The telephone shrill broke the comfortable silence enhanced by the chink of cup on saucer and the shuffle and hiss as the burning wood shifted in the fireplace. Steven pushed his chair back and walked unhurriedly to his office. Letty rose to gather the emptied plates and cups to the sink. After the cold and damp winter’s day the warmth of the kitchen was very inviting. Her hands were deep in the sudsy sink when Steven returned, frowning.
“That was Donald. He says they will be here early tomorrow to move us to Tombola.”
“Tomorrow!” Letty dropped the cup in her hands back into the sink. “But they’re not supposed to be coming for another two weeks. Why are they coming tomorrow?”
“Apparently David will be free tomorrow so all the plans are changed.”
Working with a services agency, Steven was establishing a base in a rural town. Although Tombola was a smaller centre the agency there was one of the earliest established in the local region. But the health of the business was declining as rapidly as the health of the current manager. Steven was asked to move to Tombola where the agency owned both a business office and a residence until a new man could be trained to take over. As the distance between Tombola and Ridgely took only an hour to drive, he would still be responsible for the Ridgely enterprise as well. Donald, Regional Manager, was based three hours to the north-east of Tombola, and he was arranging details of the move and supervising the take-over procedures.
Although they had begun to box the books in preparation for the move, little else had been done. There was scant sleep for Steven and Letty that night as they worked to pack and prepare items for transport.
The sky was dark with low, threatening clouds. The wind was knife edged. It was midmorning before a long flatbed trailer drew up in the street before the house, followed by a farm truck and Donald’s car. David brought wife Sandra and their six month old baby with him. John came alone. Donald was accompanied by two young men, enthusiastic but inexperienced. Letty provided coffee and hastily made sandwiches while the men discussed the loading plan.
The fetching and carrying started. Now the inexperience became obvious. No provision was made for padding, covering or securing the load on the flatbed trailer. Blankets were unpacked and used for padding. Steven visited the local hardware store and returned with ropes and a tarpaulin. Letty watched and wept while she packed the cups and plates. At midday she went to the supermarket for paper plates and cups, and bought a dozen and a half hot pies. Steven packed the microwave into the boot of the car with two folding chairs and the newly packed crockery. Letty was to take Sandra and the baby, open the house and await the arrival of truck and trailer.
The rain started shortly before they reached Tombola. While she was driving Letty realised she had no provisions for the weekend. Leaving Sandra at the house she sought the local supermarket. The day was Saturday. The supermarket closed at midday. She found a service station with a small shop where she could buy bread and a few tins of soup. While they were waiting she would butter bread and as soon as she had a saucepan, heat the soup.
It was early dark before the truck and trailer arrived. The tarpaulin was used to cover the boxes. The furniture, mattresses and bedding were wet and muddy. Muddy? David was not aware that the highway linked Ridgely with Tombola. He drove an alternate route over a secondary, unsealed road.
There was no order to the unloading. It was simply a matter of getting everything under cover as quickly as possible. Letty used her tea towels to dry chairs and table. The bread and soup vanished in hungry gulps and the workers departed to begin their long journey home.
Exhausted, Steven and Letty looked at each other across the sodden mattresses and stacked furniture.
“Where is the vacuum cleaner?” she asked.
“I don’t know.” He looked around helplessly. “Why?”
“I want to clean the carpet. We’ll have to sleep on the floor – if I can find any dry bedding.” She started to cry. “Such a shambles! This will take forever to sort out and I am so tired.”
Steven took her in his arms, lending comfort while she sobbed.
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