“Jackie, have you fed the chickens?” Margaret didn’t even turn around from the stove, where she was fixing a stew from the 1/8 pound of bacon she had gotten as a Christmas present from work.
“Yes, Mum. I did it right when I got home from school. That smells so good! Is that bacon?”
“Yes it is! A special treat – a Christmas present from work. Were there any eggs?”
“I brought the eggs in before school – right after I got the clinkers out of the stove. Want me to check again?”
“No, that will be fine. Are you still doing well with your lessons?”
“Yes, Mum. Like always.”
“That’s a good boy. Your da should be home soon. Get your homework done before he gets here so you can help him if he needs it.”
“Yes, Mum.” Jack took a seat at the table and started working on arithmetic.
Frank didn’t arrive home until after dark – which wasn’t terribly late, as it was winter solstice. He hung up his hat, scarf, and coat, removed his boots and gloves, and headed over to the coal stove, where he rubbed his hands close to the unit to warm them.
“Bitter cold out there.” He coughed several times. “Smells wonderful, though. What’s that you have? Bacon?”
“Aye. We got one-eighth pound from work as a Christmas present. I’m making a stew – it should be ready shortly.”
“What a treat!” Frank coughed again. “Do we have any tea?”
“No – we ran out last week.”
“My throat is a bit raw… Can you get me a little hot honey water?”
Margaret stopped stirring the stew and put the teapot on the stove. “I’ll have it for you in a few minutes. Frank, you’ve been coughing a lot lately. Are you sure you aren’t coming down with grippe?”
Frank tried to answer but was struck by a coughing fit. He shook his head and leaned over the coal stove. The teapot was starting to steam, and he took several deep breaths, which calmed his coughing spell. Margaret came over with a cup and poured some boiling water into it. She then put in a teaspoon of honey, stirred it well, and gave it to Frank.
“Care with this now, Frank. It’s boiling hot.”
Frank put it under his nose as it cooled, breathing in the steam.
“You might want to call the doctor, Frank. Before that cough gets worse.”
“Nae, Margaret. We’ve no the money – not now, at least. I won’t get paid until the end of the month. If I still have the cough by then, I’ll go. I promise. Jackie! How are you, son?” Frank walked over and tousled Jack’s hair.
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