Buttermilk Pancakes and Sweet Tea

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by AcornTree, Mar 19, 2015.

  1. [​IMG]

    Kai was, potentially, the most bored he had ever been in his entire life. It had taken almost seven hours before his father had even suggested they were close to their arrival. For the first couple of hours he had messed around on his phone, but ultimately grew tired of interaction with his friends. It was hard to be interesting and engaging when all of your friends were going overseas or ON the sea in giant cruise ships and you were stuck in the back of a car heading south to your Nana’s. Even his best friend Jeremy, who didn’t have as much money as his other friends, got the house all to himself while his parents were on a business trip.

    Kai had begged to be left alone at the house too, but he was convinced his parents still thought he was ten. But Kai was fifteen, nearly sixteen, and they still wouldn’t even listen to his reasons for staying home. He’d only ever gotten into trouble once at school, and that was just because some kid had punched him in the nose and he had punched him right back. Plus, that had been forever ago and he hadn’t even gotten into trouble about it. (His father had actually congratulated him, much to his mother’s annoyance.)

    Either way, the rest of the car trip had been boring at best. His father had tuned the radio to country even though they’d never even listened to country before, claiming that Kai would want to know a little something about where he was going. Which wasn’t true at all. Not even Jude, who had his head resting on Kai’s lap for the majority of the ride, could cheer him up any. He’d told his friends he was going to Florida to cover up the lame summer break he was getting instead, but once he didn’t post any picture of beaches and boats he was pretty sure his friends would figure it out. He sighed deeply and put his head against the window.

    The roads had gotten smaller and smaller on this last bit of the drive now. The cars and skyscrapers he had been used to all his life had been replaced with cows and corn. His own parents were celebrating their 20th anniversary for the entire summer, missing his birthday on top of leaving him with Nana. So while he was doing…. Whatever country people did… they would be taking an amazing tour of Ireland. They had promised to make up for missing his birthday, but had decided to drive him down rather than fly because the nearest airport was nearly two hours from his Nana’s house anyway and the dog had to come with him since no one was around to watch him in the city.

    They were on a very long dirt road now, and Kai was beginning to wonder why anyone lived so far away from everything at all. Even the town they had passed by where his father had pointed out some things form his childhood didn’t really count for much in Kai’s head. He felt like it was hardly as large as a block in the city, but was likely over exaggerating to himself. Finally, and at long last, their car pulled up in front of an old farm house.

    Kai’s eyes wandered over the big, two story house with little interest. The yellow paint was peeling in some places but in general it looked pretty well-kept. Jude raised his big head up off of his lap and Kai opened the door to get out. Jude promptly jumped out too, padding lazily over to the grass to sniff around some. Kai wasn’t worried. Jude was well trained and would not run away. He likely wouldn’t bother going out of sight. The dog was old, but Kai had known the dog since he was a puppy and loved him all the same.

    The first thing Kai noticed upon stepping out of the car was the smell to though. He didn’t quite realize what was different, but the air was so much cleaner here that the world almost smelled sweet. The second thing he noticed was the loudness of bugs. Cicadas dominated his ears even as he pushed the door shut of the family’s Volvo. His father was already opening the trunk to get his suitcase out of it.

    Looking away from the house, he walked over to the back of the car. The shiny blue paint was dulled by the dirt of the country road they’d just been on, but even so the comparison between the old truck it was parked next to was striking. Kai didn’t think that old, beat up thing even worked at all, but he really had no idea. He took his backpack from the trunk and slung it over one shoulder, taking his suitcase afterwards. His mom was remarking on how long it had been since she’d been here, but Kai wasn’t really paying attention.

    Supposedly, he had been here too. Back ten years ago, when he was around five, but he had no memory of this place. He remembered his Nana, but that might only be because of pictures back home.

    Standing next to his father at the back of the car, there was no denying he was his father’s son. He looked like a younger version of his father. Tall for his age and gangly, his hair was the exact shade of brown his father’s was, only Kai kept his shaggy and hardly ever bothered with a comb. His father’s was neatly brushed back. His eyes were a dark brown that could match the happiness or anger of his father’s any day. Kai did wear glasses, which is probably the only thing he had received in the way of genetics from his mother, apart from the smattering of freckles across his nose and cheeks.

