But they all said , `` No , your time will come .
Enjoy being a bride while you can '' .
There was no room for company in the tiny Weaning House ( where the Albright boys always took their brides , till they could get a house and a farm of their own ) .
So when the Big House filled up and ran over , the sisters-in-law found beds for everyone in their own homes .
And there was still not anything that Linda Kay could do .
So Linda Kay gave up asking , and accepted her reprieve .
Without saying so , she was really grateful ; ;
for to attend the dying was something she had never experienced , and certainly had not imagined when she thought of the duties she would have as Bobby Joe's wife .
She had made curtains for all the windows of her little house , and she had kept it spotless and neat , shabby as it was , and cooked good meals for Bobby Joe .
She had done all the things she had promised herself she would do , but she had not thought of this .
People died , she would have said , in hospitals , or in cars on the highway at night .
Bobby Joe was gone all day now , not coming in for dinner and sometimes not for supper .
When they first married he had been working in the fields all day , and she would get in the car and drive to wherever he was working , to take him a fresh hot meal .
Now there was no work in the fields , nor would there be till it rained , and she did not know where he went .
Not that she complained , or had any cause to .
Four or five of the cousins from East Texas were about his age , so naturally they ran around together .
There was no reason for her to ask what they did .
Thus a new pattern of days began to develop , for Granny Albright did not die .
She lay still on the bed , her head hardly denting the pillow ; ;
sometimes she opened her eyes and looked around , and sometimes she took a little milk or soup .
They stopped expecting her to die the next minute , but only in the next day or two .
Those who had driven hundreds of miles for the burial would not go home , for she might die any time ; ;
but they might as well unpack their suitcases , for she might linger on .
So the pattern was established .
When Linda Kay had put up her breakfast dishes and mopped her linoleum rugs , she would go to the Big House .
There was not anything she could do there , but that was where everyone was , or would be .
Bobby Joe and the boys would come by , say `` How's Granny '' ? ?
And sit on the porch a while .
The older men would be there at noon , and maybe rest for a time before they took their guns off to the creek or drove down the road towards town .
The women and children stayed at the Albrights' .
The women , keeping their voices low as they worked around the house or sat in the living room , sounded like chickens shut up in a coop for the night .
The children had to play away from the house ( in the barn loft or the pasture behind the barn ) , to maintain a proper quietness .
Off and on , all day , someone would be wiping at the powdery gray dust that settled over everything .
The evaporative cooler had been moved to Granny's room , and her door was kept shut ; ;
so that the rest of the house stayed open , though there was a question as to whether it was hotter or cooler that way .
The dust clogged their throats , and the heat parched them , so that the women were always making ice water .
They had cleaned up an old ice box and begun to buy fifty-pound blocks of ice in town , as the electric refrigerator came nowhere near providing enough ice for the crowds who ate and drank there .
One afternoon , as the women sat clucking softly , a new carload of people pulled up at the gate .
It was a Cadillac , black grayed with the dust of the road , its windows closed tight so you knew that the people who climbed out of it would be cool and unwrinkled .
They were an old fat couple ( as Linda Kay described them to herself ) , a thick middle-aged man , and a girl about ten or twelve .
There was much embracing , much exclaiming .
`` Cousin Ada ! !
Cousin John '' ! !
`` Cousin Lura '' ! !
`` Cousin Howard '' ! !
`` And how is she '' ? ?
`` About the same , John , about the same '' .
All the women got up and offered their chairs , and when they were all seated again , the guests made their inquiries and their explanations .
`` We were on our vacation in Canada '' , Howard explained , in a muffled voice that must have been used to booming , `` and the news didn't catch up with us till we were nearly home .
We came on as soon as we could '' .
There was the suggestion of ice water , and -- in spite of the protest `` We're not really thirsty '' -- Linda Kay , to escape the stuffy air and the smothering soft voices , hurried to the kitchen .
She filled a big pitcher and set it , with glasses , on a tray .
Carrying it to the living room , she imagined the picture she made : tall and roundly slim , a bit sophisticated in her yellow sheath , with a graceful swingy walk that she had learned as a twirler with the school band .
Almost immediately she was ashamed of herself for feeling vain , at such a time , in such a place , and she tossed back her long yellow hair , smiling shyly as she entered the room .
Howard ( the thick middle-aged man ) was looking at her .
She felt the look and looked back because she could not help it , seeing that he was neither as old nor as thick as she had at first believed .
`` And who is this '' ? ?
He asked , when she passed him a glass .
`` Oh that's Linda Kay '' , Mama Albright said fondly .
`` She married our baby boy , Bobby Joe , this summer '' .
`` Let's see '' , Cousin Ada said .
`` He's a right smart younger than the rest '' ? ?
`` Oh yes '' , Mama laughed .
`` He's ten years younger than Ernest .
