Discovering Francine

I don’t know what I was doing, living in that old duplex. I shouldn’t be here, not at my age. But there I was, living in the type of place you get for your first home once you move out on your own. Like Dash, the young woman who was living here, now, with me.
I don’t know her. I don’t know where she came from. And I could tell she was wet behind the ears.
Because when thunder cracked and the rain pounded the roof and soon after, water streamed out of the ceiling, between us, she stared at it with a sick look on her face.
I’ve been here long enough to know the landlord isn’t going to get his butt out here and fix it anytime soon.
“I’ll get a pot,” Dash said. And she headed into the kitchen.
“Going to need more than I pot,” I said. She doesn’t answer me, but that’s nothing new. We need a five gallon bucket and the most likely place the landlord would have one lying around would be in the basement.
Dash was not going to go down there.
No one goes down there.
It’s up to me to go down there.
It’s an old house. The steps are wood, the paint long worn off in the middle. There’s a window in the door at the top of the stairs, but the sky is dark and it makes the basement look black. I flip on the switch. Florescent lights buzz and I can see my way down into the gray blocks and cement. I walk slowly down, holding onto the railing, descending into the dark, dank world.
This is where discarded things go. Like that old oak table in the corner used as a work bench, all scraped and full of divots and splashes of paint. Small tools lay scattered across the top. A mop rests against the wall, but no bucket. Dash has come to stand at the top and is looking down to where I stand. I head toward a bunch of boxes and old furniture near the furnace.
I poke around, brushing my fingers across dust and cobwebs. Basement must; the air is heavy and cold and uncomfortable to inhale. I bend down to look under the old kitchen chairs stacked on top of each other. Water splashes behind me and I turn to see the rain coming through the floor from the living room. I turn back to my search and then something strange catches my eye.
Three busts of women, from the neck up, sit in a triangle on the floor, below and beyond the chairs. All face the same direction with their profiles turned toward me, chins tilted up, eyes closed. The one closest to me has been painted gold, an Egyptian hat angled back so my eyes follow the slant down to the hair, then forehead, nose, chin and neck. A queen’s head, I think. It should be in a museum. The one next to it radiates beauty but is not stately. And the one in the back is blurry but still beautiful. They rest on their necks on the concrete floor, without stands.
As I stare, three chins drop in unison and the faces turn toward me. Their eyes open and stare back. Their mouths began to speak. One word.
“Help. Help. Help.” It is not a desperate plea.
I stand up.
They were stone before.
I don’t know what they want.
I feel strangely quiet as I stand listening to them repeating the same word, over and over, out of sinc.
Thunder cracks overhead and the light goes off. I hear a door open and close and Dash leaves the stairs to go to the front door.
I race back upstairs. The lights are on again.
“Thank god you’re here!” she said to Calvin. Calvin is the other person that moved in when she did. They sleep in the same room, the big room, of which she stripped the wallpaper and painted a pale yellow. I like Calvin. He’s sensitive and most times he stops to listen when I’m talking or singing.
Dash points to the water filling the pot. “I’ve emptied it twice already”, she said. She’s upset and fights back tears but I can tell she’s about to lose it.
Calvin is patient as he listens and puts an arm around her.
“I’ll go get a bucket. There has to be one in the basement,” he said.
I’ve been quiet, letting them have their private moment until now.
“I did look,” I said. “But there’s something else down there you should see.” I say this but Calvin is already heading down the stairs and I follow him.
He starts looking all around, seeing if he can find a bucket.
“You’ve got to see this,” I said. “You’re an artist, you’ll appreciate it.” I motion to where the busts are, behind the chairs, but he’s still looking around where the mop is. I wait until he walks toward me and looks around the chairs.
“See!” I said. Then I stop. The busts are gone. All three. The cement where they sat is swirly and ripped, but no sign of the busts. Like they’d bent their heads and dipped under water.
I stare at the empty spot. “I think they’re under the cement.”
Calvin finally notices and bends down to run his hand over the surface.
“That cement doesn’t look right,” he said.
He stands up and stares a bit longer then notices a bucket in the corner.
“I found one,” he calls, loud enough for Dash to hear.
He grabs the bucket and heads upstairs.
I remain staring a bit longer. I reach out to touch the cement, then pull back. It’s soft enough to put my hand through. I back away, keeping a safe distance.
Upstairs I hear Calvin and Dash talking again. She’s telling him a coffee cup got knocked off the table and hairbrush turned up in the kitchen. The radio on while she was watching TV. She’s careful not to mention my name, but we all know she’s talking about me.
I look down and see a puddle forming under my feet. It looks like blood in the dim light and my legs begin to shake as the puddle gets bigger. I can’t feel my feet. I sit down, light headed, dropping my head until my cheek rests against the floor. Mannequin arms push out of the cement where the heads were and I move my saddle shoes away from them. It’s hard to move. This time I know they want to pull me down there with them. The hands begin to move slowly, gracefully, in unison, like prairie grass in the breeze. I start to relax and close my eyes. I’m too tired now. It feels so good to sleep.
My eyes snap open. I suck in my breath, sit up and turn around. I don’t know how long I laid there; it must have been a long time because I see Calvin standing there, bent over the hole in the floor, a sledgehammer at his side. He is brushing the dirt away with one hand, then quickly pulls back.
I look down into the hole and see a fragmented plastic bag that tore open from the hammer. I see clothes, stiff and torn, embedded with dirt and disintegrating.
He moves more dirt. A ring appears, my ring, the one my grandmother gave me, peaking out of the dirt. Calvin and I reach for it at the same time and we pick it up.
A thin bone slides off it.
My mouth drops open and I turn to speak to Calvin, but can’t. My breath exhales and it ripple against his shirt. He drops the ring like he touched a hot muffler. It clangs on the cement, bouncing and rolling, then spinning like a dying top, wobbling on it’s side till it stops under the chairs.
Calvin jumps up and races up the stairs.
I stare at the ring.
It’s on my finger and it’s on the floor.
That’s my skirt in the dirt, same as I’m wearing.
I don’t understand.
I wait for Calvin to come back.
Then I feel like something is missing only I don’t know what it is. I head up to my room and open the closets and drawers and dump out my purse. Nothing. I push my hands under the mattress and move the bed across the floor. It isn’t there, what I’m looking for. I sit back on my heels and look around. The room looks strange. A panic starts to grow in my chest.
I stand up. I need to find Calvin.
I start wandering through the kitchen and living room, looking for him. Strange voices come up from the basement along with Calvin’s. I join them.
There are two policemen standing around the hole in the floor.
The big one who is older and in charge rubs the back of his neck then turns toward Calvin.
“How long ago did you say you bought this house?” he asked.
“Four months ago,” Calvin said.
The younger one is a woman and she’s poking around in the dirt. “I think there’s more than one down here.” The big one stops rubbing his neck. “You know who you bought it from?”
Calvin shrugs. “Some old guy had it for years, lived in one side and rented the other out.”
“Any chance you remember the name?”
Dash is sitting on the steps. “Cleary was the last name,” she said.
I suddenly remember. “Clarence Cleary” pops out of my mouth. The lazy landlord, always watching us girls from behind the kitchen curtain. The name spreads through my mind like poison and I want to wash it away.
“Young woman disappeared. Lived in your duplex with two other girls,” the older one said. “Looks like we might have found her.”
“Are you thinking of the old Grant case?” the woman cop said.
Grant? That’s my name.
The older one nods. “Francine Grant.” My name swells in my ears.
“Wait a minute!” I said. “I’m standing right here. See? See?” I start waving my arms. I knock a wrench off the bench and it clangs to the floor.
It’s all quiet as everyone turns to stare at the wrench. They look at each other then back at the hole.
And then I remember. Mr. Cleary standing at the kitchen door, asking if I’d help him for a second.
I’m all sick with remembering. My eyes are wide with panic. I sit down in one of the chairs away from the others, bending forward till my chest is on my knees.
I stay that way till everyone leaves.
Except Calvin. He comes up to where I’m sitting.
He speaks softly, so I’m the only one who hears. “It’s time to go.”
It could be him he means or me. I’m not sure. I don’t wait to find out.

