Improvisation / Story

Owls of Meat and Apple (4)

[First]   [Previous chapter]

The world was turning a little bit blue as the sun began its journey downwards. Fern looked at her watch. It was now 5 o’clock PM. Time to go home. Holding the paper bag to her chest, she walked down the road home.

On the way she walked by a dark alleyway in which a white cat walked out. There were many cats in Hecate city, which Fern believed to make the city special.  There were many white cats of whom Fern knew lived near her house. She wondered of this cat would walk the same direction she was to her house but then it began walking the other direction. She watched it go for a while and then she went on home.

Fern lived in Calliope drive within a small one story house. It’s paint had fallen of along the bottom portion of the walls where it got scratched by the lawn mower. The lawn wasn’t mowed and there were large branches covered in moss over it. There was a white cat lying underneath the tree, watching her with lit up eyes. Fern wondered if the cat was cold. She would let it stay in her house but she was afraid it would eat all of the baby bunnies and then she and her family would starve.

She unlocked the door because she knew grandpa hated it when she interrupted the TV or dinner by ringing the doorbell. The inside of her house was clean but small. The house smelled of rabbit, which was a difficult smell to come home to. Fern closed the door and ran to the back of the house, where the kitchen was. The smell would not follow her there. In the kitchen sat her mother and father. Fern’s mom had skinned a young rabbit and was preparing to stew it. Her father was setting up the table, cleaning up the cigar ashes from Grandfather’s poker game.

“Mom,” Fern said. “I met Mister Jumpers today.”

“Did you?” she said. “He’s a nice man.”

“He gave me these. He said you could use them,” Fern gave her mother the paper bag, who left it on the counter beside her. She was peeling potatoes.

“Fern, could you please help me throw these away?” Fern’s dad said, handing her a folded newspaper containing cigarette ashes. Fern took the newspaper and emptied the cigarette smoke into the bin. Her grandfather stepped into the kitchen.

He was tall with a rather straight back. His grey hair was combed neatly, Fern knew he spent a lot of time in the morning making sure of it. His frown was a constant, as much of a permanent feature of his face as his wrinkles. Fern wondered if his wrinkles and folds would disappear if he stopped smiling.

“What are we having?” he said.

“We’re having rabbit yet again, dad,” her father said. “Could you help set up the dishes?”

“Bah, fine. Maryam, don’t use a lot of salt in that stew this time,” Grandpa Maine said. He walked over to the counter and opened up the plate drawer. He looked down at the paper bag. “What’s this?”

“A gift from Old Man Jumper,” said Fern’s mom.

“His name is Theodore Jemmings, mom,” Fern said. Her grandfather brought the dishes to the table and then looked at Fern.

“Did you just correct your mother, Fern?” he said.

“I’m sorry,” Fern said quickly.

“Don’t you correct your elders, dear. It’s not becoming of a proper lady,” he said.

Fern’s mom picked up the bag and looked inside. “Tch, that jumper thinks we need these.”

“What are they, mom?” She asked.

“They’re rat traps. Mister Jumper thinks we need traps for rats,” her mom said.

“Did you tell that man that we had rats in our house?” said Grandpa Maine.

“I didn’t say that,” Fern said.

“How is your mom supposed to sell rabbits if people think we have rats in the house? And another thing, you brought something home without knowing what it was? That man could have had you smuggle something into our house!”

“Dad!” Fern’s father said. “Sit down and stop yelling at Fern!”

“I’m not yelling at her, I’m scolding her! She has to learn to watch what she says about our house out there,” Grandpa said.

“I will scold her, you sit down!” her father said.

Grandpa sat down grumbling. Fern looked at her father. “Fern? Did you say we had rats in the house?”

“No, I didn’t. I was only asking about the cages mom gives to old Mister Jemmings to fix.”

“Well, don’t tell anyone you think we have rats, okay? And don’t take things from strangers anymore. Mister Jumper is a good man, but not anyone else, okay?”

“Okay.”

Fern’s mother put the box of rat traps away and then prepared the dinner. Fern, her parents, and her four grandparents all sat down around the dinner table. She made a rabbit stew with potatoes and onions. Fern believed it was a little tasteless but grandpa Maine seemed to be enjoying it. She could tell this was so because, although he still did not smile all throughout the dinner he was quiet.

“So, Fern, what were you doing at Old Man Jumper’s store?” her mom said.

Fern didn’t want to say anything that would upset her grandpa Maine. She wondered if she should mention the television at all. Maybe little girls weren’t supposed to muck about with technology. Maybe grandpa would not approve.

“Uh, I met him outside his store,” Fern began. “He was watching the sky.”

“He was what?” Fern’s mom said.

“He was watching the sky. And then he asked if I wanted to see the inside of his store and I said yes,” Fern said.

“Fern, don’t follow people into their houses,” said Fern’s father. “Even if their house is a store, if there’s no one in there don’t follow them into it.”

“Old man Jumper is alright, dear,” said Fern’s mother. Grandpa Maine gave a gruff snort and scowled but didn’t say anything else. “What did you do in the store, dear?”

“He showed me the inside of a TV! But he didn’t let me touch anything,” Fern said quickly, not wanting to make anyone upset.

“That’s really nice,” said her Grandma Kirsten.

“It was! He let me see the inside and let me see the parts closer if they weren’t dangerous,” Fern said, carefully watching her parents’ faces. They seemed content.

“Did you learn a lot?” said her father.

“Yes!” Fern said.

“Did you know that old mister Jemmings is the last shop owner in the neighborhood?” said Grandpa Kirsten.

“It’s a shame. Do you remember Ms. Janet? She owned the old flower shop next to him once,” said Fern’s father.

Fern could tell that the conversation was now about people she had never met and quietly ate her rabbit stew. Later everyone went to bed while her mom and dad cleaned the dishes. Fern went to her room and took out her homework from her bag. She wasn’t going to do it but she believed that she should put it on her writing desk before hand. This actually saved more time than one would think because it involved organizing the cluttering mess on her desk to make room for her math textbook and history papers. After several minutes of moving things she put down the books. Then she turned out her lights, felt around for her bed, and went under the covers. She went to sleep.

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