Letting Life Lead
The temperatures had dropped and the first frost would come knocking in the night. Dervish, the cat, lounged atop a heating vent with his legs splayed in the air.
“Evie!” Sabine called her granddaughter, while pulling on moose hide boots, flapped wool hat, and a long down coat.
The ten-year-old shuffled in desperate to find a wifi signal. “I’m ready.” The girl stared. “That’s a lot of colors, Grandma.”
Sabine snorted. “Don’t care as long they’re warm. Put on a coat; it’s thirty degrees.”
“This is my coat.”
“I meant the winter one.”
“Don’t like orange.”
Sabine’s eyes narrowed and shook her head not bothering to mention footwear. “Grab the buckets then.”
“Why can’t I just stay here?”
“You won’t get a signal and TV’s out. Besides, four hands makes the work go faster.”
Evie rested her chin on the counter. “I’m hungry.”
“Here’s a jam toastie.” Sabine plopped the homemade pastry in the girl’s hand, hung two buckets over the other arm, and hastened her out the door. “Come, I want a last haul before the freeze.”
The cold snatched their breaths and Evie’s sneakers sunk into the leaves where the path hadn’t been cleared.
“Did I ever tell you about the time when you were two and insisted on following your grandpa down to the mailbox?” Only a brusque wind answered and Sabine trudged onward. “You put on T-shirt and some fancy shoes and strutted out butt naked in the middle of February. I’d never seen you run so fast.”
Sabine laughed but didn’t glance over her shoulder, although she could sense the “Whatever Grandma” expression. She sighed, pointing to some trees. “Good crab apples here. The two trees there with the horizontal stripes are wild plums. Those are good, too, but don’t mix them together in the same bucket.”
“I know, I know.”
They picked while the silence bounced among the branches. Sabine ate a few fruits and tossed the leavings, while Evie made a ruckus by kicking leaves and smacking trunks with switches.
After a time, Evie sputtered and spat. “Oh, eww! Gross, they’re sour!”
“Ah, yes, those ones would be.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Sometimes the tree of knowledge isn’t so tasty.” Sabine spit out a seed and picked a tooth with a pinky nail, remaining restrained and reserved. “When you were knee high, Grandpa — that sneaky snake — would give you a new quarter for eating one of those. Oh, the faces you made!”
The wind kicked and debris stung their faces and eyes. Evie’s body shakes made her teeth rattle, and her lips had tinted an odd color.
Sabine grabbed all four buckets. “Go on ahead. I’ll catch up.”
Evie’s brisk, dignified pace turned into a breakneck run with her ponytail nearly horizontal.
At the house, Dervish had been evicted, and Evie had plopped herself over the vent with one of the many house quilts.
Sabine busied herself with the canning supplies, humming to the radio. “Glad you could spend winter break with us. Grandpa should be back tonight. Want to help with the apple butter? It’s his favorite.”
Evie took the wooden spoon and stirred while staring at nothing. “Daddy hates me.”
“What makes you say that?”
Evie shrugged and pouted at the steaming pot.
“You two are a pair–one going north and one going south–and neither of you likes to step aside.” Sabine smiled and tilted her head. “You and I haven’t exactly been peanut butter and jelly like we used to, but I love you just the same and your Daddy does, too.”
Tears fell and heaving sobs overtook Evie.
“Oh, honey, don’t get salt in the butter.” Sabine hugged her tight, not minding the wet seeping through her shirt.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me!”
Sabine kissed her granddaughter’s warm crown and sighed. “Not a thing, love. Just a little brain scrambling and growing pains.”
Evie rubbed the tears away roughly.
“When your Daddy was your age, I almost stuffed him in that canning pot there. He was so insufferable. And the rows he and your Grandpa got into! One time…sorry, I know you don’t want to hear my old stories…”
“I don’t mind.” Evie sniffled. “Can we make pie, too? Daddy likes your pies lots.”
Sabine tied her Picasso print apron around her granddaughter. “Have a go yourself. He’ll love yours best.”
“I still hate orange but thanks for the coat.”
“Noted, and your welcome.”
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