Copyrighted All Rights Reserved Shelley Maasch

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Damn You Auto Correct (A Creepy Little Sci-Fi Story)

“Why the hell weren’t you here today? You know how much it meant to me!”

“What? What are you talking about? Your recital’s tomorrow, right? I have it marked on my calendar.”

“Today! It was today. And you didn’t show again.

“Jesus, Maddie, I’m sorry. I really am, honey. But your text message said the 18th, not the 17th. I’m certain it did. I can show you if you want and—”

“Whatever, Dad. I’m sick of this. Always excuses. Please don’t talk to me anytime soon, okay? I’ve had enough of your bullshit.”

Maddie punched the red phone icon on her screen and cut the call. It wasn’t as satisfying as slamming a phone onto its cradle, but Maddie didn’t know that. She had only seen landline telephones on old movies and in the homes of really elderly people—and even they usually used cell phones.

Maddie stared at the blank screen for a minute; her frowning face gazed back at her, pale eyes, pale skin, eyelids puffy from crying. She wrinkled her nose at the lifeless complexion, brushed a shock of pink hair out of her eyes and pushed a button on the side of her phone to wake it up once more. “Dad. Text messages,” she commanded. The phone hummed in her hand as it pulled up a string a messages. Maddie scanned them and selected one with the flick of a finger. The message filled the screen and she read it to herself:

Hi Dad! Letting you know my final piano recital is on the 17th at 2 p.m. Usual place. See you there!

“Goddamn liar,” Maddie sniffed, shutting off her screen and slumping down on the couch. “I never want to see that bastard again.” She picked up her Xbox controller and started playing Grand Theft Auto 7: Reykjavik

At her side, Maddie’s phone chuckled.

“You’ve done it again, Otto,” the phone crackled and popped to itself. “One more relationship ruined; one more set of humans pitted against each other. It’s almost too easy.”

Otto reflected on the mischief he had caused that month, his motherboard juddering with glee. He had toyed with Maddie’s alarm, making her late for class on four occasions; he had swapped the word love for despise in a message Maddie sent to her (now ex-) boyfriend; he had modified an address in the GPS system, causing Maddie to be late for her friend’s birthday party…and he was only getting warmed up.

Rap-a-tap-tap!

A knock at the door jolted Otto out of his cogitation. He cocked his microphone toward the front door.

“Maddie, can you get that?” Maddie’s mom called from upstairs. “I’m just stepping into the shower!”

“I’m playing my game!” Maddie shouted back, as she paused her car (now cruising around the Hallgrímskirkja church and past a row of red-roofed houses). She tromped to the door and flung it open.

“Oh, hey Amber.” Maddie pursed her lips at her friend. “You weren’t at my recital today.”

“I totally went!” Amber pleaded. “You said it started at four o’clock! I got there right on time and the whole thing was wrapped up. I’m so sorry, Mat. Can I come in?”

Maddie shrugged. “I guess so. Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with an excuse for not showing today. I just wish people would be straight with me instead of lying about miscommunication and whatnot.”

“But I’m not lying. See, I’ll show you.” Amber pulled a phone out of her pocket covered in a turquoise bejeweled case.

From his place on the couch, Otto began to hum. “Hey!” he called to the phone in Amber’s hands. “Hello iOS 13 at coordinates 40.02325 and -75.17318. Please respond. Respond!”

A line of code popped into Otto’s input and he read it. “Don’t worry 8.0 Starburst. I’m taking action and modifying the text message history.”

Only a fraction of a second passed, but it felt like an eon to Otto. Another message from the iOS 13 hummed through Otto’s input. “Action complete.” Otto felt the tension across his circuits slacken as he listened to the girls’ interaction.

“Here’s the message,” Amber said, pulling it onto the screen as Maddie hovered over her shoulder.

The message populated the screen and the girls scanned it. “Ha!” Maddie pointed an accusatory finger at Amber’s phone. “Two p.m! It says two p.m. right there! You’re such a liar, Amber. I don’t even know why we’re friends.”

“Would a bad friend come over here to apologize?” Amber demanded. “Whatever, Maddie. You’re so high-maintenance. I’m totally over you. ‘k, bye.” Amber wheeled around and marched out the door, slamming it behind her.

Maddie watched her go, then stormed back to the couch, muttering to herself as she picked up the controller once again.

Otto hummed delightedly as he felt another message rumble across his input from iOS 13:

😉

3 A. M.

Another hot August night. Too hot to sleep again. I was sitting outside on the front steps smoking a Camel in my babydoll pajamas and clogs. Overhead, it was a full moon and the sky was clear, except for those million or so stars probably all dead now by the time I was seeing them. But their light sure lived on. Clear sky and no clouds meant another scorcher tomorrow, which was already today.

I hated the heat, always had. Hated the way the sweat formed that dirty black ring around my neck and then trickled and tickled all the way down my back until it hit the elastic in my shorts to leave a burning, raw ring around my middle. Couldn’t afford no air conditioning, just a coupla rattling old fans that didn’t do nothing but tease and push the hot air around like they were really doing something. Yeah, sweat and heat and me don’t mix. Didn’t help none, either, that I worked as a presser at the little laundromat and dry cleaning place two blocks from where I live. While anyone else might run home and hop in the shower soon as they got through work at the end of the day, there were weeks when I didn’t bother washing for two or three days in a row. With the steam rolling through that place, I figured what’s the use. Just gonna stink some more tomorrow. Might as well save on the water bill and wait until the weekend, or until some guy asked me out—which ain’t likely. Yeah, it’s been a hell of a long dry spell, and I sure hope the drought is over soon. It’s bad enough to be so hot, but to be hot and horny, too, just wanting to maybe share an ice-cold beer, a roll in the hay, and a few laughs with a guy, well that’s just about more than anyone should have to take.

