Imogen trudged down the porch steps of her sister’s farmhouse, doing a quick kindness and her civic duty. She crossed the yard, lugging two large bags to the burn barrel while pattering footsteps followed close behind. She hoped it wasn’t the murdering demon that had kept her up half the night sending some unknown critter to its untimely end.
“Hey, auntie, let me help you with that.”
Without so much as a by-your-leave or an explanation that the trash bag was white and the Goodwill bag was black, Lucy flung the two bags over the edge of the canister where they landed with a definite thud.
Lucy, medium height, dyed jet-black hair, pale skin, and wearing a man’s tank top over artistically torn shorts clapped imaginary dirt off her grubby sixteen-year-old hands and grinned. “I have something important to tell you.”
Tugging the black bag back out of the barrel, Imogen grunted her version of well-get-it-over-with.
Her posture decidedly more formal, hands-on-hips, shoulders back, and her eyebrows bunched, Lucy launched her declaration like a night missile into rebel territory. “I’m going evil. Really bad. It’s a choice, and I’m making mine.”
Maxwell Smart’s voiceover played in Imogen’s head, “…for niceness instead of evil.” She flung the salvaged bag over her shoulder and tromped across the wet grass, her damp shoes sliding with each step.
Lucy pranced alongside, wringing her hands into unnatural whiteness. “Didn’t you hear me?”
Imogen stopped at her car door and dropped the bag on the gravel driveway. “I’m doing my absolute best to ignore you. Now, go inside to your mother and break her heart—after every good thing she’s done for you. I have to drop this off at Goodwill before they close, or I’ll be stuck driving it to Mass in the morning with Old Man Davy and his wife pretending they don’t notice a thing.”
“Would it bother them so much if you have an old bag in your car?”
“They wouldn’t care really. But they’ll have nothing to talk about, so they’d ask. And then I’d have to explain that I stopped by my sister’s place yesterday, being today, and it would slip out that my niece tried to burn the blinking thing before I could get it to Goodwill.”
A microcosm of a grin twitched over Lucy’s face. “So, you wouldn’t tell them that I’ve gone evil?”
“You tried to burn a donation to charity. Enough said, honey.”
A prolonged sigh followed Lucy as she directed her feet to the porch steps. “No one understands me.”
Least of all you, child. Imogen swung the bag into the back seat and plunked her body before the steering wheel. She drove down the lane at the moderately safe speed of forty miles per hour.
Pulling into her driveway, Chancy, Imogen’s Irish Setter and sorry excuse for house security, bounded forward. What does one say to a happy-go-lucky dog? What she always said, “Yes, I love you, but don’t jump. It’s bad manners.”
Ignoring not only manners but decency itself, Chancy scrabbled forward and propped her muddy paws on Imogen’s clean pants.
“Glad I already made my Goodwill run. They’d have offered me clothes if I’d arrived like this.” She blew a stray lock of hair from her face and stepped around three cats prancing in her path.
In the kitchen, she surveyed the wreckage. Though it happened every time she left the house, it always took her by surprise. The fresh mess. And, of course, neither Carl nor the kids would know how it happened. Bread crumbs, a jelly smear, a dollop of peanut butter, a couple of stray raisins and a banana peel informed her of recent culinary adventures. Brad, undoubtedly. The boy was growing faster than poison ivy around the utility pole. Not his fault. Nor his dads. Not mine either, come to think of it. She shook her head. But your mom has a lot to answer for.
Her sixty-five-year-old husband with a hint of arthritis in his joints lumbered into the room. A good twenty pounds overweight and sporting the unshaved look, Carl swallowed the last of what smelled like the missing banana and offered a half-wave. “Jane high-tailed it to work an hour late and Joe’s gone off with friends to a game. Had to eat early. So, I made sure he got some fruits and vegetables.”
Imogene wrung out a wet dishcloth and rounded up the crumbs. “How’s that?”
“I made him add raisins and corn chips to his PBJ.”
She brushed the crumbs into the trash and started on the dirty dishes. “Why would he agree to do that? Sounds terrible.”
“He wanted twenty bucks. Nothing’s for free in this world.” Carl leaned against the counter and appeared to mull over the ponderous truth he’d just revealed to the world.
Imogene wiped her hands on a dry towel and stared fixedly at her husband. “You bribed your grandson to eat our good food with your hard-earned money?”
Carl let that sink in. “Yep. That’s about the size of it.” He patted her shoulder. “But I’ve been busier than a bee in spring time. Got that racoon carcass buried past the fence line, fixed the wobbly back step, and put a chuck roast in a pan with garlic, onions, carrots, and some of our new potatoes.”
Pride shining through his eyes, he opened the oven door. “Just waited till you got home to turn it on. Shouldn’t take long.”
Pleased but stuck on the words, “raccoon carcass,” Imogene flashed a falling-star smile. “What’d you bury?” She titled her head to the left. Her hearing had never been good, but after today, she seriously debated the benefits of a hearing aid.
“You know, the coon that lost the big battle last night?”
“I heard the battle; I just didn’t know who the participants were. Or who won.”
“Didn’t see any winner badges. Just the loser stiff as a board in the garage this morning. Though, he was laid out near Chancy’s food bag.”
“Chancy has never killed anything in her life. Too silly.”
Carl shrugged. “Everyone has their limits. Guess old coon pushed them too far.”
Imogene planted a kiss on her husband’s cheek, pressed the bake button until it read 400, and then started toward her bedroom. “I’m going to change out of these clothes and lay down a moment.” She stopped and glanced over her shoulder. “Lucy told me that she’s going evil now. Picked out clothes to match and everything.”
Carl snorted. “Yeah. Good luck with that.”
Imogene turned around and propped her hand on the counter. “She said it was her choice.” Shaking her head, she tried to toss Lucy’s baby picture out of her mind. “We never considered that option.”
Carl started for the backdoor. “Oh, yes we did. Just didn’t tell anyone. Not like kids today. Good Lord, they tell everyone everything.”
“And why is that?”
“Don’t know, honey.” Carl passed out the door and creaked down the back steps.
Later that night as she lay in bed, Imogene had to give it to her husband. Her belly felt as satisfied with dinner as it had ever been. She enjoyed resting comfortably in her husband’s embrace. Sometimes his ways sent shivers of irritation through her whole body, but right now, perfect calm flooded her being. The soft feel of his arms around her middle, fitting together as perfectly as spoons in the kitchen drawer.
After a day of small duties where challenges rose from the murky depths of thoughtless minds, she closed her eyes and settled her heart to the drumroll of raindrops against the window pane. No murdering demons tonight.
A. K. Frailey is the author of 15 books, a teacher for 35 years, and a homeschooling mother of 8.
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For books by A. K. Frailey check out her Amazon Author Page
A collection of short stories to enjoy and ponder.
“There are many excellent stories in this collection.” ~Steven R. McEvoy
A collection of contemporary short stories involving families, friends, and distant relations. It is the hazards of daily life that test the soul.
A delightful collection of short stories that draw you in, wanting more. ~Discovery, Gale Kaufman