Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Happy (07/12/07)
By Maxx .
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Daddy laughed, the sound of tubas on parade, as he tickled Mama’s ears with a foxtail near the fire-pit.
“Morton, I swear…” She waved her hand and spun, swatting at the offending weed. Her face blossomed the color of flame. “The children …” The roundness of her cheeks lifted hazel eyes into gleaming crescents as she glanced from Mable to me in the ancient hickory porch swing.
Through a well chewed straw I pulled hard at the last tired drops of NeHi lost in the bottom of a dewed bottle. I giggled, warm, dangling my feet.
“Eunie?” Grandpa called, lounging in the white slatted rocker near the citronella candles, “How ‘bout some lemonade afore I die of heat stroke.” The folds in his brow curved and he winked at me. “And could you bring that plate of cookies you got hidden in the larder?” Thick lashes dipped like a broken shutter over circles of playful green as the corner of his mouth lifted ever-so-slightly. “I may just swoon with famish.”
Mable clapped her pudgy four-year-old palms, ringlets transformed into bouncing springs.
The fire spit and snapped, sending embers skyward as Daddy tossed another log on the already eager flames. Charcoal smoke swirled, a woolen blanket causing an orange-red glow to flicker across his farm weathered face, the traces of an ever present smile accentuated.
Mama had a finger through the belt loop of his Levis. Her hips swayed to an unheard melody, bare feet caressing the silver-blue grass.
In the fields our soybeans were rich with a healthy, abundant, bloom.
The screened door eased open. “Are you gonna survive, Harry?” Grandma’s voice lilted in an exaggerated roll, dripping sarcastic concern. In her narrow grip, the handles of a serving tray large enough for me to sleep on … and I had when I was a littler kid. It always carried something good. She placed it on the wicker table.
My legs tensed as I lurched to the edge of the swing, but I caught myself, halting Mable as well. Not yet. Like stones in a fully stretched slingshot, ready, waiting.
Condensation trickled down the side of a brimming glass pitcher, pooling near a chipped pie plate stacked with fresh baked oatmeal raisin cookies.
Grandpa poured a cup and reached toward the mound. He stalled in mid-motion. “You know,” he studied Mable and me, “Your Grandma here makes the best oatmeal raisins in the tri-counties area.”
I knew. It was one of my favorite summer-night stories.
“Now don’t go torturing the kids with that old tale.” She hushed him by dropping a cookie on his knee, but her back straightened just a little, her head lifted, and hidden crow’s-feet freshened. She glanced at my sister and me, nodding. “Come on, help yourself.” She bent to us, voice conspiratorial. “You can take two, but keep it our secret!”
Her hand on my hair was like warm parchment. The scent of powder and lilacs mingled with flour and vanilla.
“Yup,” Grandpa licked at an errant crumb on his thin lips, “blue ribbon at the fair. Bested Amelia Stenchfield. Pastor’s wife.” He took another bite. “Goes to show even with God on your side you can’t beat Grandma’s cookies!”
She plied a smirk beneath a beaming visage. “Don’t you listen to him. The Almighty sure doesn’t need my help to make something wonderful. Just look at the two of you.” She handed us each a cup of lemonade. “Besides, Amelia was suffering from the monthly bloat. Wasn’t a square contest.”
Grandpa’s laughter gurgled like a mill pond, infectious and pure. I joined him, unable to help myself.
In the distance a cardinal whistled; the sound drifting, soft.
Mama began to hum, the throaty murmur a soothing hug.
I sipped my drink, mouth upturned. Mable took my hand.
Grandma sat on the arm of the slatted chair as Grandpa caressed her back.
“Content in the arms of my God.” Mama sang, a musical prayer.
Daddy turned to her, brushing stray blond wisp from her face.
My throat tingled and I felt as if I was nestled in down. I bit into my cookie, happy.
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