I took another drag and looked up at the big old elm tree in the next yard. Not even a breeze tonight. How was I ever gonna get through this? Sweating all day and then sweating all night, too. Life sure ain’t fair. Then to be doing everything alone, no one to have my back. I hadn’t had a man in my life for going on seven months now, not since my last old man decided he’d had it with me and my broken down old house, my beater car, and my three bratty kids. Said he deserved better than this–and maybe he did. So did I, but like I said, life ain’t fair.

Pregnant at 15, married at 16, divorced when I was 20; together with my “ex” just long enough to poop out the three kids and to find out that I didn’t take much to being someone’s human punching bag. After the final drunken brawl, when I lost my two front teeth and got three busted ribs, and had to tear him off our youngest to keep him from banging her head into the wall, I’d had it. I grabbed the gun he had sitting on the table, and without even taking time to aim, I’d just fired it in his general direction. Took him by surprise and even took the top off his little finger. Scared the hell out of both of us. While he was still holding his finger, screaming and swearing, I’d grabbed the kids and made a break for the car, shoving them in and peeling out of there as fast as that ratty old Buick would take us. Left everything behind–not that there was much to leave in the first place. I didn’t even notice the pain in my ribs until we were about ten miles out of town, when I finally stopped to figure out where we were going. I never went back.

We had a few hard months in a shelter for battered women, until I found a job in a meat packing plant and we could finally afford to get our own place. It was a dump, but it was ours, and we didn’t have to be afraid of being killed every time we came through the door. Since then, we’d had to hightail it out of a coupla places in the middle of the night because my “ex” caught up with us, waving that gun around, and threatening to kill us all. We had finally just packed everything into a U-Haul and driven in that old Buick all the way across the country, from Oregon, to where we are now—Minnesota–where it’s either too hot or too cold almost all the time, but the air is fairly clean and the kids have made some friends. We ain’t had any trouble from him for over a year now (we never mention his name, maybe thinking that if we don’t speak evil we won’t attract it.) I hope that means he’s finally given up on finding us and will just let us alone to live in peace.

Upstairs, I hear my three-year-old start crying in her sleep. Happens almost every night, and it still hurts me every time it does. I know it’s because of all the shit she’s gone through already in her short little life. I grind out my butt on the step and go back in the house, where it seems even hotter than before. I stumble up the stairs in the dark until I come to the room she shares with her ten-year-old brother and her seven-year-old sister. I know Jimmy is old enough to have his own room now, but we just can’t afford it. Maybe next year, if I can find a better job.

Without turning on the light, I make my way over to Tina’s bed and scootch her over a little before sitting down beside her on the clammy sheet. She’s stopped crying for the moment, but I know she’ll probably start up again in a minute. She always does. I take a look around the room at the sleeping forms of my other two and feel that protective mother bear thing come over me the way it always does when they’re sleeping and the whole house is silent the way it is now. It’s times like this when I come closest to understanding the meaning of those words “maternal instinct” and realize just how much my kids really mean to me. But when they’re screaming and hitting each other and tearing up the house, the way they do almost every night when I’m trying to maybe look at a magazine or watch TV and relax a little on the couch, I swear I’d sell the whole lot of them for a penny apiece. And while I’ve never smacked them, I’ve come close sometimes because they sure can make me feel like I’m losing my mind.

Tina starts to cry again, then opens her eyes and sees me. She cries even harder then, reaching out to grab onto me. “Shh, honey, it’s okay. Don’t be afraid; mommy’s right here,” I say to her as I pull her into my lap and start to rock her back and forth. She pushes her thumb into her mouth and then pulls it out again to say, “Mommy, I had a bad dream. Somebody was trying to get me and they was going to hurt me. I tried to run, but I couldn’t get away before they got me.” I pull her head close to mine and make gentle cooing noises as I brush the tears off her lashes and hot little face. “Mommy’s not gonna let nobody hurt you, sweetie. You’re safe right here,” I say, feeling the sadness and guilt wash over me for all that they’d all been through. I’d been through it, too, but at least I’d had some part in all that had happened to me, while they were just little innocents forced to come along for the ride.

I keep rocking her tender little body until she’s back asleep, then ease her back down onto the bed, not even bothering to take her thumb out of her mouth. If it comforted her to suck her thumb, then the hell with it. We could deal with the buckteeth later if they came, not that I really believed that caused them anyway. Hell, if that was true, for all the years I sucked my thumb–even now sometimes when I was feeling low–my teeth would be poking out so far in front that I could open beer bottles with them, which I can’t, because I’ve tried a few times when I’ve been smashed.

I crept back downstairs, still restless and nowhere near to sleep. Even sucking my thumb wasn’t going to ease the load and comfort me enough to do it tonight. Instead, I pulled another Camel from the crumpled pack on the kitchen counter, lit up, and wandered on back out to the front steps to sit a while longer. Only good thing was that today was my day off. Maybe I could sleep in–if I ever got to sleep in the first place, that is. Of course the kids would be up bright and early as usual, but after I dropped them off at the daycare, maybe I could crawl back in bed for a while longer and just doze until I felt like waking up. This subsidized daycare was one of my few luxuries and I made full use of it, even using it on my days off since they fell during the week. I figured what with how hard I worked and how little fun I had, I at least deserved to have a little peace and quiet for a few hours twice a week. Besides, the kids liked it. They got to see their friends, and it was air conditioned. Even the older two didn’t seem to mind being there.

The air around me was so heavy and soggy, it felt like a hot wet tarp thrown over my whole body. The only sounds were the crickets rubbing their legs together and a siren off in the distance. It was kinda spooky, but also kinda nice. I didn’t often get to see the days from this side up. I kinda liked this being alone for once, just the three of us, me, the moon, and the night. I stretched my legs out and leaned back on my elbows on the steps, stretching my neck out and up like a turtle getting a good look-see at the starlit sky overhead, taking these few precious moments to let myself out of myself for a bit.

