Julen nærmer seg. Det gjør den også for fire søsken i Crow Lake som mistet både mor og far i en bilulykke for noen måneder siden. Storebrødrene Luke og Matt på 17 og 18 år valgte å avslå tilbud om plassering av småsøstrene hos slektninger. De gir avkall på utdannelse slik at Kate og Bo skal få fortsette å bo hjemme og vokse opp sammen. En livsoppgave som er mer omfattende og krevende enn de var i stand til å forestille seg.
Jeg leser videre der voksne Kate ser tilbake på denne tiden og minnes. Tankene mine går til dem som får en jul uten kjære familiemedlemmer som var der i fjor. Vi har ofte og sterkt blitt minnet om dette i år. For oss som bor på Dombås kom det ekstra nært da en ung mor omkom i bilulykke for tre dager siden.
Christmas was approaching – that family time, that worst of all times for the newly bereaved, that unrivalled time for magnifying tensions.
“What are we going to do about presents for the Mitchells’ kids?” Matt said.
We were in the kitchen. Matt was cleaning spark plugs in readiness for another vain attempt to start the car. It was a hard winter, one of the coldest on record, and the car had been an early casualty. In the unlikely event of a job with the right hours turning up in town, Luke would need a car to get there.
Luke was scraping carrots for supper. Long ribbony shreds of carrot peel were piled on the counter. Some hang limply over the edge and Bo was playing with half a dozen that had made it to the floor.
Luke looked blankly at Matt. “What?”
“The Mitchells’ kids,” Matt said. “There are two of them. The Mitchells are sure to give Kate and Bo something – maybe us too – so we’ll have to give their kids something.”
Rev. Mitchell and his wife had invited us to spend Christmas Day with them. None of us wanted to go but there was no way out of it. The Tadworths had invited us for Boxing Day and we didn’t want to go there either. I can imagine the church mothers anxiously working out who should have us, unable to bear the idea of our being on our own and unable to see that we would have preferred it.
Luke put the carrot down and turned around to look at Matt properly. “Will they expect presents?”
“No, they won’t expect presents. But we still have to give them something.”
“How could you not know that?” Luke said. ”You’ve known them all your life.”
“Are there three, Kate? I only thought there were two.”
“The baby’s pretty small.”
“Oh well, a baby,” Matt said.
“Oh right, Luke said. “A baby doesn’t count.”
“Martha’s ten and Janie’s seven,” I said quickly.
Another pile of carrot peelings dribbled to the floor. Bo made a gobbling noise and scooped them up lavishly.
Matt said, “For God’s sake don’t work so close to the edge! They are all going on the floor!”
“I’ll pick them up later.”
Luke looked at him over his shoulder. “Does it matter?”
“Yes it matters! It matters because you won’t pick them up later, you’ll forget, and walk over them, and traipse them through the house where they’ll join the rest of the crud! That’s why this house is such a pigsty!”
Luke put down the carrot and the scraper and turned around. After a minute he said, “If it bothers you so much, you could try cleaning it up yourself for a change.”
“That’s rich,” Matt said quietly. He was leaning forward, his arms on his knees. “That is really rich. I spend my whole damned life cleaning up after you. My whole damned life. And if you think …” He stopped. He looked at Bo and me, and then he got up and left the room. (side 164)