Friday, March 21, 2014

Robert thinks of chickens and summer

Robert was not expected at the hardware store until the afternoon.  He'd half volunteered for, half accepted an inland assignment that involved a chicken coop and had loaded his tool box into the trunk of the car, imagining the less watery sunlight on his face as he drove east.  Chickens had been scratching through his memories since the call came in the day before.  Chickens.  He had some experience with chickens.
Art, "Bock Bock," by Catherine G. McElroy.
James told him to "eyeball the situation" and call for back-up if the job hinted at complications.  Sometimes James sounded more like an undercover operative than a handyman/hardware emporium magnate, temporarily sidelined.  When The Reading Man began to hear the music to which chickens danced, it was not so much the creatures that filled his thoughts but the circumstances in which he'd come to know them.

He was a book-loving city child, used to spending some of his Saturdays and allowance at the movie theater, the Early Bird as they called the monthly morning showing.  For twenty-five cents you saw the chosen picture, not brand new but not old, a cartoon, one episode of Flash Gordon and got to enter your ticket in the prize drawing.  He never won, never knew anyone who did, but that was the least of the experience.  What dark treachery did Ming the Merciless have hidden up his flared sleeve?

When Robert's parents announced he'd be spending two summer weeks, without them, on his aunt and uncle's farm, a less well-behaved boy might have tried to kick a hole in the wall.   His neighbor Bobby had done just that when his eccentric (they drove a funny, flat-sided German car and walked around the house naked) and indulgent parents told him he HAD to go back to school.  They lived in a less substantial back house, two on a lot, without solid walls.  His tempermental foot had gone right through to the outer boards and he was never punished.

This rural banishment, as he thought of it, was absolute, no discussion, no yielding.  Fait accompli.  At least his father drove him there, didn't put him on a bus and leave him to the indifference of the road, the company of strangers.  How fortunate his aversion to people he didn't know eventually wore off.  The aunt and uncle also read books, had senses of humor and, summer or winter, had cinnamon toast and cocoa before bedtime, at least when Robert was there.  Whatever homesickness or notion of it he'd packed, heavy as an anvil in his suitcase was soon as poor a fit as his roller skates along the gravel driveway and country roads.

As he reached the highest point of his inland journey, Mr. Apotienne could feel his arms, with shirt sleeves now rolled up, absorbing what he thought of as appropriate seasonal heat.  The weather in his aunt and uncle's valley was hellish, yes he spoke that word in argument with his parents, without swaying them, but they reminded him how it sweetened the ripening fruit,  just as it did here less than ten miles from Billington's Cove.  Ginger peach scones, berry cobblers and tarts.  With summer in his mouth, he tried to shoo his thinking back again to the chickens but found he'd become stuck yet again in what he could easily believe was actual time travel.  The memories were so present, his senses so alert, it would not have surprised him to find his uncle and aunt waiting for him at the end of the Brewsters' driveway.  It didn't seem likely that he'd need to call for back-up.


Erin in Morro Bay said...

Ah, the blessing of the Cove - cool fog and yet a short drive and "seasonal heat" ripening the fruit for Gloria's scones. We often take trips inland during the summer when the fog becomes just a bit too heavy. A few hours in the heat and we're ready to return to the cool and mist.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Erin - What I've often thought when we visited there - the best of both worlds. When staying in Cambria, we'd venture to San Luis for shopping and Mo's Barbecue, scooting back to the cool hillside where we could watch deer roll through along with the fog. Happy Spring to the Cove-ites. xo

Kass said...

Oh I hope this is the beginning of a book of short stories. So rich. I'm loving "... began to hear the music to which chickens danced."

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kass - Actually, and thank you, it is along the journey of, by now, more than 50 episodes - thinking of it like a Saturday morning serial or tv series. Tomorrow I will leave you another comment with the link to them all, if you would like to visit them. I have to add the latest but need to go fix dinner now. Thank you, I feel such love for these people (the absent Gloria) and their story as it unfolds. xo

Marylinn Kelly said...

Kass - This is the link to the post called Gloria Chronology. As of this morning, there are 60 episodes. Are you on Facebook? If so, you can find me as myself, my own name and the same yellow bunny icon as my profile picture. If not, ignore this. Happy Sunday. xo

Janie McKeever said...

You brought back my wonderful memory of spending the summer at my Uncle Herman's. He had a café on a Greyhound bus stop where I could serve the people water. I think I was about five. If people would tip me a penny, I could put it in the bubble machine where along with the gum, I would hope for the tiny playing cards. I did get a whole deck. They were about 1/2" big. The other lucky thing was when we hung a sheet outside to watch movies and best of all were the chocolate malts. Thank you for your memories. I can't wait to read more my lovely artist, author friend.

Marylinn Kelly said...

Jane - A wonderful memory indeed, quite vivid and easily imagined. I remember those little cards and the shaped plastic charms (a hot dog was my favorite) that we always hoped for with our penny investments. There is a Gloria episode where they watch an outdoor movie on a warm night, if you haven't seen that one. To this day, I adore chocolate malts. Did yours come with the extra malt left over in the mixing container, to add to the glass as you drank? So glad you enjoyed this, that it worked its time machine voodoo. My thanks for your kind words. xo