by Judith Allen
Grandma gets a letter she doesn't want to open. Upsetting. Rusty gets involved.
|The Unopened Envelope
Our Millie used to say that sometimes when you open your mailbox and take out the envelopes you wish you could just stuff them back in and pretend they never came.
In which the thing Grandma holds in her hands causes fears, tears, and gnashing of dentures.
Our Millie and Billy Bug plot to solve the mystery of the unopened envelop. And Rusty the pup, makes a fast and greasy get-away.
When Our Millie came home from school that steamy day, draggin' her book bag behind her and scuffin' her sneakers on the path to the front porch she knew somethin' was very wrong. Tri-pawed was scrunched as far back as he could get under the front step. He seemed to be tryin' to cover his floppy ears and make himself as little as he possibly could be. Rusty always raced to her the minute she came into sight, but today he slunk to her with his ears down and his tail tucked between his legs. He tried to wag, but his whole back end just moved kind of awkward like and he finally sat down and gave up any sign of joy and greetin'.
The pigs weren't oinkin and the chickens weren't cluckin'. Even Mama Cat had all her kittens around her and her ears were laid back and she was hissin' a bit as Our Millie passed by.
Our Millie saw Grandpa and Uncle Ernie and Pa hightailin' it around to the back of the barn. She yelled to them and Pa gave a wave and they kept goin'. She couldn't tell if they were laughin' or cryin' but they were sort of shakin' and quiverin' and Uncle Ernie was holdin' on to Grandpa with both hands.
Then, just as she started to put her foot on the first step sobbin' and yellin' and some shriekin' came from the side of the house where grandma's rockin' chair sat. She got a glimpse of Big Mil pattin' Grandma on the shoulder and sayin' somethin' so low Our Millie couldn't really make it out. She started toward the noise when a shower of pebbles hit her face and she heard a scuffin' of feet comin' from the direction of the rain barrel at the end of the porch. Billy Bug's hands were showin' from where he was hidin' and he was wavin' for her to come his way.
When Our Millie scooted in beside Billy Bug, between the prickly bushes and the rain barrel she wasn't real happy with prickles catchin' her new shirt and scratchin' her neck, and her knees wedged in such a tight space she could hardly move. She scrowled at Billy Bug and hissed, kind of like Mama cat, that this better be worth it. Just then Grandma sobbed and Big Mil handed her a cup of strong tea and patted her some more.
Billy Bug said that he had just been hangin' out, stayin' home from school "sick" that day. Big Mil had put him to work sweepin' the porch and was findin' other chores for him when Grandpa's car came roarin' up the road. Grandpa and grandma and uncle Ernie all tumbled out while the car engine was still tickin' and clickin' and grandma was cryin' and wavin' a big blue envelop around and jumpin' up and down. Grandpa whispered somethin' to Pa and they bent over laughin' until Big Mil took a look at the envelope and sent them on their way with those Big Mil looks that meant business. She and Grandma had been sittin' there ever since.
Big Mil was tellin' Grandma that the letter wasn't personal and they should open it and see what it said. Grandma shouted that it was so personal. It had her name on it . The bills had Grandpa's name on them and family letters and catalogues had her name on them.
If it wasn't personal it would say Occupant and she could just throw it away. And she couldn't open it 'cause it wasn't her time yet and she just wasn't goin' to go, but she didn't know what to do with the envelope. She was grippin' it so hard in her hands and it was becomin' mangled and tear stained.
Our Millie and Billy Bug were whisperin' and tryin' to figure out how they could find out what was in the envelope and why it got Grandma so upset. It was held so tight in grandma's hands that they knew it couldn't be pried out and she wasn't goin' to just drop it and let it flutter their way in the wind, and there wasn't much wind anyway.
They sat there for a long time and were gettin' tired of bein' scrunched up and hot. They were gettin' hungry, but it looked like Big Mil wasn't fixin' supper anytime soon. Somethin' had to be done. Grandma just kept sobbin' and talkin' about heaven, and livin' and dyin' and clutchin' the envelope.
Just then Rusty pushed his way up to them and started lickin' hands and faces and wigglin' around between them and the bushes and barrel. Billy Bug and Our Millie looked at each other and had a big idea. Grandma liked Rusty and Rusty liked everybody. If they could get him to greet grandma like he was greeting them she would have to drop the envelope to push him off her lap. To put the plan into action Billy Bug grabbed Rusty and took his up the steps on one side of grandma's rockin' chair, and Our Millie slipped into the kitchen and grabbed a pork chop and made her way to the other side of the porch. She stooped down and waited until Billy Bug let loose of Rusty. Then she waved the pork chop and whistled. Rusty took off like a big red shot, saw grandma and wagged his pleasure as he leaped onto her lap, givin' her face licks and, just as planned, grandma dropped the envelope as she pushed Rusty away.
Then something unexpected happened. Rusty grabbed the envelope and raced directly toward Our Millie and the pork chop. Instead of droppin' the envelope to take the pork chop, he crammed the meat in his mouth right over the envelope. He kept on runnin' followed by Billy Bug and Our Millie. When they finally found him, hidin' beside the chicken coop on the other side of the barn the meat had been devoured, he was lickin' his lips and lookin' mighty happy. The envelope was nowhere to be found, but after much searchin' they found enough grease stained pieces to put some of it together. At the top they found the name of Snyders Funeral Home, and after grandma's name in big black letters were the words "You're invited!'
It seemed that grandma took the actions of Rusty and the loss of the envelope as a sign and an omen that she was not bein' called to the great hereafter any time soon. Big Mil was fixin supper when they got home with Rusty and grandma was rockin' and knittin'. Rusty went right to grandma's chair, planted himself on the floor with his head on her feet, gave a big sign and began to snore. Grandma patted his big head and scratched his silky ears and smiled.