Ogg went up on the porch and looked in the window into the store part of the building. It was dark inside. He waited a small while for Keeper Twill to appear, as he always seemed to do when Daddy pulled up in the wagon, but Keeper Twill did not appear. Ogg could hear noises inside the eating place. He walked the length of the porch and peeked in that window. He saw people sitting at tables. One table had plates and bowls and two old men were eating. Another table had cups. These men were drinking. Some tables were empty. He saw Keeper Twill carry a loaf of bread to the table where two old men were sitting. Men older than Daddy. They were at the table with the plates and bowls and Ogg watched as each one tore a piece of bread off the loaf and mopped up gravy or dipped in a bowl. His stomach moaned its loneliness.
One of the men with a cup at the other table was facing the window. He looked up and pointed at Ogg. He turned to Keeper Twill and spoke, turning and pointing again. Ogg watched as Keeper Twill wiped his hands on his apron and walked toward the door. Ogg looked back to the two old men and the bread, wondering if Keeper Twill would let him have dinner even though he was late.
The door opened and light jumped from the inside to the porch and the yard. The horses complained, pulling against the straps that held them tied to the porch rail. Ogg turned to see Keeper Twill holding the door open, apron still clenched in his hand.
“Who’s that?” he asked in a stern voice.
“It’s me, sir.”
Me, Ogg, sir.” Ogg answered. He stepped toward the open door.
“Lord boy, what are you doing out here at night?” He didn’t wait for an answer but turned and looked out into the yard. “Where’s your Daddy?”
Ogg, faced with two questions, didn’t know which one to answer. He fell back on his standard answer. “I don’t know sir.”
“You don’t know where your Daddy is?”
“He’s at home I guess.”
“Is there a problem there? Is that why you’re here?”
“I don’t know, sir.”
Keeper Twill stood and looked at Ogg. “What don’t you know, boy?”
There was an edge to Keeper Twill’s voice now. Ogg had heard such a tone many times before. The next thing would be yelling, probably. Ogg forgot the question. He looked at Keeper Twill. He looked down. Waiting.
“Well come in then, I got work to do and can’t stand here talking to you.”
This was different. Maybe Keeper Twill was going to give him candy now. Ogg followed Keeper Twill into the eating place. He stood for a moment after crossing the threshold and breathed the smells of bread, beef, potatoes, bacon and the sweet smell of pipes held by the men at the table with the cups. The room was too hot. The night wasn’t cold enough to need a fire and Ogg was warm from his walking.
“Shut the damn door!” One of the old men called out. Ogg couldn’t tell which one said it because nether man looked up from his meal. Ogg pulled the door closed behind him.
“Sorry, sir.” he mumbled.
“Born in a barn?”
“Yes, sir.” Ogg nodded.
“Hunnh.” was the reply from one of the old men.
The two drinking men laughed. Ogg stood by the door. He touched the small bundle in his pocket.
“Come over here boy while I tend this fire.” Keeper Twill was at the big fireplace, poking logs with an iron. Flames were low but coals were hot and the pot on the rod was pulled aside. Ogg walked over, the heat pushing him back and the pot drawing him forward.
“Now tell me why are you here.” Keeper Twill wallowed a stump end around until the least burned part was in the coals. Flames appeared like magic. Ogg stared at the fire.
“Well?” Keeper Twill turned to Ogg, fire iron still in his hand.
“Daddy told me not to come home. Said I was grown.” Ogg knew there was more that Daddy said, but was embarrassed to tell about chopping off Daddy’s little finger and the other one and how he had his Daddy’s fingers in his face wiping cloth in his pocket.
Keeper Twill looked at Ogg like he didn’t understand. Ogg saw that look a lot.
“Your Daddy don’t need your help no more?” Keeper Twill waited but Ogg was silent. “Your Daddy still filling jugs isn’t he?”
“And he don’t need your help no more?”
Ogg considered this. Did daddy need his help? Ogg worked with Daddy and Queedle and Bosco every day. They always worked hard. Daddy was angry when Durn left. Said it left him short handed. But Daddy had said “Don’t come home.”
“I guess he don’t.” Ogg reasoned.
“You are a big boy Ogg. I guess you must eat more that your share. Times must be hard for your Daddy.” Keeper Twill shook his head, placed the fire iron in its rack and swung the pot back over the fire. He looked at Ogg. Ogg was looking at the pot.
“You had dinner, boy?”
“No, sir.” Ogg replied, looking hopefully at Keeper Twill.
“Well, find you a table and I’ll give you a bowl, but you can’t stay. I don’t have enough work to cover the cost of feeding you.
Ogg settled into a chair at an empty table near the men with the cups and pipes. He had heard Keeper Twill say he couldn’t stay. He wondered which way he would go, but didn’t have too long to consider the question as Keeper Twill brought a bowl of stew from the bubbling pot and served up a dinner that was long overdue.