Mike was making a slow recovery, as though he had lost his will to live. He had lost that first drive that kept him at the foundry years after his wife’s death, but knowing that many people depended on him for their livelihood kept him going It had become even worse since he had been told of the fire.
Even Jim was gloomy and moody. Mike and Jenny had seen his face when his guard was down. The years were suddenly unkind. His mouth was pulled into a permanent frown. No longer the boyish face of someone in love with his job, he had suddenly matured and was now creased with burden and resignation.
The breakfast table was the usual battleground, and Trish sensed there was more to come. She quickly excused herself for having to run for the school bus. Her brown bag lunch was still on the counter. Jenny hoped she had enough money to buy lunch. She gave up any thought of running after her when she saw the look on Jim’s face.
“We have to think of some way to help Mike. If he doesn’t soon snap out of it we’ll be making funeral arrangements.” He toyed with his eggs and finally shoved the plate aside.
“Doesn’t he have distant relatives somewhere, or Gertie’s family, that could take him in until he’s well enough to be on his own?”
Jim opened the morning EAGLE and read the front page before absently folding it and tossing it into the waste can. He said as though thinking aloud. “I know we’d be a little cramped but why couldn’t he stay here? It would be good for him to be in family surroundings. He’d probably have a faster recovery, taking his mind off himself.” Jim took a deep breath, “What do you say, Jenny, could we make room?”
She looked disgusted as she picked the paper out of the waste can. “I haven’t even looked at it yet. For heaven’s sake, we decided against Mother living here. We would just be too crowded. Besides, Mike wouldn’t get any rest in this house.”
“We weren’t talking about just a few weeks for your mother. That was going to be a permanent arrangement. This would be until Mike was well enough to return home. We could make do with a little inconvenience for that long.” His face had lost the look of hopelessness.
“It’s not easy taking care of an invalid. Mike would require attention. I’m going to be working remember?”
“I can’t give up the idea.” He shook his head. “There must be a way. He has no one at all,” he said tightly.
“You just told me last week, we won’t have much of an income. What else do you expect of me, Jim? Honestly, I’m at the end of my rope. I just wish there was someone in this world who was sensitive to my needs.” She was crying when Jim got up from the table.
“Don’t start that ‘pity me’ routine again. I know you think this is the end of your world, Jenny, but we’ve been through worse and came through It okay. This is only for a few weeks. I need a few hours to set this up. Trust me, There’s a way.”
She was still sobbing when she looked up at Jim. “I love Mike. I’d help him if I could. I love my mother and I try to help her. I love my grandparents and I’d take them if I could, I love the crippled boy down the street and I’d help him of I could, and the stray dogs and cats, and God knows what else.” She threw up her hands and went to the bedroom and slammed the door. Jim was left staring at the uncleared table and the half empty coffee cup where Jenny had thrown her napkin.