Chapter 27: Adjustments
The people from the preserve came by that morning and were terribly sorry about what had happened. They assured the family that the damages would be covered, as it was their job to ensure the safety of the surrounding homes when burns like this were conducted. Johnathan said he understood. He had seen burns being set, and they usually burned low and slow and were easily controlled with a little preliminary precaution. It seemed that was where the managers had failed. A preliminary check would have ensured that the fence between the preserve and the house was clear of all flammable items. They also should have notified the family of the fire’s location ahead of time. These things just simply had not been done.
Rose and David came by that afternoon and extended an invitation for them to stay with them. She also said she would take the kids off of Karen and David’s hands for a while while things were worked out. This was a huge relief. Karen and Johnathan gladly accepted and told Rhea and Bob that they would be moving over to the Shwartz’s, explaining that the kids were used to being there. Also the Shwartz’s didn’t mind the pets. Rhea said she understood and had a hard time hiding her relief. It was a little farther to drive, but Rose was able to take them all in. They thanked the Davis’s again profusely. They were extraordinarily thankful for their kindness, especially since it had been so unexpected.
Karen went with the kids to get anything they had at the Davis’s, and then took the van, the kids, and a few of their smoke-soaked clothes and toys over to the Shwartz house. Rose and David provided them all with a lunch, and Karen brought some back to the damaged house for Johnathan. He had stayed behind to start packing and cleaning things.
That afternoon the landlord arrived to see the destruction. The Park officials came as well, and there was a long discussion about damages and reimbursement. Johnathan was extremely happy to be cleared of all blame. The park officials agreed to pay for the repairs to the house and any possessions that the Katz’s had that needed to be replaced. Johnathan knew that the park could ill afford the cost. Budgets were tight and getting tighter. Still, the error had been theirs. He was conflicted about this turn of events, but was glad they were taking responsibility.
The following day the insurance adjusters arrived, both the landlords and the Katz’s, and it looked like it would all be paid for. However, the Katz’s now had to find a new place to live and also to try to salvage their possessions. Also, where would the chickens go?
They decided to see if they could find a temporary apartment in town, and then move back to Raleigh just as soon as they could locate a home that suited them. This would mean a bit of travel back and forth and likely a storage unit until then. However, as the week went on, it became apparent that most of the furniture was not worth the cost and effort to clean up, and so the sofas and chairs, the beds and many of the books were consigned to a dumpster. The kitchen table had been burnt and was useless, but the dining room table, which had been a wedding gift to the Katz’s, was mercifully saved. The clothes and linens were taken over to the Shwartz’s and laundered, and later that week Johnathan was able to find a small furnished apartment for them in town.
The town was just outside of the golf zone. Pinehurst was nearby, and so there were a number of furnished apartments available for well-to-do golfers who wanted to come to the sandhills region for a while and get in a few games. Since the town was a little far away for most of this clientele, however, the cost of renting wasn’t too bad. It was, however, a tight fit for the family. They were used to sharing rooms, but Sarah and Ellie now had to share the pullout couch in the living room, while Jack, Emma, and Joe were in the second bedroom. In practice, however, Emma and Joe usually ended up in bed with Karen, and Johnathan ended up on the spare sofa in the living room with Ellie and Sarah.
Everyone in the living room was awakened by the first person up in the morning, which was usually Emma. The kitchen area was right next to the living room and there was no sleeping through her banging and chattering. Sometimes she even came over and sat on one or the other of them. Ellie was trying to decide what was more annoying, being woken up by a hungry cat or a hungry toddler. The scary night of the fire and all of the sudden changes in their living arrangements had also made Joe and Emma a little more needy than usual. They seemed to want to be with mom, dad, and Sarah at all times.
The place had a washer and drier, even though they were small, and they were being run pretty continuously to remove the smoky, sooty marks and smells from whatever could be laundered. The place quickly filled up with boxes and piles of the possessions they could salvage. Stacks of books and learning materials, and piles of bedding and papers were everywhere. It was so bad Karen worried Emma would pull on something and there would be an avalanche on top of her. Emma did, in fact do this more than once, but fortunately it was a stack of papers one time and a pile of blankets another.
Snitch and Yeller hated the apartment more than any of the kids. Neither was used to such close quarters, and it was necessary now to walk Snitch several times a day. This unfortunate job usually fell to Jack. He was fine with it at first, because it gave him a chance to get out and see what was around them, but he quickly realized that what was around the apartment complex was not terribly interesting. There was a semi-busy street, and a small park with a playground the next block over. The apartment was fronted by a smallish lawn, parking spaces, and a picnic table.
Jack soon started trying to talk Ellie in to doing the walking for him. Ellie didn’t mind the air either, but got as bored with the scenery as Jack. Between the two of them, though, they mostly kept Snitch comfortable. Snitch hated the leash and moped around like he was being punished. Yeller tried unsuccessfully to get out of the house every time the door was opened and they had to put a collar on her in case she did manage to escape. Other times she disappeared into the mess and they couldn’t find her.
They had stayed with Rose and David for three days, and in that time had felt right at home. Rose, as usual, said she missed her kids and loved the full house. If the inevitable chaos bothered her at all, she didn’t show it. Even when Joey got into her porcelain figurines, she didn’t get mad. He was actually very careful with them and only almost dropped one of them. She tucked kids into all corners of the small farmhouse to sleep and gave the cat and dog free rein. They had a cat of their own, her name was Precious, and she was Rose and David’s daughter’s cat. Precious wasn’t happy about the arrangement, but after hiding all of the first day, she came out and made friends with Yeller and Snitch. Snitch had learned his lesson and so didn’t bother her much.
To get their minds off the fire, while Karen and Johnathan were out dealing with the mess and alternate arrangements, Rose had declared one day “Berry Day” and took the kids out to the blueberry patch. They spent the morning picking beautiful ripe blueberries. As many were eaten right off the bushes as were put in the pans. It was long, hot work and the berries seemed endless. It was fun nonetheless and it was an activity they all could do.
After they had as much they could carry, they tromped back to the house and got busy in the kitchen, making blueberry jam and blueberry muffins. The smaller kids had fun drawing some blueberries and Sarah made some hats out of blue construction paper that looked like the top of a blueberry. They all wore these and named themselves the “blue crew”. It was like a summer camp except better.
Another day, she got the kids baking cookies and even let Emma and Joe help. Sarah and Jack made sure the younger kids were taken care of. Emma and Joe didn’t like Mamma and Daddy leaving at all, but they were ok for the few hours needed and they were busy enough that they forgot to be upset. Sarah and Jack were good older siblings, and Rose was savvy enough when to push an issue and when to let it go. Not many people would have been comfortable taking on five kids at once, but Rose and David knew these kids and it all worked out fine.
Before leaving their house, Karen had told Rose in confidence that they would likely be heading back to Raleigh soon to look for a house. It would take a few weeks to find a place, but the thing she hated most was leaving Rose and David and all the wonderful people they had met. It had been an eventful year, and one they all would never forget.