Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Mother (as in maternal parent) (04/24/08)
TITLE: From Out of the Forest
By Joy Faire Stewart
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The woman smiled and shook her head in amusement as she watched the mockingbirds’ antics. She adjusted the soft leather gloves around her fingers and pushed strands of gray hair back beneath the worn, straw hat she had taken from a nail next to the back door. She began by pruning her favorite of all the plants in the garden—the roses. As she removed the spent blossoms with her shears, showers of loose pink petals drifted to the ground. Contentment filled her heart, knowing new blooms would appear again.
A butterfly cocoon was attached by tiny, silk-like threads to a rose limb. The icicle-shaped cone was covered with minuscule bits of twigs. Not wanting to disturb the tiny nest, she moved to the next bush.
Two pairs of eyes—one a forest green, the smaller a sapphire blue—watched her every move.
For almost a week, those same green eyes had observed the woman from the shade of the azaleas, the blossoms providing the perfect vantage point for her mission.
The woman knew she was being watched. On a hunch, she began scattering thin slices of roasted turkey under the azaleas each morning as she entered the garden. The turkey was soon found and carried back to the forest, where the green-eyed mother’s tiny son was hidden in the hollow of an ancient oak stump. At first, he had struggled to chew the meat, but his hunger was strong. Soon, he was like a lion devouring wild prey.
Until today, he had not been allowed to follow his mother from the haven of the stump.
Dawn had begun to streak the magenta sky as he was awakened by his mother’s scratchy tongue washing the back of his ear. The ritual continued across his face and down his small, thin body. Somehow she seemed more determined this morning than usual. When he tried to nurse, she again boxed his ears as she had for the past week. He swatted her twitching tail as she washed the soft pads of his back paws.
Finally satisfied, she left the hollow stump with her son following closely behind. His soft caramel and cream fur, still damp from the bath, was pleasantly cool in the morning air.
They stopped at the lake’s edge for a drink, and she waited patiently as he chased a moss-green bullfrog through cattails. Soon tiring of the chase, he returned to her, only to be distracted again, by a bed of large, red ants. When she flattened her ears against her head, he moved quickly around the mound and returned to her side.
The air was filled with the subtle fragrance of bay trees as the pair stopped to sharpen their claws on a decaying pine log. Leaving the forest and stealthily entering the garden, she led him to her spot under the azaleas.
Today, the woman was trimming roses again, and the two pairs of eyes watched her movements. The fluttering petals were too much for him to resist, and he raced to catch the soft, pink confetti—stopping only when he realized he had skidded to a halt next to the woman.
He darted behind a stone garden angel, just out of the woman’s reach. She returned to the pruning, but watched him out of the corner of her eye.
From the azalea bush, the green eyes also watched.
The rising sun had brought warmth to the garden, and he couldn’t resist playing in the pink confetti. But he soon became bored and curled into a furry ball, falling fast asleep at the angel’s feet.
Before he knew what was happening, the woman scooped him up and held him against her soft, cotton apron. He squirmed and tried to break free, but she held him firmly with gentle hands.
“Hi, little fellow. Where did you come from? Do you have a name?”
As she walked to the house, she nuzzled him against her weathered cheek.
“How ‘bout I call you Morris? Martin? Or maybe Moses?
She chuckled as the screen door closed behind them.
The green-eyed mother looked back to see her son being carried into the depths of the house. Satisfied, she crept past the lake and was soon swallowed up by the dense foliage of the forest.
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