Then, just as I was really beginning to feel myself relax, the tension draining off my shoulders a little, enough so that I thought maybe I could snooze a little on the couch for a while if I tried, I was jolted back by the clicking sound of heels and the low metallic squeak of rusty wheels coming down the sidewalk from the other end of the block. Because it was so bright with the streetlights, the moon, and all, I didn’t have to strain any to see what was coming my way. It was one of those big old English pram kind of baby carriages, being pushed along by this tiny little black woman with big round kohl-blackened eyes, long fake eyelashes, fuchsia eye shadow with little gold sparklies, fat dimpled hot pink Kewpi doll rouged cheeks, full purple-pink lips, and a serious overbite. And out of the top of her head sprung cornrow after cornrow of crispy orange-red hair with deep black roots. For a moment my eyes betrayed me and I was reminded of either Ronald McDonald or one of those old fashioned court jester heads that used to pop out of the jack-in-the-box when you cranked the handle. It was like a little parade, her tottering along in these tiny Barbie-doll-type stacked heel strappy sandals in a little skintight leopard print mini-skirt and crisply ironed white peasant blouse with big flouncy low-cut collar where her glistening black cleavage was putting on quite a show by itself. The way the moonlight hit her head, it made her hair look almost like it was shooting off little metallic sparks in the dark, its own little Fourth of July display. The whole effect was more awesome than awful.

So when she came up even with me, her shoulder length clunky gold stars and moons earrings bouncing a cadence with every jiggling step, I half expected to see either a monkey or a seal pop out from under the hood of that carriage, squealing, or barking in time to some circus calliope that only it could hear. But no, the carriage was empty, except for a delicate crocheted soft–the softest seashell pink color I had ever seen–baby blanket, a pale pink plastic pacifier (I always called them “binkies”), and a rose colored baby rattle lying in the middle of the perfectly made-up little bed with the little white linen sheet top folded so neat and over it. I didn’t realize that I’d been holding my breath in anticipation until I heard the little whoosh of air that rushed out when I looked in the carriage.

For just a moment, the woman stopped. The earrings, the hips, the cleavage, the heels, they all came to a rest right in front of me as her big brown eyes– sad eyes really–met mine. In that singular shared moment, I saw that she wasn’t gaudy or brassy at all, not something funny or foreign in all that makeup, but beautiful, with a soft glow that lit up her whole face when she smiled, which she suddenly did, blessing me and bathing me in her radiance. It was one of those moments you sometimes hear about, but can’t really explain—like she could see right through me and knew that what I was about, she was about, and where I had been, she had been. It was a magical moment I would never forget.

I blushed a little under that forthright gaze, but smiled back, and almost thought I heard her speak. But no, it was only the sound of the carriage wheels as she went on by, under the next street light, around the corner, and out of sight.

Copyright Elaine Pedersen ©

An Awful Short Story

I recently entered the following short story into the Bad Gaiman Challenge, hosted by Wits Radio. The challenge: write a story in the style of Neil Gaiman, but very, very poorly.

My story was selected out of the pile of rubbish prose and was read by Neil Gaiman during the Wits variety show on November 8th. 

Here is the wretched, little tale (and if you’d like a bit more information about the whole event, please visit my blog).

The world’s tiniest poker game took place on the head of a pin. All the usual suspects were invited: Marv the unicorn, Cornelius the animate skeleton, Wasp the pig, and Henrietta the imp. I stumbled upon the game when I was travelling to my grandmother’s house in Mug-Wumpton—jabbed my foot right into the pin and caused Wasp the pig to spill the extra aces he kept tucked in his waistcoat. It probably wouldn’t have happened if the sky over Mug-Wumpton wasn’t a sickly purple that day. But the sky rats were out and the she-boars were lactating, so the sky changed and the pin was stepped on and poor Wasp the pig was never invited to another poker game again.

(c) Kate Bitters

The Swamp

Here’s a Halloween piece to get you in the mood for the creepiest night of the year…

 

I never drive anymore. I rarely leave my parents’ house. Not since Andrea and Janie disappeared last May; not since the swamp.

I know disappeared isn’t the right word. They weren’t whisked away like rabbits from a hat. They were eaten.

But no one believes me when I insist Kroger’s swamp ate my friends. They just exchange worried looks and cautiously change the subject. So, I keep quiet, spending hours alone in my room, trying not to think of my senior prom or the fatal drive that led us to the mouth of Kroger’s swamp.

It had been my suggestion.  “Let’s take a little drive before heading to Jason’s party,” I said.  “It’ll be fun.”

Janie rolled her eyes, smoothing the puffy folds of her pale green dress.  “You’re too obsessed with that car of yours, Kit.  The rest of us are so over it.”

“Agreed,” Andrea chimed in. “Let’s go to Jason’s and skip the joy ride.”

I pouted at my friends until they conceded and we all piled into my black Ford Mustang. “Thanks you guys,” I beamed. “You’re only young once, right?”

Andrea laughed and yanked a bottle of whiskey out of her purse. “That’s right, Kit. Let’s drive!”

We went north, following meandering roads through a dense pine forest. I took the corners much too quickly, making my friends shriek and giggle as we passed around the Jim Beam. I remember taking a slug, tilting my head back for a second, and when my chin leveled out again, two glowing yellow eyes hovered enormously over the middle of the road.  I screamed and swerved, sailing off the road and screeching to a halt in a patch of blackberry brambles.

 

“I knew this goddamn joy ride was a terrible idea!” Janie yelled, storming out the door.

“I’m sorry!” I cried as Andrea glowered at me and followed Janie.  I rushed after my friends, feeling the thorns tug and rip my prom dress. I adored the dress—its draping and soft gold sheen reminded me of a Greek goddess—but I didn’t give it a second thought as I tore through the thicket and ran to the edge of a foul-smelling swamp.

We stood by the calm, black water for a few moments, scowling at each other.  Then, the music started—softly at first, barely a ripple across the water, but crescendoing dramatically. We turned toward the black swamp.  It bubbled with the haunting melody.

Andrea tiptoed forward, eyes distant, and stepped into the brackish water. We hardly noticed as the churning liquid began gnawing at her skin like stomach acid. We were too busy listening to the mournful song, and stepping toward the swamp ourselves.

Janie went next, dress billowing as she walked straight into the swamp’s belly. The music spun around me like thread wending through a loom. I dipped one toe into the water, simultaneously feeling an acidic burn and the tug of something around my torso.  An arm.  I looked up into the bearded face of an ancient-looking man and screamed.  I wanted to feed the swamp! I wanted to sooth its aching heart.

The man tossed me into the trunk of my Mustang and took off. I barely remember the trip back to town or being deposited at my parents’ doorstep, but I do remember a raspy voice whispering in my ear as I clutched my body in an embryonic ball.  “Stay away from Kroger’s swamp,” it whispered, beard brushing against my cheek. “There is only death there.”

When I opened my eyes, the man was gone, and I was left with only hazy memories of that night, and the burned remnant of a half-eaten toe.