We didn't expect him to come along ; ;
thought for the longest he was a tumor '' .
This joke was not funny to Linda Kay , and she blushed , as she always did ; ;
then , hearing the muffled boom of Howard's laughter , blushed redder .
`` Who is Howard , anyway '' ? ?
She asked Bobby Joe that night .
`` He makes me uncomfortable '' .
`` Oh he's a second cousin or something .
He got in the oil business out at Odessa and lucked into some money '' .
`` How old is he '' ? ?
`` Gosh , I don't know .
Thirty-five , I guess .
He's been married and got this half-grown kid .
If he bothers you , don't pay him any mind .
He's just a big windbag '' .
Bobby Joe was thinking about something else .
`` Say , did you know they're fixing to have a two-day antelope season on the Double J '' ? ?
He was talking about antelope again when they woke up .
`` Listen , I never had a chance to kill an antelope .
There never was a season before , but now they want to thin 'em out on account of the drouth '' .
`` Did he ever visit here when he was a kid '' ? ?
Linda Kay asked .
`` Who '' ? ?
`` Howard '' .
`` Hell , I don't know .
When he was a kid I wasn't around '' .
Bobby Joe took a gun from behind the door , and with a quick `` Bye now '' was gone for the day .
Almost immediately Howard and his daughter Debora drove up in the Cadillac .
`` We're going after ice '' , Howard said , `` and thought maybe you'd go along and keep us company '' .
There was really no reason to refuse , and Linda Kay had never ridden in a Cadillac .
Driving along the caliche-topped road to town , Howard talked .
Finally he said , `` Tell me about yourself '' , and Linda Kay told him , because she thought herself that she had had an interesting life .
She was such a well-rounded teenager , having been a twirler , Future Farmers sweetheart , and secretary of Future Homemakers .
In her sophomore year she had started going steady with Bobby Joe , who was a football player , Future Homemakers sweetheart , and president of Future Farmers .
It was easy to see that they were made for each other , and they knew what they wanted .
Bobby Joe would be a senior this year , and he planned to graduate .
But there was no need for Linda Kay to go on , since all she wanted in life was to make a home for Bobby Joe and ( blushing ) raise his children .
Howard sighed .
`` You lucky kids '' , he said .
`` I'd give anything if I could have found a girl like you '' .
Then he told Linda Kay about himself .
Of course he couldn't say much , really , because of Debora , but Linda Kay could imagine what kind of woman his wife had been and what a raw deal he had got .
It made her feel different about Howard .
She was going to tell Bobby Joe about how mistaken she had been , but he brought one of the cousins home for supper , and all they did was talk about antelope .
Bobby Joe was trying to get Linda Kay to say she would cook one if he brought it home .
`` Cook a whole antelope '' ? ?
She exclaimed .
`` Why , I couldn't even cook a piece of antelope steak ; ;
I never even saw any '' .
`` Oh , you could .
I want to roast the whole thing , and have it for the boys '' .
Linda Kay told him he couldn't do anything like that with his Grandma dying , and he said well they had to eat , didn't they , they weren't all dying .
Linda Kay felt like going off to the bedroom to cry ; ;
but they were going up to the Big House after supper , and she had to put on a clean dress and fix her hair a little .
Every night they all went to Mama and Papa Albright's , and sat on the open front porch , where they could get the breeze .
It was full-of-the-moon ( or a little past ) , and nearly light as day .
They all sat around and drank ice water , and the men smoked , and everybody had a good time .
Once in a while they said what a shame it was , with Granny dying , but they all agreed she wouldn't have wanted it any other way .
That night the older men got to talking about going possum-hunting on a moonlight night .
Bobby Joe and two or three of the other boys declared they had never been possum-hunting , and Uncle Bill Farnworth ( from Mama Albright's side of the family ) said he would just get up from there and take them , right then .
After they had left , some of the people moved around , to find more comfortable places to sit .
There were not many chairs , so that some preferred to sit on the edge of the porch , resting their feet on the ground , and others liked to sit where they could lean back against the wall .
Howard , who had been sitting against the wall , said he needed more fresh air , and took the spot on the edge of the porch where Bobby Joe had been sitting .
`` You'll be a darn sight more comfortable there , Howard '' , Ernest said , laughing , and they all laughed .
Linda Kay felt that she was not exactly more comfortable .
Bobby Joe had been sitting close to her , touching her actually , and holding her hand from time to time , but it seemed at once that Howard sat much closer .
Perhaps it was just that he had so much more flesh , so that more of it seemed to come in contact with hers ; ;
but she had never been so aware of anyone's flesh before .
Still she was not sorry he sat by her , but in fact was flattered .
He had become the center of the company , such stories he had to tell .
He had sold oil stock to Bob Hope and Bing Crosby in person ; ;
he had helped fight an oil-well fire that raged six days and nights .