After they were out of the couple's hearing, Bob looked at Frank and raised his eyebrow. Frank sighed and said, "Bob, I know I've sortta put you on the spot. Those two are the town's problem. Their momma ran off several years back and their daddy died last year. They're both too old for Social Security Survivors Benefits and had to stop school when they got out of high school. Most of us around give them our old wore out things and some of us give them better but they're proud. Their poppa taught them to work for what they got and they just don't do charity well. I told them I had work for them today. If you don't want to pay them, I'll do it but they need a job and I brought them. If you don't want the extra help, I understand. I know I've sandbagged you here."
"Frank, you should've talked to me about this before just dropping them in my lap. What kind of a man would I be if I didn't at least try to help them though? You realize they won't make what you make and the work they do here'll cut down on the time it'll take for us to finish? That'll mean less work and pay for you. I only have $7,000 left in the budget for renovations then we're done whether the list still has jobs on it or it doesn't."
"That's fine with me Bob. They need it more than I do. I promise they'll work. They don't have a lot of skills but they do know how to work and they're honest as far as I know."
"Ok, lets finish a little tour so they don't get suspicious then we'll get to work and see how they do."
Just before noon Bob said, "Ok gang. That's enough for this morning. Let's go get lunch." He and Frank headed for their vehicles, Bob to go to the cafe, Frank home. Bob's two new helpers just walked toward a shade tree after getting a large glass of water.
Bob looked at Frank who shook his head. Bob muttered, "Shit," then he raised his voice and said, "Where are you two going? I said lets head out for lunch."
Tara looked wistfully toward him then said, "We heard ya. We'll just wait here if that's ok."
"No, I feed my crew. I learned in the Army to always be sure my soldiers were taken care of before I took care of myself. I know you're not my soldiers but the same thing applies. Now come on so we can get back to work."
Tara and Slim looked at each other then she shrugged her shoulders and they moved rapidly toward the truck. After they got to the cafe, they tried to order the cheapest item on the menu. Bob said, "That isn't enough to work all afternoon on."
Tara sighed and said, "Look Sir. We don't have much money and we need your pay to take care of electric and water. We might even have enough left to buy some groceries if we can work long enough. We don't have enough money to waste on restaurant meals."
"I never said you did. I said I was going to make sure you were fed. Now order a good meal or I'll just order one for you."
"And that's another thing. My name's Bob and that's what I expect you to call me. Now, lets eat. I'm starving and I know I've heard your stomachs growling the last hour or so."
After the meal came, the two young helpers ate as if they were actually starving. They finished in about half the time Bob took. He really didn't want it but ordered a piece of pie for all of them just so they'd have more to eat. Bob continued to feed the siblings as long as they worked for him. He also began keeping some kind of snack and gave everyone a mid morning coffee break and a mid afternoon soda or tea break with snacks, mostly as a way to get them to eat more.
It took three more weeks for most of the work on his list to be completed but, as Bob expected, he used up the budget before he got all the items on the list taken care of. Oh well, he thought. I need something to do so I stay busy anyway.
When he paid everyone off, Frank offered to take Tara and Slim home but Tara said, "No, thanks Frank. We have something we have to do. It's only a few blocks. We'll walk back when we're done."
After Frank left, Tara and Slim turned toward Bob. Slim looked apprehensive and Tara looked almost scared but she began talking. "Bob," she said. "We knew the work here was almost done and we've been trying to find more work but we can't. We don't have a car to go into the city. We have to work here or find some way to get to town so we can work there. I noticed you had a lot of land here and an empty old chicken house. We were wondering if you'll let us plant a garden out here and maybe we can sell some vegetables. We still have time this summer to get a garden out I think. I thought you might let us grow some chickens in the old chicken house too. We'd be willing to give you vegetables and eggs. We'll do extra work for free in place of paying rent."
Her request took Bob by surprise. He'd been planning on putting out a garden. In fact one of the jobs they did was plow and work up one so he could plant after the work on the buildings was done. They'd plowed more than he planned to use because the area was just filled with weeds. He'd planned to plant grass in the area he didn't use as a garden. He couldn't think of any reason not to let them do it so said, "I suppose that'll be ok but I'm not going to work on your garden. If you let it go to weeds it'll be a waste of time and if you get chickens I won't take care of them either. How are you going to buy them and feed them until you can kill them or start selling eggs?"
"We've saved a lot of what you paid us and have enough for at least 100 baby chicks. We'll have to hire someone to haul our feed for us but we should have enough money to buy it and still live if we can pick up as much work as we have in the past. We do have a few yards we take care of so there's some money coming in."
"OK. Knock yourselves out."
"Tara stepped a couple of steps toward Bob and hugged him before he could move. She blushed and stepped back. They both almost ran out of his yard heading home. He could hear them making plans and talking excitedly as they went.
Bob woke early the next morning to strange noises. He pulled on his pants and almost ran out his back door carrying his pistol, thinking someone was sneaking around. He found Tara and Slim hard at work planting garden. He shook his head and returned to the kitchen where he started the coffee.
