Lucy finds some new friends to visit Grandma
|Charlie shuffled his feet crossing the den. His eyes closed, rubbing the sleep away he stretched into a huge yawn as he crossed the threshold into the kitchen. Grandma and Grandpa were preparing for the day.|
“I see that Tom has finally done his job.” Grandpa mussed Charlie’s hair as he sat down at the kitchen table. “Well, I’ve got to be getting along.” Grandpa strode across the kitchen, picking up the basket filled with food. He kissed Grandma on the cheek and headed out the back door. “See you later, dear.”
Charlie, elbows on the table, propping his sleepy head up with his hand yawned, once more before asking where Grandpa was going.
Grandma spooned up some oatmeal while she explained, “The men of the church are going over to Mrs. Sarah’s house. Her husband’s been sick and they’re going to help out with some of the chores around the house today.” She sprinkled brown sugar and cinnamon on top of Charlie’s breakfast and took it over to the table.
Charlie blinked his eyes open, in time to see Grandpa waving, sitting high on the tractor. Grandma waved back then went back to work in the kitchen. Charlie scooped a big spoonful of oatmeal. He stopped halfway to his mouth. “I should have gone with Grandpa. I could have helped, with the men.”
Grandma knew this argument was coming. “Well, I guess that’s my fault. I told Grandpa that I really needed your help today.” She paused, rubbing the kitchen counter with her dish rag.
Charlie turned and saw the rows of sparkling canning jars drying on the counter. He spied the big baskets on the side table. He saw the three humongous canning pots stacked on the stove. He wasn’t sure of what, but something delicious was going to be happening in Grandma’s kitchen today.
Lucy stumbled through the doorway to the kitchen. She walked over to Grandma and hugged her.
“Good morning, Sunshine.” Grandma rubbed her back as Lucy snuggled up closer. “How are you feeling this morning?”
“That ol’ Tom won’t quit crowing.”
“You know, he’s just doing his job.” Grandma laughed. “If you think he’s bad, you should have heard the rooster we had when your Daddy was growing up.”
“Why’s that?” Lucy looked up at Grandma.
“Ol’ Tom sounds like he has laryngitis compared to Preacher Man.” Grandma spooned up Lucy’s oatmeal and walked her over to the table.
Charlie looked at Grandma, “Who named the rooster Preacher Man?”
“Your Daddy did, for a good reason, too.” Grandma sat down at the table with her coffee while the kids ate their breakfast. “Back when your Daddy was little, we had a preacher at church that would get excited when he was preaching. When he got excited, he got louder and louder. So when Preacher Man started cock-a-doodle doo-ing and the hens weren’t paying him any mind, he crow louder and louder. He wanted those hens to know he was the best guy in the yard. It wasn’t long before he was the loudest alarm clock in the neighborhood!” Grandma laughed, lost in the memory. “I remember one day at church, our neighbor’s up on the mountain,” she pointed toward the old house, “they said our rooster was louder than theirs. They sure did appreciate Preacher Man waking up their rooster.”
“Really, Grandma?” Lucy looked stunned. “I guess I’m glad Preacher Man isn’t crowing outside my window.” Charlie, Lucy and Grandma laughed together.
“So what are we going to do today, Grandma?” Charlie finished his last bite and pushed his bowl away.
“The strawberry patch is ripe for picking. So once we get the breakfast things cleaned up; we’re going to go make the first round of picking. Then, the strawberries have to be put up. I know a couple of somebodies that love strawberry jam. So, it’s going to be a busy day.”
Charlie and Lucy looked like bobble head dolls, nodding to Grandma’s remark about liking strawberry jam. This would be their first time helping in the kitchen. They both were excited because they knew there would be leftovers to eat with supper.
While Grandma cleaned up the kitchen the kids scurried back to their bedrooms and got ready for their day. When they returned, Grandma had her hat and gloves on and had theirs ready with their baskets. The trio headed out the back door, passing Ol’ Tom and the chicken coop. The sun crested over the top of Star Mountain. Dew sparkled on the grass and the threesome left a path of dark green footprints in their wake.
Once they reached the berry patch Grandma showed Lucy and Charlie which berries to pick. She showed them the ones that would be just right and just to prove her point; they all had their first taste, right out of the berry patch.