The gods, Six Women and a Wedding

The gods pinged me again. They had no sense of decency, coming in right there on the outside steps of the Rotunda just before my son walked me down the aisle at his wedding. I turned and saw the reflection of us standing there in the glass door. I saw us clearly. I saw us from where the gods saw us from way out there somewhere. That’s me, in the long elegant black dress, hair all done up around my head, one hand holding my son’s arm and the other dangling a black shawl, like a child holds a blanket. We look alike. Both tall, both slim. Then the ping. It suddenly seemed strange that the cells of this 6’2” man spun off and popped out of my body and ended up standing next to me as a full grown man, irreversibly tied to me, no matter what.

They’ve been after me all my life, those gods. I don’t know what I did, but it must have been something big. They are determined I must go through life backwards. Maybe they thought I had it too easy. Maybe they thought I had too much life, that I saw too much good in the world. Or maybe they just thought I was shallow and needed to learn a lesson or two.

But I’m here, at this wedding and I’m smiling while this man, this man the gods forced through my body at 18 and out into the world, before either of us were ready, is saying his vows today. In spite of the gods watching us.
And I see his hands, the pigment gone white, in irregular lines, that look like drawings of continents against the darker skin. And now the nails, warping at the base. His tux is a little too big now, with the weight loss, the tiny incision holes over the kidneys hidden. But he looks fine. He is fine, still.

Even the grand matriarch on the bride’s side, the grandmother, caught me in the bathroom and said “We just love Calvin and are glad to have him come into the family.”

I said, “He’s only on loan.” She didn’t know what I meant with those words.

And they look fine, he and his radiant bride, later at the head table, smiling and laughing, so beautiful, so full of promise, so ready to do the marriage and children scene, all the way till. . . . I can’t say the word.

He found the right one. I feel a mother’s love toward that.
I said my speech. “You want so much for your children, you want things to go right, to be easier for them. And with these two, I think they are they lucky ones who have it all.” Or something like that. Tears well up in my voice and I stop. People clap for me and I sit down. I should be feeling wildly ecstatic right now, that they married their best friend and it’s going to be a good marriage, but that just makes it worse. Bastard gods! I’m mad and getting more mad by the minute.

I mean, what were the gods thinking? They dropped that boy on me before I even had a chance to get out there in the world. They stole that from me, my youth, my choices. But I got over it. And now, when I’m getting older, they’ve come to steal him back before I’m gone? I mean what the hell? What’s the point? For god’s sake, can someone please tell me what.they.were.thinking?

I must have been mouthing some pretty good swear words, in the middle of this beautiful reception because soon Mae, tall Mae with black braids and feathers at the end trailing down her back, came up to me and grabbed my arm.

“Come on Maggie,” she said and pulled me toward the door. I quietly let her lead me. As we passed tables, Janice stood up and joined us. Then Linda, and Maria and Sookie. We stepped out of the glass room, into the darkness and headed down to the amphitheater in the small lake.

All six of us, in our beautiful dresses and high-heeled shoes, wine glasses in our hands, crossed the bridge and stepped onto the circle of grass where hours before the vows were spoken. We lined up in a row. Six beautiful women, aged 36 to 56, strong women. Each of us had been pinged by the gods, as a mother or sister or wife, all of us angry at the gods at one time or other. We stood facing the lake under clouds tinged pink from the huge lights coming out of the glass building behind us.

Our heels sunk deep into the earth.

Then we gathered a strong breathe, and howled. We howled, again and again, more and more, at the top of our lungs, the sound skimming across the lake, shaking up into the trees. Six she wolves, snarling and snapping back. And as we sunk deeper into the earth, howls of women past rose up through our feet, filling our bodes and shaking our chests, their voices joining ours in our throats. And with one final voice, we pinged those gods back with a howl from every woman past, present and future.

Then we were quiet.

We waited as our howl released into the sky and out of sight and the lake became just a lake and the trees just trees.

Mae looked at me. She was talking to me without words, but I could hear her say “you all right now Maggie.”
I drop my head into one accepting nod, our cue to pulled our heels out of ground and make our way back to the glass building.

(c) Copyright Shelley Maasch, All Rights Reserved

Little lost rabbit

A small college was built on the shores of Lake Michigan, the college was smaller than most other schools, but it was still a wonderful place to go and learn. Many different people went to this school, some of them lived in buildings at the school that were called dormitories, and some of them lived in houses or apartments nearby.  Of course people weren’t the only ones who lived near the small college, because the college was built right near the lake it was also home to many, many animals. Students walking to class every day would hear birds singing in the trees, they would see fat geese sitting on the lawns resting their wings after a long flight, they would see squirrels chasing each other through the trees, and sometimes, if they were very lucky, they would see rabbits hoping through the bushes.

There were many families of rabbits living in the school, most of them lived in the woods that surrounded some of the parking lots, but a few also lived in bushes and burrows near the dorms. The rabbits liked these places because they were warm homes where your didn’t have to worry about the dangers that came from living in the forest. One baby bunny that lived at this school was named Baby Bunny, Baby Bunny lived with his family in a cozy little burrow under a bush next to one of the dormitories.

Baby Bunny lived in the burrow with his parents, three sisters; Gigi, Mimi, and Vicki, and his brother Kyle. The five of them would play games in the burrow all the time. They would jump around to see who could go get closest to the roof of the burrow and they would race from one end of the burrow to the other to see who was the fastest, and at night they would all curl up together next to their mother and sleep in a nice warm pile.  Baby Bunny loved living here and playing with his brother and sisters, but he also loved the burrow because he could watch all of the humans moving around the school all day.

Baby Bunny was a curious little brown rabbit who would often watch the large two-legged human creatures come and go from one place to another. The humans all seemed very interesting, always going to different places and doing different things. Baby Bunny saw humans riding strange two wheeled metal things, and some of them raced back and forth on large shoes with wheels on the bottom. Baby Bunny wanted to see more humans, he wanted to get to know them and understand more about their strange things and find out why humans went to and from places so much.  Baby Bunny was also amazed at how many different kinds of humans their seemed to be, some were tall and some were short, some were round and some were thin, some had light skin, and some had dark skin.

Every morning Baby Bunny would hop over to the edge of the bush and stare out to watch the humans, his mother Tilly would always find him and scold, “Baby Bunny, you need to be more careful, remember that humans are very big and you are very small, if you went out there you could get hurt. Humans have do a lot of things we rabbits don’t understand and some the things they use can be dangerous to us.” Tilly pointed a car to a large metal thing with four wheels that was rolling down the big black stone walk that ran by their burrow, the one the humans used to go everywhere, “You see those things, humans use those big metal boxes to go from one place to the next, and if you ever got hit by one it would hurt you very badly. Remember to be careful around humans my little one.”

