After flakes frosted their grill, Tandy found the gray tarp Lou had brought home on his last trip to land. Jake snuck through her legs to race into the snow as the back door screeched ajar to her frustrated kick. As she turned to grab a towel for drying him, she caught Peony by the dish drain licking a thawing chicken fillet.
"STOP that," Tandella demanded.
Peony jumped with sudden alarm, skidding white paws and talons extended across the just-waxed lineoleum floor. She stopped wide-eyed at the wall.
"Don't ever do that again," Tandy scolded. Peony sat back in her fluff to lick wax off her claws.
"It's gonna be one of those days," Tandy reflected.
Jake jogged happily onto the stoop, shuddering to drip-dry from the chill in his toes on the moulding straw-shred mat Tandy forgot to bring inside before winter's surprise surcharge.
Letting in a last patoot of frozen bluster, she turned to pour herself a consoling cup of chocolate milk for nuking in the newest little jukebox cooker she'd not yet mal-electrified.
Peony laid her head on an outstretched slipper in a signal of domestic dominance as Jake dribbled across the room to be rubbed down.
"Dinner cancelled?" Louis called from the library after the telephone stopped chiming.
"No, it's on. Inside or out. Five-ish," Tandy yelled back. "No, seven-ish," she reconsidered as a pool of Jake spread around the legs of her chair.
Lou lifted one long leg to rest on Peony's antique hand-embroidered hassock, crossing it with the other and a contented stretch upward of sweatered arms after flicking to weather media forecasts while scanning the lines of books for the volume he needed next for today's paper on local birding. Their friends' circle of avian afficiandos had met formally nearly every month for 13 years to share in each other's favored homes research esoterica and convivial compotes of seasonal gastonomic delights in comfortably traditional and idiosyncratically varied presentations.
Failing to see the reference he'd pre-selected and before "winging it" verbally in a printed page, Lou sprawled instead on his back onto the feather-down daybed to snooze on a lifetime's stored experiential knowledge. As he drifted sleepily off into the determination to write another abbreviated memoir, Lou decided that for interesting fun he'd hinge and focus this upcoming literary piece on a randomly-found Rachel Carson quote. Satisfied, he fell quickly into the deep sleep of a bard borne toward new venturings.
Tandella tiptoed into the library followed by Peony's faithfully padding paws.
"Louie," Tandy murmured and -- after a pause to examine again sleet sputtering and sliding against their dormer window -- more insistently, "Louie. Louie."
"The ice on our driveway is nearly half an inch high," she reported, advising, "We'll need to call today off for tomorrow, or next week."
"Louie, do you want to get up for some supper now?" she wondered later into the snoreless silence.
"His good old heart finally wore out and puttered off, that's all," Doctor George summarized for Tandy's hand-held brother Vincent.
Vince nodded, staring blankly at the poet's now-grayed curls and his dark skin's still-burled texture studied these many decades.
"Ah, friend, I'll miss ye," he whispered and gulped. "Did he know?"
Tandy gazed at forever-closed eyelids with a longing sigh and shook her head, no.
by Jeannette Harris
"Gram, wake up!" Lakeland demanded, jumping from the floor to hard-land on EllaJune's aproned lap. Ellie lifted a warmly worn and wrinkled hand to Lake's face without opening her eyes, spidered her fingers from ears to nose and tweaked it back and forth with her thumbs. "What does my prince want?" Ellie wondered, teasing with a smile.
"You know," Lake demurred.
"Chocolate, banana or strawberry?"
"Harriett!" Ellie commanded with the choral of a complaint in her tone. "It's way past time for Lakeland's AttaBoy Snack. I was sound asleep," she added.
"Sorry, Mom. Kitchen table, Lake. Ted needed some hand-holding to get out and back to Matherston."
"They called everyone back and docked them four days. Their vacation and insurance is gone. No more overtime. Or Big M sells out and moves, and closes down the town. No deal."
EllaJune felt her stomach churn and her nerves burn a warning as brown coveralled Ted crossed the room to stand heavy-lidded in the ominous tension waiting around their front door.
To get by him without disturbing the air and into the scratched and scraped kitchen with Aunt Harrie, Lake lifted his legs like he was walking barefoot in a thistle field.
"Hey, boy." Lakeland continued more hurriedly toward cabinets where his aunt waited and opened doors, laying fixings of a sundae on the oilcloth-stapled table.
"Bring my thermos of tea," Ted reminded as Lake hiked himself into the painted wood chair by his weekly treat.
Aunt Harrie opened the refrigerator door to reach for the oversized gray thermos and place it by Lake's dish.
"It'd save us if you'd take a cheese sandwich too."
"Yeah. I need a Mister BigBurg though."
She gave up again, for this day on a swallowed sigh. Her shoulders fell. Lake carried the thermos two-handed, as she summoned bravado to lip and lung.
"Ted, I need five for the store. It's Thursday, remember?"
"I know what goddam day it is." There was no inflection as Ted opened the door without turning around.