Charlie and Lucy started picking on one row, and Grandma started on the next row. They gently moved the leaves to find the fruit. “Look Grandma!” Lucy held up her first berry, pinching the end of a three inch stem.
Grandma laughed, “That’s a beautiful berry, Lucy, but let’s leave the stems on the plant.”
Charlie already had the bottom of his basket covered. While Lucy was admiring her first berry. “Lucy, I bet I can find more berries than you can.” The challenge had been made, and Lucy wasn’t going to be out done.
Charlie and Lucy worked on their rows, picking and scooting with a steady rhythm. Grandma kept an eye on them and the sun, too. She didn’t want sunburns to spoil the rest of the day.
Charlie filled his basket first. He whooped and hollered, jumping around at the end of a row. Lucy plopped down on the ground, frustrated that she’d lost to her big brother, once again.
“Come on you two, there are more berries to pick and my basket’s not full yet. We can’t go back to the house until all three baskets are full. Charlie, help Lucy finish her basket. Then you both can help me finish mine.”
When the baskets were filled and running over, the tired trio walked back to the house. The baskets were placed by the sink, and Grandma judged the haul. “You know, that’s not too bad for a couple of hours. Who’s ready to start work?”
Charlie and Lucy looked at each other questioningly. They both had the same incredulous expression, start work? What had they been doing all morning?
Grandma poured one basket into the sink and started humming. She washed off the strawberries and started capping them. She fixed one bowl for Charlie and Lucy to enjoy while she worked on the berries. Next was a big tray of berries that went straight into the freezer. Charlie knew Grandma was going to make strawberry milkshakes and smoothies with those.
By the time she got back from the freezer, her helpers were ready. The sweet aroma of the fresh strawberries filled the farm house kitchen. With the three of them working together they made quick work getting the strawberries ready to cook. Both Charlie and Lucy watched Grandma check the recipe, measure the ingredients and put them into the big pot.
The strawberries simmered. Charlie and Lucy simmered, too, growing restless in the heat of the kitchen and being stuck inside when it was beautiful outside. Grandma recognized the signs, the twosome were getting underfoot and needed to scoot while she poured up the hot strawberries into the canning jars.
“You know, it’s getting pretty hot in here. Why don’t you both go down to the creek and cool off for a bit? Take Butterball with you. He’s earning that name and getting fat just laying around on the porch all the time.”
“Butterball,” Lucy started yelling as she scampered to the side porch door with Charlie in her wake. The screen door slammed shut behind them and Butterball’s happy bark filled the room. Grandma laughed and turned back to the work at hand. She shook her head remembering all the times their dad had left the house just like that, slamming door and all.
Lucy, Butterball and Charlie jumped off the porch. Under the shade of the oak trees, Lucy picked up a stick and threw it for Butterball. The old black lab looked at the stick then he looked at Lucy. His message was clear. If you wanted the stick, then you shouldn’t have thrown it. He ambled back to the porch and plopped in his favorite corner.
“Come on Butterball.” Lucy’s hands went on her hips. “Grandma says you’re getting fat. You have to come and play with us.” She stomped her foot in emphasis.
Charlie started laughing. “Lucy, watch this.” Charlie picked up one of the balls from Butterball’s basket. He threw it as far as he could. It bounced and rolled on the other side of the yard. Butterball picked up his head, watching the ball travel. He got up, barked twice, and went back to his corner to plop down.
“That worked, uh huh, yeah right.” Lucy chuckled at her brother’s attempt to make the dog do something.
Lucy and Charlie tried everything they could think of, but Butterball wasn’t having anything to do with them during the heat of the day. He knew where the coolest place was and he wasn’t moving.
Charlie and Lucy finally let the sleeping dog lay, and decided to go wading in the creek. They passed Bill and Bob, Grandpa’s work mules, and the corn field, where the corn was almost knee high. They squished through the grass over to the spring house, grabbed their cups and dipped them into the spring water. Grandpa’s spring had getting the best, icy cold water they’d ever tasted. The kids traipsed behind the spring house, where the water fed into the creek that ran through Grandpa’s property.