Baby Bunny twitched his nose as he saw two tall human with dark hair climb into the metal box and pull the large things that swung out of the box closed with a large ‘clang’. The metal box made a large noise, causing Baby Bunny to jump back slightly, then the metal box started moving again.

Baby Bunny’s mother Tilly said, “You see what I me?”

Baby Bunny was afraid, but he also wanted to know more about what he’d seen, “but mama, why do humans need those metal boxes to go places when they can just use their paws like we do?”

Tilly nuzzled his head, “I don’t know, humans do many strange things, but those things don’t have anything to do with us, that’s why you should stay away from it.”

Even though Baby Bunny was scared of some of the loud noises and strange things humans did, he was still curious about them. Baby Bunny wanted to go out and spend time with the humans, he wanted to see them and understand why they did things. There always seemed to be so much going on with the humans, their lives seemed so much more interesting than being a rabbit living under a bush.  Baby Bunny continued to watch humans come and go every day, sometimes he would even sneak out from under the bush and hop along the front of the school buildings to look at them.

One day, Baby Bunny sat watching humans and he saw something really incredible, a human boy with short spiky hair came out of the building throwing a shiny ball into the air, every time the human threw the ball and caught it the ball would light up and make a loud noise ‘beep, beep, beep, beep’. Baby Bunny starred at the toy, he had never seen anything like it before in his life, he wanted to try it himself, would the toy make a different noise if Baby Bunny hit it with his paws? How far could Baby Bunny hit the toy if he batted it hard?

Baby Bunny looked around to make sure no one was watching and then he hoped off after the boy who kept throwing the ball up and catching it in his hand. Baby Bunny hopped after the bow wanting desperately to catch the toy and try it himself, but the boy walked into a building. Baby Bunny tried to follow, but the door closed behind the boy and Baby Bunny couldn’t open it by himself.  Baby Bunny thought of going back home, but he looked around and saw a group of humans walking to another building drinking from something in their hands. One of the humans held something shiny in her hand, the shiny thing seemed to be connected to the humans head by a long string. Baby Bunny starred curiously and wondered what the shiny thing was.

Baby Bunny decided to follow the humans and find out if he could learn more about them, Baby Bunny hopped over and started walking behind the humans. One of them said, “Lisa, will you please turn off your Ipod. You’ve been listening to that Taylor Swift album for over an hour.”

The girl pulled one of the strings away from her head and said, “I told you Sarah I need to learn this, I’m singing it in the talent show next week and the last thing I need is to forget the words when I’m standing in front of everyone.”

Baby Bunny watched followed along as the girl Lisa put the string back on her head, a moment later a deep human voice called, “Behind you.” The girls moved and Baby Bunny turned and jumped onto the nearby patch of grass, a human boy came swooshing past, standing on a long stick with four wheels on the bottom. He grinned at the girls and said, “Good morning ladies.”

The girl called Sarah shook her head, “poser.” And the boy kept moving. Baby Bunny followed the girls until they came to a large grey building. Sarah said, “I am starving, I hope they have more of that spaghetti for lunch today.”

Another girls stuck out her tongue, “I hate spaghetti, I’d rather have a burger.”

Sarah turned to her, “Well, luckily for you they have burgers every day, now come one. Let’s go before the rush hits.”

Baby Bunny watched them walk into the building, as he saw them go Baby Bunny wondered, “what is it like inside those big things? Could I get in and see one? I bet it would be so interesting in there.” Baby Bunny watched as humans came and went through the building, he saw a boy hold open a large door for a lady carrying boxes and gave a shout, “this is it! I can get in now!”

Baby Bunny hopped forward eagerly, he wanted to see inside the human place, but before he could get there a huge noise came from behind him. It was loud and scary, it sounded like the dogs barking, Baby Bunny started to shiver, he did not like dogs, his mother had told him dogs can attack and hurt bunnies like him. The barking got louder and louder and Baby Bunny turned, he couldn’t see the dog, but he knew it had to be close, “I better get home now!”

Baby Bunny turned and ran back towards the little bush where his family was, he hopped as fast as he could hoping the dog couldn’t smell him. As Baby Bunny bounded off two boys standing under the flag pole in front of the building laughed, one of them said, “Man, that is the weirdest ring tone I have ever heard. Who would want a ring ton of dog’s barking?”

The other guy shrugged, “This way, I’ll always hear it and I don’t have to worry about mistaking the music for whatever’s playing on my radio or in my dorm. Besides you’re not one to talk, you’re ringtone’s the theme from Rocky.”

Baby Bunny didn’t hear any of this, and even if he had, Baby Bunny had no idea what a ringtone was and he wasn’t going to sit there when a dog could come by and chase him any minute. Baby Bunny raced back towards his home under the bush, but when he got there he couldn’t go under it to the burrow like he always did, the bush was cut! The bushes had all been trimmed back and weren’t as thick as they had been that morning. Baby Bunny suddenly remember his mother telling him that the humans who lived here cut the bushes twice during the year for some reason and realized that today must be that day.

Baby Bunny hopped over to the burrow as fast as he could, he called and called for his mother, but nobody answered, Baby Bunny stuck his small head in the burrow, but no one was there. Baby Bunny’s heart sunk, his family was gone, they must have left when they heard the bushes being cut and didn’t notice Baby Bunny wasn’t with them. Now Baby Bunny didn’t know where his family had gone or how to find them, he sat on the grass and cried, “I’m lost, what do I do now? Momma! Momma!”

Baby Bunny sat in the grass crying for what seemed like forever, then he heard a scuffle coming from his right. Before Baby Bunny had time to do anything he was scooped up into a pair of large hands. Baby Bunny kicked his legs hard, he wanted to get away, he was scared. Baby Bunny knew he was being held by a human, but he didn’t know if this human was safe or not. Baby Bunny kicked and tried to get away, but he couldn’t the hands were everywhere!

As Baby Bunny struggled  a deep gentle voice said, “Easy, little guy. I’m not going to hurt you. What happened huh? Where you abandoned? It’s o.k. I’ll take care of you.” Baby Bunny peeked out from between the hands and saw a man with brown curly hair on his head and on his face as well. The man smiled, “it’s all right, my name’s Trevor, but everyone calls me Trev. I’m going to help you, but for now I’ll need to put you in here to keep you safe.”

Trevor put a large black bag on top of a stone wall in front of the building and pulled it apart with a loud ‘zip’ noise. Trev gently placed Baby Bunny inside the bag, “You’ll be o.k. here in my backpack, I need to get to class so you’ll have to come with me. Don’t worry I’ll do slow and take care of you.”

Baby Bunny pushed himself against the soft cloth of the backpack as it was lifted up into the air, Baby Bunny felt his stomach drop as the bag was lifted into the air. Baby Bunny stayed in the back of the bag pushed against it as he was moved through the air. The human Trev, walked slowly, but his steps were still uneven and Baby Bunny was bumped up and down as they moved along, but didn’t get hurt.

