big hug.

So we had the car at the cabin, and Shevis had brought the dog and two cats — did I say that we now have two cats? Mr. Jenkins, the big tiger, had allowed us to adopt the little black kitten that had come to cry on our doorstep at the Harding house. The tiny black creature was irresistible. He would sit up on his hind legs, front paws together in a prayerful attitude, big green eyes begging for food and love!

We named him Flip. When we were sitting at the table, Flip would be there in begging pose and always got a taste of something. Mr. Jenkins was jealous; he was used to getting all the attention. So one day he gave an audible sigh and slowly heaved himself up onto his hind legs to try the begging act! It was so FUNNY! But we didn't dare laugh out loud, seeing how embarrassed he was. But after that, both animals were begging at every meal. I really had to plan ahead so as to have enough of the right size tidbits for them. Poor Raleigh barked every now and then to remind us that he was there too. This was long before there was a huge market for canned pet foods and for dry kibbles and treats.

We had managed to retrieve our few belongings from the Harding house through Sylvia's acquaintance with Mrs. H. who was much more agreeable than her Mr. So we were settling into our cozy cabin, working at Elsa's every day. Mrs. Green was doing a roaring business in her dining room. We splurged one Saturday night and went to the inn for dinner. When I phoned to ask if she had a table for us, she replied that she'd save one for us. She said, "I do want you to see our new attraction, people have been spreading the word about our wonderful old tiger cat. He has suddenly learned to sit up and beg. He goes from table to table and people just love it!" "Wow," I thought to myself. I guess Mr. Jenkins has been giving lessons. Their old tiger cat was almost a twin of ours.

Well, we dressed up as best we could, having not much choice, and walked across the road through the crowded parking area, and were shown to a table for two in the center of the room. Usually there were eight tables, but four more had been squeezed in and none were empty. Two young waitresses, dressed in simple green dresses, kept busy. One of them we knew was Mrs. Green's granddaughter, Bonnie. She brought a basket of hot rolls and filled our water glasses greeting us by name, then took our order. We both asked for the roast chicken whose fragrance filled the air. Not having an oven in any of our recent establishments had really cut back on one of the few ways I could turn out a decent meal.

The chicken arrived, crispy golden brown with mashed potato, gravy, green peas, and salad in a separate bowl. YUMMY! Before I could take a taste, I heard exclamations and laughter from the next table and there was Mr. Jenkins, sitting up adorably, begging. No mistake! Our tiger had a black tip on his tail, hers did not. She evidently had never noticed! Shevis knew immediately and raised a questioning eyebrow. I shook my head, grabbed a knife and fork and began to eat. Confessions could wait, don't let the chicken get cold. The meal was delicious, coffee and apple pie followed. Mr. Jenkins avoided our table but we could follow his progress by listening to the sounds of merriment that accompanied his act, Thanking Bonnie and leaving her a nice tip, we said nothing to Mrs. Green but waved across to where she was talking to some new arrivals.

We decided to say nothing to Mrs. G. Why spoil it for her as her business was doing so well?

On Monday, we were at Elsa's, working on a new line of designs when the telephone rang. Elsa answered and then handed the phone to me, "for you," she said. As soon as I said hello, a voice choking with rage, screamed "How dare you send your cat over here to annoy my customers, scavenging food, nasty beast! You can pack up and leave! I have other people wanting that cabin, so you can get OUT!" SLAM, the line went dead. Elsa had heard every word, and was laughing. "It isn't funny," I said. "Where can we go? What do we do now?" "I know it isn't funny, really," she said. "But I had been trying to figure out how to tell you that I can't work with you any longer...I'm pregnant! and John wants me to start taking it easy!"

Now I started laughing.."I'm pregnant too! And I planned to tell you soon!" I had written to mom and she wants us to come and live with her until the baby's born sometime in August."

By the next day, Mrs. Green had calmed down and apologized for screaming at me. I had a long talk with her, and offered to leave Mr. Jenkins with her, if she wanted. I knew he was very happy and would be well fed. So everything worked out for the best all around.

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