They waded in the icy cold mountain water. Water bugs skimmed over the surface of the water. Tadpoles, with leg buds swam in the crystal clean water. Mud squished up between their toes as they walked down in the water toward the creek. Charlie took the lead making sure to stay in the shallows. Lucy saw her opportunity. Charlie was a couple of feet ahead of her, not paying any attention. She pulled her leg back and gave a might kick. Her follow through was magnificent. Water sprayed Charlie all the way up his back.
Charlie shivered. He slowly turned, his eyes blazing. “What’d ya’ do that for?”
Lucy backed up. She recognized that look in her big brother’s eyes.
The joyful sounds of their high spirits filled the air. Lucy and Charlie scooped and splashed the water as hard and fast as they could. Soaked to the bone, both kids gave up into fits of laughter falling on to the banks of the creek.
The big bell rang.
Charlie bolted upright. “Come on Lucy. We’ve got to go.”
Then there was a loud yell. “Charlie!”
Charlie bolted. He left Lucy on the creek bank determined to get back to the house before Grandma yelled again.
Lucy ambled around, kicking the water, and slowly headed back toward the house. She rounded the spring house and heard mewling. Her curiosity led her toward the bramble on the other side of the well house. Bushes had grown up and it wouldn’t be long before Grandpa would be back there cleaning it all out again. Something was in those bushes. Maybe it was a cat with kittens. Lucy had to find out.
She cautiously tiptoed toward the sounds, being every so quiet. Slowly she peeked, moved the bush, and peeked again, until she found them. They were so pretty. So many cute little black and white babies, but momma wasn’t there.
Concerned for the kits well being, Lucy looked around for the momma. She thought if the momma left them, they’ll die without somebody to look after them. So, she called the kits and they followed her. One after the other the kits left the bush. They tumbled, and played with each other in the tall grass beside the spring house. Lucy chuckled and clapped at their antics.
“Lucy Marie!” Grandma’s yell was unmistakable. Lucy started running back, she knew she’d taken too long and Grandma wasn’t going to be happy.
The kits followed Lucy, thinking it was part of the game. There was Lucy, running in the grass beside the drive way, followed by the baby skunks.
Grandma finished filling up the jam jars. Charlie was sitting at the table eating cold biscuits and hot strawberry jam when he saw Lucy running up the driveway. He put his fingers in his ears and started to waggle them and stick his tongue out. Then, he saw the parade. Lucy and a whole bunch black and white fur balls following her.
“Grandma! There's a skunk in the yard! In fact, there’s a whole bunch of skunks coming into the yard!
Grandma turned from sealing the jam jars to look out the window. She saw Lucy running toward the door. “Charlie, you shouldn’t call your sister names.”
“But Grandma, look what’s behind her!”
Grandma walked toward the window. “Get Butterball in the house, before she gets here! Take him to the furthest room in the house.”
Lucy jumped onto the porch and flew into the house unaware of the posse following her. The screen door slammed shut. Grandma shut the door behind her. “Lucy Marie, what have you done?” She pointed out the window.
Lucy’s eyes got as big as saucers. “Grandma, I didn’t tell them to follow me. I came home as soon as you yelled for me.”
Six kits tumbled and played on the porch waiting for their playmate to return. Charlie, Grandma and Lucy stared at them for the longest time, wondering how they’d get them back home without smelling up the whole neighborhood.
“Maybe they’ll get bored and leave.” Grandma hinted as she peered out the window.
“Maybe they’ll follow Lucy back to where she found them.” Charlie suggested wiggling his eye brows.
All of the sudden, all of the little skunks froze. They all looked toward the spring house. Then they started running down the drive.
“Well, I’ll be,” Grandma said as we watched the line of skunks scamper away.
Lucy looked at Grandma, “I know what happened.”
“You do?” Charlie asked.
“Yep, their momma must have returned to their home and found her kits missing. She must have hollered in skunk like Grandma does in people, ‘cause it wasn’t long before they took off going back home.”
Grandma looked offended. “I holler? I wonder why!” She laughed and offered Lucy some strawberry jam and biscuits. “Lucy,” she said as she put down the plate, “how about leaving those little ones alone and let their momma take care of them from now on.”
Prompt: There's a skunk in the yard.