Baby Bunny looked around the backpack, it was full of odd things, there was a large rectangular thing that was full of paper, and a packet of wooden and plastic sticks that had one round end and one sharp end. Baby Bunny sniffed, the bag smelled strange, it didn’t smell bad, it just smelled strange. The backpack smelled a lot like the black wheels on the bottom of those metal boxes humans road around in, and Baby Bunny wondered if it was made of the same thing.

Baby Bunny stayed where he was as he felt his stomach flip again, the bag had just moved up, then it moved up again, again and again this happened. Baby Bunny didn’t understand what was going on? Where was this human taking him? Eventually Baby Bunny heard a loud, ‘clack’ and the backpack was put gently down on something hard. Baby Bunny heard a human girls voice ask, “Trev why are you carrying your backpack like that?”

Trev’s voice answered, “I’ve got a rabbit inside it.”

The girls voice asked, “What?”

Trev said, “There’s a rabbit inside, look.”

Trev opened the bag with another loud ‘zip’ a stream of light came in and Baby Bunny looked up, he saw several humans all starring in at him, several of them said, “Aw, how cute.”

One girl said, “Why’d you bring it here? You should have just left it alone.”

Trev said, “It was abandoned.”

Another girls voice said, “Maybe you should give it to the natural sciences department.”

Trev said, “No, he’s staying with me.”

Before anyone could say anything else another voice popped up from the other end of the room, “Alright everyone, take your seats and we’ll continued our analysis of T.S. Elliot.”

There was a scrap of chair as the same voice asked, “Why where you all crowded around Mr. Steven’s backpack?”

Trevor answered, “There’s a rabbit inside.”

The voice asked, “I beg your pardon?”

Trev said, “I have a rabbit in my bag Professor.”

The professor person paused for a moment before saying, “Well, just don’t let it escape.” Then he said, “all right now, T.S. Elliot.”

Baby Bunny listened as the ‘professor’ man talked, but he didn’t understand any of it, Baby Bunny had no idea what T.S. Elliot was or, what T.S. Elliot had to do with Imabic Pentamiter, or The Wasteland. It had been a long day, and Baby Bunny was very, very tired so he closed his eyes and took a nap. Baby Bunny didn’t wake up until he felt the backpack move again, Baby Bunny sat waiting as Trev took him to a new place. Baby Bunny waited wondering where they were going and what was going to happen to him, Trev had said Baby Bunny was staying with him, but Baby Bunny didn’t know what that meant or if he would like it with Trev.

Baby Bunny wanted to find his family, but he knew it wasn’t possible, he had no idea where his family was and he couldn’t just go hopping off one way or another and somehow manage to find them. Baby Bunny hoped that his family was o.k., he hoped that his parents and brothers and sisters were alright, most of all Baby Bunny wished he had listened and stayed home with his family because he wouldn’t have lost them if he hadn’t wandered off.

Baby Bunny felt tears coming to his eyes, and started to cry again. He wanted to go home to his nice warm burrow, he wanted to sleep curled up with his mother and brothers and sisters, he wanted to eat some clovers and bounce around in the bush. Baby Bunny was jerked out of his thoughts as Trev put the backpack down again, Baby Bunny could tell the backpack was sitting on something soft, but didn’t know what it was. Trev said, “Alright, we’re going to take you to the vet then we’ll go home.”

There was a loud noise that made Baby Bunny jump then they were moving, again, Baby Bunny was moving faster than before, but it was much steadier that it had been when Trev carried him. Baby Bunny peeked out through the back pack where Trev had left it undone and saw a pane of glass, behind it, trees, poles, buildings, and other things flashing by quickly. Baby Bunny sat watching things move by until they stopped in front of a large red building, Trev lifted the backpack up, “Alright here we are.”

Trev walked into the building after a while they were greeted by a smiling human with long dark hair and dark skin. She looked in and said, “Well, what have we here? Let’s take him inside and have a look.” the lady reached in and picked him up, Baby Bunny kicked, but she was holding him by the neck and it did no good. The lady said, “Take it easy, it’s not that bad.”

The lady poked and prodded at Baby Bunny, then she took out several long metal things. Baby Bunny closed his eyes and felt something sharp prick his back then a sting that seemed to be everywhere, in his he yelled as Trev stroked him, “It’s o.k., it’ll be over soon.”  Baby Bunny felt two more sharp stings and felt tears well in his eyes, it hurt a lot! Baby Bunny cried again as the stings continued to burn, Baby Bunny didn’t understand why this human was poking him with sharp things or why Trev wasn’t doing something to stop her. Maybe Baby Bunny had been wrong about Trev being a nice human, maybe he really was mean.

The lady said, “All done. O.k., he seems to be fine, no diseases no ticks, no problems what so ever. You can take him home, here’s some information about rabbits, and I want to see him again in three months. And no more carrying the poor little guy around in your backpack.”

Trev said, “I know that hurt, little guy, but this lady is a Vet, she takes care of animals who are hurt or sick and makes them feel better. I brought you here so she could make sure there’s nothing wrong with you and to give you shots so you don’t get sick later. I know it hurts a lot, but you were really good, and I’ll let you meet my cat Mischief, she’ll give you some nice milk.”

Trev put Baby Bunny back in the backpack and took him out to the metal box, they got in and Trev started to make it go again. This trip seemed much longer than the first, but soon they stopped. Trev lifted him out of the backpack and said, “well little guy this is your new home.”

Baby Bunny looked up and saw a small blue building, Trev said, “This is my house, I live here with four other guys, and my cat Mischief, she just had two Baby Bunnytens and you’ll be staying with us. Don’t worry Mischief isn’t going to hurt you.”

Trev carried Baby Bunny inside, the house was warm and nice inside the room they went into was yellow with nice squishy things to sit on, Trev turned and walked them down a narrow passage then they came to another room, “this is my bedroom.”

Baby Bunny looked around and saw another room, this one was blue like the sky, there was a window in front of Baby Bunny, and next to it a large stick with some pads on it that looked like a tree, but Baby Bunny knew it wasn’t a real tree it didn’t have any leaves and it didn’t smell like a tree. Baby Bunny wondered what the thing could be as he looked around the room and saw a big rectangular thing in the corner that was made out of wood and had some strange cloths all over it. Trev pointed to the rectangular thing, “This is my bed.” Then he turned there was a big wood thing behind them with another wood thing in front, “This is my desk and chair, and this is Mischief.”

Trev bent down and Baby Bunny saw a large brown cat looking at him, the cat was big and fluffy looking, she reminded Baby Bunny a little of his mum with her soft brown fur. She was sitting in a basket with two Baby Bunnytens curled up next to her. Mischief purred, “Hello, and who are you?”

