Fanny dreaded what was about to happen. It had been promised, or threatened depending on your perspective, that Fanny was to be sent to the country for the summer. New Orleans was just fine to Fanny, she loved the hustle and bustle, loved her house and her room, loved her pet cat, Mabel, whom she rescued from the gutter two years ago. She loved her best friends, Sally-Ann and Jacob, who lived down the street. Loved the parks and the water, and well, everything.
“Why?” she screamed at her Mama and Papa, tears threatening to overwhelm her quivering face, when they told her with smiles on their faces. It was about the worse thing Fanny could imagine. Why did her parents hate her so? Life was so unfair!
Her parents imagined many different types of reactions from Fanny, most of them included happiness and joy, maybe indifference, but not these tears and shouting. Momentarily they doubted their decision. Fanny’s parents were having, let’s say, a few marital difficulties this year, things a young girl Fanny’s age didn’t need to worry about and they had felt it would be best if Fanny went to visit her cousins for the summer while they rekindled their love, if they could. They loved Fanny with all their hearts, as parents usually do, so this tantrum was not sitting well with the guilt they were already feeling.
Had Fanny known they were already feeling uncomfortably guilty about sending her away, she may have been able to win the day, with some judicious pleading, crying and recriminations, i.e. “You hate me or you wouldn’t make me go!” kinds of things, and maybe a couple of “please, please’s” Alas, after the initial outburst, Fanny could only sniffle and look dejected, with her head down and her hands being wrung.
“Oh honey”, this was her Father kneeling down, “you love your cousins. Remember how much fun you had with them last year when they came for Christmas?”
Sniffle, “yes” in that little Fanny voice. Mostly that was because here, Fanny was queen of the house and got to show them all her great things and her great city. Who can say what it’ll be like there, she thought.
“And don’t you love Aunt Mable, too? You named the cat after her, after all,”her mother reasoned.
Actually at the time, Fanny had momentarily forgot her Aunt’s name was also Mable, plus she was trying to name the cat Marble, after the swirl of colors, but it didn’t come out right. Fanny did love Aunt Mable, but thought she smelled funny.
“She smells funny,” Fanny sniffed.
Her mother smiled, holding back a laugh. “Now you know it’s just the ointment she uses for her arthritis. Don’t you want to go, see your cousins and Aunt and Uncle and you’ll do all sorts of fun things, we promise.”
Fanny was still unconvinced but was at least peering up at her parent’s faces now from under her golden curls, just a twinkle of a lone tear caught in her lashes.
“I’ll tell you what,” her father said to her with a wink, his mustachioed lips turning up in a smile, “we will talk on the phone every day, and if you really don’t like it, you can come home, immediately. How about that eh?”
So finally, Fanny concurred and that is how she ended up at her Uncle’s in the country for the summer, with her cousins.
And then, tragedy struck.
Just a week after Fanny’s arrival at the farm, Fanny’s cousin Jimmy fell down and broke his leg. The three cousins, Fanny, Melissa and the aforementioned Jimmy were running through a nearby field when Fanny slipped and fell, stirring up a swarm of… “Bees!” Fanny screamed, hopping up and running willy-nilly back toward the house, which they could just see the peaked roof of, over the hill. Jimmy hated bees, being stung two summers ago multiple times so he was particularly panicked. When Jimmy turned to escape the field and what was sure to be a huge swarm of nasty bees, he twisted his ankle, fell down on a rock, and broke his leg.
Turns out it wasn’t bees Fanny had stirred up, but crickets, which, in her defense, could hop pretty high when disturbed, but they didn’t sting, or do much of anything else except make noise. How was a city girl to know?
Aunt Mable came a running at all the commotion, rubbing her hands on her substantial apron, stray locks of hair streaming behind her after escaping her bun, Tsk, Tsking the whole way.