"Miranda, Blooming Through It All"
by Jeannette Harris
His Indian brass fruit bowl toppled to the floor with a ringing clatter. Pesky, the new puppy, raced down the stairs and around the hall corner to investigate the clamor and nudged an orange along with her nose. Bent-kneed, Joel stooped to pet her head and to gather apples, bananas, kumquats, tangerines, pomegranates and kiwis back where they belonged, posing patiently for his still-life oils to capture their voluptuously colorful essences on canvas for posterities that might only know natural pleasures of this era by word of mouth or synthesized hybrid clones. He scooped Pesky safely away from the gathering of assorted near-spewing tubes twisted amidst loosely-capped bottles, brushes soaking in open jars, and drying rags on his monstrously-sized, plastic-coated work table and deposited her again behind the folding wooden gate on the guest bedroom's door. When Pesky couldn't watch the show from behind a closed door, she howled piteously and unstoppably, unassuaged by toys or food and undeterred by distanced remonstrations or assurances.
Joel's mood had changed and he spread newspapers all around on the floor, placing a large empty canvas toward the center. Switching to acrylic shades and applying a "wash" of greens to suggest forestry, he mixed watercolor-like batches in the colors of his favorite flowers -- yellows to browns, pinks to lavenders, acid blues to tropical golds, whites to citron hues. Selecting by whim different size and style brushes, he dipped each in the acrylic bottle buffet he'd made and discus'd with loaded bristles haphazardly toward the canvas pausing between each serendipitous application to meditate on effect and choose his next direction in throwing painting, not pots.
As stars and moon sparkled onto a darkening stage set by the falling sun, a neighboring dog began to croon. Pesky soon joined in with her high-pitched whining cry. Joel switched on interior lights throughout the first floor of his studio-barn and funneled music toward Pesky which usually calmed her to a drowsy quietness. As she simmered down, neighboring yowls dimmed steadily into a fog-strewn midnight when Joel's paintslap garden bower seemed satisfactorily complete in a cordoned infinitude of shapes and minglings for accidental inklings in devotional musing he dedicated to the sky whose rains and shinings bring bud to bloom, seed to leaf, life to thrall. He titled the masterpiece "To Miranda -- Through It All," signed and dated it on the back, lifted Pesky with a flourish from her sequester, upended the fur-covered flap of her closest ear, and proclaimed dramatically, "Behold, oh pup, what's up with our world." Pesky slurped the tip of his chin in excited canine acclaim and approval.
For a surprise, Joel retrieved his harmonica from the hall closet and picked up the telephone to deliver a special invitation to his wife.
"The Circle of Holy Sitting Humors Transcipt"
by Jeannette Harris
"Green is the color of my true love's hair. Purple is the shape of my dog, Sheila. She's in love with a racoon that's yellow and blue named Carrot. Square is the shade of mule ears. Fluffy is the touch of their tongues. Dots are the designs on elephant tails. Stripes taste fiery or sweet depending on their furriness."
"Stars glow chartreuse from Pluto. Pluto is striped and oval."
"How could you say that about Pluto?" 934t634Nadine protested her brother's innocence. "When brought to a boil or spit-toasted and marinated, you mean."
"Macaroons are saucy," Block Adelaide explained.
"Violets revolt moss also," Katydid Later added pontifically.
Sucrose and Fructose sipped quietly on their corner of the broom.
"Rocks cavort in the dark too," Scratch Vivace' whispered into Monsieur Dandy des Lion's spine.
"It's illegal to thumb a nose at a porcupine," he retorted.
"Or a meercat, she reminded.
"It's okay with a palm frond tho."
"Or seaweed," she nagged.
"And asparagus," he trumped.
"Don't sit on the squash!" she screamed.
Distracted, he stood on his head instead.
"Turquoise is the shape of barnacle ears," Nadine summed. "Florida is the shade of mollusk eyes. Most feet are dogwoods but some are hydrangeas. You have to sniff them to decide. Shredded bat wings are best served steamed with parsnips for antelope birthdays. They resent triangulated okra."
"Who doesn't?" Fructose gasped.
Sucrose tumbled frantically over the turnip turds, chirping "Stand! Stand! Stand!"
"Beg. Lie down,"Fructose spooned.
"Sponges are angry when wet. They're related to cats and don't swim well."
"Zip it up, Looloo." Osage Massage messaged expeditiously from her clan.
Vivace' climbed down from the oregano in tears at that.
And all the mushrooms sat quietly on their hats.
"Bootay,"Adelaide and Katydid synced as they eaves-dropped, bouncing on newly-baled clay.
by Jeannette Harris
Gary and his friends stood at attention as the Robinson brothers were led barechested by them in chains. On impulse, he grabbed a loose hand as it passed by. Those lids rose slowly from a suddenly turned head. Violet eyes messaged his with a sparkingly quick awareness.
"Evie, NO!" he cried as the guillotine fell with a thud.
~ ~ ~
c. Jeannette Harris, Jonesborough TN. October 2013.
Original material c. A Country Rag, Inc. and/or Jeannette Harris, Jonesborough Tennessee, April 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved.