“God Cliff,” I said as I did the best I could to clean his face up. “And stop smiling you … you … god Cliff.”
Refusing to drop the smile he responded, “Relax Gypsy. I got it all home.”
I felt like puking. “You shouldn’t have tried …”
“I wasn’t going to run away.”
I could have hit him myself and the only thing stopping me was the fact that someone – several someones – had gotten to him before me.
Changing the subject a bit I asked him, “You sure about Mr. Oppenheim?”
Cliff answered, "Yeah, his daughter said her mother said he’d be fine. Who knew? I thought all them people were pacifists.”
“Amish and Quakers are absolutely; Mennonites practice it in principle. Reality is something different however. Besides, the Oppenheim family aren’t strict adherents.”
“Coulda fooled me. They dress just as weird as the rest of them I’ve seen.”
Feeling irritated all over again I nearly threatened to sew him up instead of just using butterfly bandages. “Don’t pick at them Cliff. They could have closed up shop instead of helping us out like they did. They’re good people.”
“Sure. But they’re still strange.”
I shook my head. “They’re just different is all. Now hold still so I can fix this cut on your chin. Unless you want a big honking scar. Hack me off and I might just use staples instead of tape I ought to be bashing you instead of fixing you.”
Instead of being angry Cliff patted me on my back which was definitely a weird feeling then he said, “I don’t need fixing … but I ain’t gonna be shaving there for a while, that’s for certain.” Then with a frown he said, “Maybe I should just grow a beard like them Oppenheim guys since you seem to like it.”
“Jakob kept asking how you were doing. You two must be … er … good friends.”
“Jakob? Oppenheim? Don’t be a dingbat Cliff. He asks the same question over and over because … look he doesn’t look it but there’s a reason he is thirty and unmarried.”
“He’s 30?! No way! Ouch!!”
I jerked him back into a sitting position and said, “Now look what you’ve done. That cut on the bridge of your nose has started bleeding again. Will you be still?!” After I put pressure on it I told him, “Jakob had measles as a teenager and his grandparents wouldn’t take him to a doctor. His fever fried … look there were complications … it left some damage. He and Maria Zernike will probably get married when she turns 18. It’ll cause a little bit of a scandal they’ll have to weather but Maria has her own issues.”
“Yeah. Like I said the Oppenheim family is different. And so are some of the people they hang with. Including the Zernike family. They don’t ostracize for marrying outside their faith even though they don’t encourage it. The Zernike family, that branch anyway, … anywho the Dad left his sect when he was a teenager and … geez … how did we get on this subject?”
“Beats me,” Cliff said grinning once again.
“Stop it Cliff. Nothing about this is funny. You got hurt.”
“I don’t run away.”
“Duh. Like I don’t know that. But if you hadn’t gone out …”
Still smiling Cliff shrugged. “It needed to be done.”
Really concerned that he didn’t seem to be taking things seriously enough I asked, “Did it? Or was I just greedy? Or slow? If we needed …”
Cliff gently brush my hand away from where I was trying to clean the last of the blood off of his face and pulled me to sit across from him on a bench in the screened porch. “Stop it Gypsy. No way either one of us could have known how fast people would go nuts.”
“Oh yes, we could have … and should have. The riots should have stamped that onto my forehead so deep and permanent no one could miss it.”
“That was all kid stuff.”
I closed my eyes briefly and sighed. “No it wasn’t. Kids did most of the rioting, sure. But all of the other trouble that came out of it …”
Cliff didn’t feel like arguing so he said, “OK, you’ve got a point. But no sense crying over spilled milk. I’m back and I got what I went for.”
“And then some,” I muttered in aggravation.
“Yep, I did. And it’s all good so enough. I want to get the rest of this stuff inside and carried down to the basement so the Old Woman doesn’t wig out about it.”
“Cliff …” I growled at his casual disrespect, but he’d had all he was willing to let me do for him and stood up and started moving bags and boxes.
A few minutes later after watching him limp into the house with a ridiculously heavy load and looking at the blood rags I needed to put to soak, it all just hit me. I slid down the wall and put my forehead on my knees and tried not to cry at how it all seemed to be coming unraveled again.