After the doctor fixed Jimmy up in a cast, which Fanny thought was pretty cool, mostly because they were able to write on it, the three cousins were flummoxed about what to do. Jimmy couldn’t go outside, being ensconced on the living room sofa for at least for a week the doc said. And Jimmy had promised, promised Fanny to show her the swamp with the Gators and the Sasquash. Now it’ll be forever before she could go! This summer, which was gonna be so great, now is ruined! Life is so unfair! Forget that just a little more than a week gone by, Fanny would have done anything other than come here in the first place.
Aunt Mable to the rescue. She came into the living room where all three kids dejectedly sat, bemoaning the unfairness of life, though for different reasons, with a big, enormous pile of brightly colored boxes in her large arms. “Here you go sweeties, this will keep you having fun!”
“What is it” Fanny asked, with her eyes big and round looking at the pile now sitting on the coffee table. Now here’s a strange thing for a young girl, just as a side point, Fanny had never seen a puzzle before. I don’t know why.
“Why they’re puzzles, girl,” Aunt Mable said, the same time Melissa said, “Puzzles, silly!”
“Here clear the rest of this stuff off the table”, She told the kids, with her big arm sweeping clear the usual things coffee tables collect, magazines and what not, onto the floor. All three kids squealed with the unusualness’ of it all. “You three do them right here”, and upon smelling something maybe just getting a tad overcooked in the kitchen, said as she turned to go, “Show Fanny how to do ‘em”.
Turns out, Fanny loved the puzzles, the kids put together puzzles day and night, hardly wanting to stop to eat or sleep. “I gotta pee, don’t do anymore till I get back” one or the other of them would be heard to exclaim now and again, while running, or hobbling, out of the livingroom.
Here was a large ship on the ocean, here was a red barn in a field with wild flowers, and here was a range of snowcapped mountains, probably from somewhere far away, Fanny imagined. In fact, the kid’s imaginations ran away that week of summer, with all the exotic places and things pictured on those puzzles.
However, no matter how much you like puzzles, no matter your age, or especially your age, it’s hard to stay interested after about a week. Fortunately, when the doc came back, he declared Jimmy could be up and about, if he used the crutches, and was careful. The whole world of exploration was back open before the three of them.
“Now can we go see the gators and the sasquash?” Fanny whispered to Jimmy one evening after supper, while they were alone in the living room. For this is all Fanny was thinking about, in her secret places. Imagine the story she will have to tell Sally-Ann and Jacob, about the gator and the sasquash. They will be so jealous!
“I don’t know” Jimmy said with uncertainty lining his face. It might be hard on crutches, he was thinking, and the doc said not to get the leg wet, even though the swamp wasn’t more than two feet deep in most places, and to be honest he never had seen a gator, never mind a sasquatch, frogs mostly. “We’ll have to wait and see.”
Every child in history that ever was or ever will be knows the meaning of the words “We’ll have to wait and see”. It means no. Again, the unfairness of life struck Fanny to the core. Her lips quivered and she fought back tears. She wanted more than anything, ever, to see the gators and the sasquash. Especially the sasquash.
“Maybe Missy, (That’s what Fanny called her cousin Melissa) could take me?” A little hope creeping into her voice. Jimmy was incredulous.
“She don’t know where it is” he said, “plus she’s scared of it, all girls are”, he threw in as an extra deterrent.
“I am not,” Melissa, who had been eavesdropping demanded, hands on hips, little chin jutting out, coming from around the door. “And I do know where it is!”
“Where then? Missy know it all?” Jimmy demanded.
Now up to this point, it should be noted, that the kids got along remarkably well. But a week cooped up inside had apparently taken its toll. Melissa stuck her tongue out at her brother. “It’s behind the barn, over that way,” she waved uncertainly in some direction.
“Ha, ha,” Jimmy laughed, making Melissa angry “You’ll never find it.”
If only he had been right. Strangely, Fanny’s death by leech brought her parents closer together than ever, so that part worked out anyway.