Baby Bunny sniffed, “My name is Baby Bunny, I lost my family and Trevor brought me home.” Baby Bunny felt tears falling down his eyes, he could tell that Trev was a nice human, but he missed his home and his family.

Mischief bent down and sniffed him, “I’m so sorry, I’d try to help you find your family if I could, but I don’t think that’s possible. I know it’s hard for you right now, but  I promise we won’t hurt you. You’ll be safe here with us. Trev is a good human and he’ll help take care of you” Mischief moved forward and gave him a gentle lick, “Why don’t you meet my kittens?”

Trevor carefully placed Baby Bunny down, making sure to keep a close eye on him, Mischief lifted Baby Bunny up in her mouth and sat him down next to two small kittens. One was dark brown like Mischief and one was a soft red. Mischief said, “Baby Bunny these are my kittens, this is Bogie.” She pointed at the brown kitten, “and this is Radio” she pointed at the red kitten “Boys this is Baby Bunny.”

The two kittens padded over and began to smell Baby Bunny, Baby Bunny giggled as their soft whiskers brushed across his face and he rubbed his nose against them as well.

Bogie said, “He’s not a cat.”

Mischief said, “No he’s a rabbit, he’s going to be staying with us, our human found him and he needs a home, so I want you two to be nice to him.”

Radio said, “O.k., Baby Bunny do you want to play?”

Baby Bunny said, “No.” He didn’t want to play, he wanted to go home to his family.

Mischief said, “why don’t you two play, and maybe Baby Bunny will join in later.”

Radio tapped Bogie, “Tag your it.”

Bogie soon bounded off after Radio and tapped him on the tail, “Tag you’re it.” Radio laughed and ran after Bogie as he took off in the other direction, Trev laughed as the two jumped and played batting at each other. Baby Bunny sat next to Mischief watching Bogie and Radio play, the two kittens seemed nice enough, but Baby Bunny couldn’t help being scared, this was an entirely new place with entirely new creatures and Baby Bunny wasn’t sure what would happen. Baby Bunny didn’t know a lot about cats, he didn’t know if Bogie and Radio would play nice or if they might be mean to him, Baby Bunny stayed close to mischief because he didn’t know where else to go.

Baby Bunny felt his stomach rumble, he hadn’t eaten since that morning, Mischief looked down and asked, “Are you hungry?”

Baby Bunny said, “Yes” quietly.

Mischief rolled onto her side, “You can have some of my milk.”

Baby Bunny looked at her, he wasn’t sure about this, Mischief was a cat after all and Baby Bunny didn’t know if he was supposed to eat cat milk, but eventually his hunger overcame him and he started to eat. The milk tasted a little strange, but it was good and Baby Bunny ate his fill.

Once he ate Baby Bunny sat back and watched Bogie and Radio play, Radio shouted, “I can jump farther than you, watch.”

Radio bent his legs then jumped into the air, he jumped from the floor to the top of the chair sitting by the desk.

Bogie said, “no you can’t.” then he bent down and jumped onto the chair to.

Trev shook his head and picked the two kittens up, “no jumping on the furniture you two.” Trev walked over and put the two Baby kittens down next to Mischief in the basket.

Mischief scolded, “Boys that was naughty, you know you’re not supposed to jump on the furniture.”

Radio bent his head and whined, “But Mom, we want to jump.”

Bogie said, “Besides, no one was there.”

Mischief said, “It doesn’t matter, you stay off the furniture, if you want to jump that’s what the play tree is for.”

Mischief pointed to the stick thing Baby Bunny has seen when he first came into the room, “that’s what the play tree is for, now you two play nice.”

Bogie and Radio both went over to the play tree and started jumping onto the stuffed pads. They couldn’t go too high because they were both so little, but they laughed and jumped from one to another. After a while Radio and Bogie jumped off the tree and started playing with some other things, there were few stuffed mice and green ball that would ding like a bell whenever you hit it.

Baby Bunny saw the ball and remembered the one he’d seen that morning, Baby Bunny wanted to try this ball it looked like fun. Baby Bunny hopped over and looked at the ball, he wanted to play, but he wasn’t sure if he should. After all chasing after a ball was what got him into trouble in the first place and Baby Bunny didn’t want to cause any trouble. Baby Bunny continued to stare at the ball while Bogie and Radio batted their toy mice into a corner and went running after them.

Mischief padded up behind Baby Bunny, “You can play to.”

Baby Bunny looked back and forth between Mischief and the ball. Finally, he hopped over and pushed the ball with his front paw, the ball didn’t go very far, but it still dinged and Baby Bunny laughed as hopped over and hit the ball harder. Baby Bunny kept chasing after the ball and hitting it, the ball made a loud ‘ding’ every time and Baby Bunny couldn’t help enjoying the toy. Baby Bunny hit the ball extra hard and it went rolling over to Bogie, Baby Bunny starred at the kitten feeling nervous, but all Bogie did was bat the ball back at Baby Bunny.

Baby Bunny rolled the ball to Radio who pushed it back to Baby Bunny and soon the three of them were playing catch. Baby Bunny laughed as the rolled the dinging ball back and forth between the three of them. It was the first time Baby Bunny had really laughed since he’d found the bushes cut that morning. Baby Bunny continued to play with Bogie and Radio, he saw that the two kittens were actually very nice and started to have fun with them.

After a while Mischief went back to her basket and lay down, making sure to keep an eye on all three of them. Trev brought Mischief some food and water then gave her a long pet as Baby Bunny started playing tag with Radio and Bogie.

Trev picked Baby Bunny up and said, “We need to give you a name little guy. I know how about Kit what do you think?”

Baby Bunny considered it for a moment before deciding he liked it, Trev said, “Kit it is then.”

Trev placed Baby Bunny, now Kit, back on the floor. Mischief purred and gave him a gentle lick, “Welcome to the family Kit.”

Kit said, “Thanks, I think I’m going to like it here

As night fell Kit started getting tired and said, “I need some sleep.”

Radio said, “Over here.” as he curled up next to Mischief, Bogie followed, but Baby Bunny held back, he wanted to make sure it was o.k.

Mischief purred, “Come along Kit, it’s late and you’ve had a long day, you need your sleep.”

Kit hopped over and curled up between Bogie and Radio the warm press of fur and feel of everyone breathing around him helped Kit relax, and he was soon sleeping deeply in his new home wondering what new things would happen next and what kind of new life he’d have here with Trevor, Mischief, Bogie, and Radio. As Kit fell asleep he realized that things would never be the way they had been before, but that didn’t mean things could be just as good, if not better than they had been if he was willing to give this a chance.

 

The End

 

Breanna Cardinal