When the coffee was done, he went outside and convinced them to come have a cup with him and eat a snack cake. While they drank coffee they talked. He found out they had already ordered their chickens. Slim said, "We decided we had enough money to order 150 instead of the 100 we planned on. We hope we can feed them some of our extra garden produce if we can't sell it and have more than we can eat. They'll be here in two weeks." After the coffee, Bob began working on his projects and the siblings returned to the garden work.
Over the next few days the siblings showed Bob once again that Frank was right. They were hard workers. They were self starters, which is slightly rare in people. Many just wait for the boss to tell them what to do but not those two. After their garden was in and the small chicken house ready for the chicks they just began doing whatever they saw around Bob's place that needed doing.
Some days Tara and Slim didn't come to work at Bob's, other days they only worked parts of the day. Most of those times, before they were gone, one or the other of the siblings told Bob they had work somewhere else so he didn't worry. One day, they just didn't show and he worried about them to the point he finally went to their house to check on them. He found the house he thought they lived in but it was literally a wreck. There appeared to only be one room, the living room, that was used at all. There was a table with two chairs, a small old refrigerator, a microwave and hotplate with two twin beds in the room.
He couldn't believe they lived in that shack but the address was right. Some of the floors and walls in other parts of the house had holes you could see through. Most of the windows in the other part of the house were broken as well. Their plight made Bob almost sick, he felt so bad. He determined he would do whatever he could to help them more than he already was.
One day, neither of the siblings were around and Bob was working in his shop on his old truck. It was one of the models with a wooden bed and the boards were split, two of them even had holes rotted through them, so he was replacing them, now that the truck was mechanically sound. One of the local garages had done an outstanding job working on the engine and transmission. It purred like a kitten now. The paint was very faded but it was a survivor. There wasn't a speck of rust on it they could see and only a couple of small door dings and one slightly larger ding in the tailgate.
Bob was underneath the truck reaching, trying to tighten some bolts holding the boards in the bed. He was just slightly too far away from the bolt he was trying to tighten. He strained forward and he felt a twisting in his head similar to the one he felt in Afghanistan. With a lurch his whole body slid forward until he could easily reach the bolt to put the nut on it. He shook his head and decided he'd unconsciously pushed with his feet without realizing and returned to his work.
Two bolts later, he dropped a nut and it rolled just out of his reach. Once again, he was straining to reach it when all at once, a similar feeling came over him and the nut leaped into his outstretched hand. This time he knew he hadn't reached it. He saw it move toward him. He completed putting that nut on and crawled out from under the old truck. For the next several minutes he reached for and "called" things into his hand. As far as he could determine, if he could pick it up physically, he could move it mentally. He even learned he could push things away mentally as well.
Bob was still experimenting with his amazing power when he heard some slight noise and a low level, "Fuck." He turned to see Tara and Slim standing in the garage door staring at him.
Tara said, "Did you really just hold your hand out and have that screwdriver fly into it? How the hell did you do that?"
Slim said, "Tara, you know you shouldn't ask things like that. Remember what Dad said? You don't advertise."
"Yeah, but I wasn't talking to an outsider. I mean, he did it just like us."
Bob looked at Tara and Slim before he said, "What do you mean just like you? What do you know about things like this?"
"Well, not much. Dad was just telling us about it when he died. We caught him doing small things without touching them and we tried it. He caught us one day and read us the riot act for not being careful where we did things like that. Can you teach us more? All we can do is basically parlor tricks. Sometimes we can see small items we've dropped or lost if we know close to where they are and I thought a time or two I could sort of hold things up with my mind if they weren't too heavy but I usually have to be touching them and I can only make them seem lighter.
"Slim just mostly seems to know about animals and growing things. That's why we wanted to have a garden and chickens. He can make them grow better by just thinking to them. I know it sounds crazy but its true, I swear!"
Was your father from around here? How did he know about these things?"
"I really don't know. He said he was born in Demming but he said things just weren't like he remembered them when he was young. He claimed some government man told him he was a world walker but we don't know what that meant. He tried to explain it to us several years before he died. I think it means he travelled a lot or came from some other part of the world or something. We never could figure out how that could be though since he said he was born in Demming."
"Crap. Ok, I think we need to talk. I don't have anything I need to do today. I was just killing time working on ole blue here. Are you caught up enough we can talk about this?"
Tara and Slim looked at each other and both shrugged. She said, "Yeah, I suppose. We got done with our outside work and were going to work in the garden a while but it can wait. What do we need to talk about?"
Bob walked toward them as he said, "I think we need to talk about what you saw and what your father told you. Come on, let's sit under the tree and have some ice tea while we talk."
The three spent almost all the rest of the afternoon talking about the magic, Bob, their father and what they could each do. From time to time, they adjourned to a more private place to demonstrate their abilities.
Just about dusk Tara and Slim decided they needed to return home. Bob decided to bite the bullet and said, "Look guys, I got worried about you two one day when you didn't show up and went to your house. Do you really live in that one room?"
Tara got an intense look on her face and said, "Yes. What's it to you?"
