As we got up to leave, Crystal turned and looked at the wall by the door. Pointing, she asked, “What’s that?”
I glanced over, “It’s Mr J’s bayonet. He served in Grenada. His Sargent had served in World War II. He insisted his guys know how to really use a bayonet. Mr J would never tell us exactly what happened, but evidently that training saved his life several times. He got rid of everything but his medals and that bayonet. Said it reminded him of things he shouldn’t ever forget.”
Crystal nodded as she walked over to it, “May I?”
I shrugged, “Should be okay – he let all us kids hold it at one time or another.”
She lifted it with more reverence than any of us kids had ever shown. She cocked her head as she slowly examined it. I swear, it looked like she was listening to something but there wasn’t any special noise, certainly not from the long silent bayonet. She held it gingerly, respectfully and carefully as she looked over every inch. She nodded to herself finally, gave a little sigh and returned it dutifully to its place on the wall.
“It… is quite a blade.” She commented as I joined her.
I nodded. It was quite a blade to me because it was something special Mr J had shared with us. I had no idea why Crystal thought the same thing but we’d been here a good while and I didn’t want to hang around much longer. Mr J’s kids were all planning to spend the night crammed into the apartment. Mary had mentioned that it would probably be the last time they would all sleep under the same roof.
They were sure to start turning up soon and I didn’t really want to explain my fascination with coming up here – mostly because I couldn’t, really. I also had to help Momma both with cleaning up and with arranging sleeping space for the Jenkins’ grandkids who wouldn’t fit into the apartment with their parents. Since several would be crashing in my apartment, I had some preparations to make there, too.
I locked the door behind us and paused for just a moment. I’d never again open that door to go talk with the old man and I felt a twinge of loss. Crystal took my arm, waiting silently. Her warm hands felt good there. I wished Mr. J had had the chance to meet her, then turned and gave her a weak grin. Walking away was easier with her by my side.
We met Elaine on the way down. She had a couple suitcases but refused to let me carry them up. John came trotting up behind her and just grabbed them. I quickly steered Crystal down the step as the siblings began to holler. Elaine and John had both been like that as long as I’d known them; her independent and him stubborn. Their fights were legendary both for how silly they could both be and the incredibly short time any of them lasted. They were done by the time we were halfway down the stair.
Chuckling, I explained it to a bewildered Crystal, “The sooner you leave them alone, the sooner they stop yelling.”
By the time we were back on the main floor, the first guests were leaving. Crystal had offered to help when I’d explained the significance of the suitcases Elaine had and I wasn’t about to turn her down. She went to her folks to explain while I caught up with Momma to get marching orders.
Four hours later, all the guests who were leaving had and we had everything cleaned. Crystal and I had made my couch and some little camping cots John had brought for the kids. His four boys, Mary’s two and Elaine’s one boy would be camping with ‘Uncle Jack’. ‘Uncle Marty’ would be in his sleeping bag on the living room floor while ‘Uncle Jack’ took a pallet on the bedroom floor while Mary’s boys ‘camped’ in his bed. I can honestly say it’s not the worst arrangement we boys ended up with over the years.
The first of the little troopers came tromping in as Crystal was making a pallet for me. Mary’s youngest was sure they had been relegated to the floor and began to cry. For a girl with no siblings, she handled the little guy like a pro. She got him settled down and even had him laughing in only a few minutes. I couldn’t have done better myself.
The apartment began to fill with little campers. Crystal came to me to say her good-byes. I have never been so tempted to kiss a girl that I hadn’t known for a whole week yet in my life. I decided that staying in her father’s good graces was a better long term plan so I settled for a warm hand shake and a heartfelt thank you. John’s second boy was tugging the heck out of my pant leg as I watched her walk down the hall and out the front door.
A minute later I realized the kid was yanking at me, “What?” I finally turned to ask…