"Look, I don't want to hurt your feelings or piss you off, I just wondered and thought. Well, hell, I don't like to see anyone living like that. I thought you might; no I wanted to ask you if you wanted to live here. I have 4 bedrooms upstairs that aren't being used at all. They're not redone like the ground floor is but they're better than where you're living now. And there's a bathroom up there as well."
"Look, we don't take charity. We can make it on our own. Thing's are getting better now. We can do fine."
"Look, I'm not trying to put you down. I respect people who work and stand on their own two feet but I think we can help each other with this too. You can move in here and pay me whatever you are paying now for utilities and expenses on your place. You can even do some extra work if that makes you feel better. You'd be using rooms I never use so it wouldn't be putting me out or costing me anything. Whatever you pay me and whatever work you do would be pure profit for me and it would help you two out. When the crops come in and with the chickens it would be better and easier for you if you lived here."
Slim interrupted Tara when she started to speak. He said, "We'll talk about it tonight. Come on Tara, let's get home." Bob watched them leave and hoped he didn't piss them off enough they quit coming around. He really didn't expect that because of their garden and chickens but he could see them pulling away from him.
Neither Slim nor Tara showed up at their regular time the next morning. By the time he finished lunch, Bob decided he'd pissed them off enough they weren't going to show. Now he was wondering what to do about their chickens and garden. Finally near dark, they came almost running into the yard. He walked out to meet them, expecting the worst.
They both greeted him as they blew past him headed for the chicken house. He listened as they did their chores. They finally came back to the yard and climbed onto the porch to sit near him. Tara said, "Bob, we're sorry we didn't get here earlier. Old man Winters caught us walking this way this morning and offered us a day job working on his farm. We tried to get him to let us come here to check on the chickens and tell you but he wouldn't. He said he was on his way home to start working and if we wanted the work we needed to go with him. You know we needed the money so we went. I'm sorry Bob, really.
"We talked about the other thing last night and some today. If you meant it, we'd like to take you up on the room offer. We won't freeload though. Slim'll help you with your yard and garden and other outside work and I'll do the cooking and inside work. We agree to give you what we would normally spend on our place too as the cash part of the rent. That is if the offer's still good."
Bob felt himself relax and smiled. He said, "Good. That's fine. I hope you can cook better than I can. I eat about half my meals at the cafe now but I don't have a problem at all eating here if the food's better than I make for myself."
"Ok, done deal. When can we move in?"
"Any time you want. Tomorrow works for me, or even tonight if you want me to take the truck over and load out whatever you need right now."
"Could we? Can we go get some of our clothes and stay here tonight. We can get the rest of our things in a few days. Our water heater died and all we have is cold water. I would almost kill for a nice hot shower."
Tara and Slim settled into Bob's place well. He never came upstairs and if they weren't working they either sat with him outside, since it was summer, or upstairs by themselves. They'd converted one of the bedrooms into a little living room and they each had their own room besides. They felt as if they were living in luxury.
During their off time, usually in the evenings after the days work was done, they all talked and worked on the magic. Bob was the best, most powerful but Tara had a good strong ability also. Slim, however, was an artist at what they called earth magic. He could convince plants to grow and worked well with any animal he came near. He claimed he could talk to them. He said they really didn't talk, but he could tell or hear what they needed or wanted. He could even tell what hurt if they had a problem with an injury. It seemed he even had some rudimentary healing ability.
Bob obtained some biology and horticulture books for Slim to study and he became even more adept in working with plants and injured animals. He could look at a drawing of their internal organs to see what they should look like, or read how they should work, then somehow, he could scan the animal and see what wasn't going as it should and order the body to heal or correct the problem. It turned out they each had their strengths and they learned a lot from each other.
Bob's background as an Army Medic helped him teach Slim about human and some animal musculature and body systems. Slim showed Bob how to take that knowledge and the magic to heal and encourage plants to grow. They all had abilities to fix and repair things, their expertise dealt closely with the areas in which their magic was strongest.
One day Bob smashed his finger and probably broke it. Slim heard him yell and begin cursing so he came running. He saw the hand bleeding and reached out for it. He caught Bob's hand in his and sent his vision into it, seeing the injury. He held it and concentrated on it for a few moments when the bleeding stopped and it began feeling better. He said, "I think that'll take care of it Bob. You need to leave it alone the rest of the day, take it easy. I want to look at it in the morning."
The next morning, Bob's hand still ached somewhat but the bruising and cut was almost healed. The broken bone seemed to be better and the pain was almost gone. Slim held the hand once again and concentrated on it, urging it to finish healing. By the time he let it go, Bob swore he couldn't even tell it had been injured.
By Mid July the garden was producing very well. They had all they could eat and even canned and froze enough they thought they had all their vegetables preserved for the winter. Tara found Bob working in his shop once more, tinkering with his old truck. She said, "Bob, Slim and I were getting ready to build a little stand out by the road to sell the garden produce when we had a thought.
"When Mr. Throckmorton ran the dairy here he had the front room of his barn set up as a dairy store. He used to make ice cream, bottle and sell milk and even had a few sandwiches he sold for lunch. It looks like most of the old display cases are still in there and I know some of the tables and so forth are there. Can we clean it up and use it to store and display the vegetables?"