    His mother smiled at them and tried to push back Kai’s hair, but he promptly stepped away from her. “Moooom….” He groaned.

    “Sorry, sorry. I know, you’re not a kid anymore.” She said before Kai could say it. “Come on now, look presentable for your Nana.” She started towards the porch, her hand in her husband’s. Kai half-heartedly tugged at the blue button up he had on and then trailed behind his parents up to the house, his suitcase in tow.

    His parents were not staying here long. They had to get to the airport to catch their flight, despite having driven seven hours today already. Kai’s father knocked on the door lightly and then called out; “Ma, it’s your favorite son!” The three of them waited on the porch, Jude slowly meandering towards them and then sitting down at Kai’s feet to wait to go inside also.
    #1 AcornTree, Mar 19, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 26, 2015
  2. A moment would pass before a voice called out from the house, carried on the summer breezes that blew through the opened windows. “Who’s that? My favorite son? The floorboards creaked and groaned as Nana passed through the house from the kitchen, and pulled the door open. “Blasted wind…” She muttered, dragging a cast iron door stop to prop in front of it. “Which one, Ivan or Victor?”

    Edith Anderson—Nana, as she had come to be called by her grandchildren—was the sort of woman one would expect to be a grandmother, at least looking at her. She had never been a tall woman, but it seemed she was getting shorter as the years and arthritis pulled on her frame. But she didn’t let her advanced years drag her spirit down. She walked without a hitch, seeming strong and confident. If she ached, she would never let anyone younger than her know it, though she seemed content to air her complaints with the girls at the Senior Center. Her skin was deceptively smooth when she frowned, but that was rare. She preferred smiling and so showed off the deep wrinkles her deep grey eyes and thin mouth. Her platinum hair was still kept long, as was the preference of her dearly departed Gregory, but she wore it up in a simple bun to keep it from her face. She was clad in a flour-dusted apron over simple pressed jeans and a thin striped button up shirt, and was carrying a kitchen towel that she tucked into one of the huge pockets before pushing on the screen door to open it. It squealed in protest and Edith stepped out, smiling at the trio on the porch.

    “No, not Victor. Much too handsome.” She reached up to pat her son’s cheek, smiling brightly. “And he scarcely visits anyway, let alone with such a lovely family.” She embraced Heather, kissing her cheek gently, murmuring her greetings as she finally stopped in front of Kai. “Well, well, look who’s gone and grown up.” She said glancing up to him. She patted his cheek too and then his shoulder, before she stepped away, turning to Heather. “What you’ve been feeding Kai, darling? He’s too tall, and much too skinny.” Edith didn’t await an answer, only waved them inside, continuing on, “Come in, come in, will you all, before you let in the gnats. And the dog too. Can’t have him chasing possums. That boy of yours needs more meat, I’d say. How’s fried chicken for supper?”

    The house was dark, even for midday. Edith scarcely put on the lights unless it was pitch black outside. Too much waste, she would say. The curtains were all open, letting in a little more light, but it wasn’t enough. The floors were dark wood, covered here and here with faded oriental rugs that matched the pale blue walls. The décor could be considered stereotypical of old ladies, with a garish floral couch bedecked in doilies, more family photos on the walls than one could reasonably count, a few antiques scattered here and there and only the barest minimum of technology: an old TV box which Edith swore still had a better picture than those flatscreens, with a VCR atop, because DVDs had too many buttons. Her phones were still those that actually connected to the wall with a cord, though Ivan had been able to convince her to give up her beloved rotary for touchtone years ago. It smelled sweet, overly sweet, like pecan pie and sticky buns all at once, but the scent wafted out the windows and the smell of hot dirt and grass and wild onions wafted in.

    She stopped in the hall which opened up to the second floor. “How about some tea?”

    “We can’t stay long, ma. Flight to catch.” Ivan said apologetically.

    “Nonsense! There’s always time for tea. Ivan, be a dear and carry Kai’s things up. I’ve made up your old room for him, but I can’t go up those stairs too often. My back…” She placed a hand on her lower back, looking a little pitiable. She pointed up, and took Heather’s arm, presumably to drag her to the kitchen to force tea on her before she had the moment to refuse.

    Ivan shrugged, taking Kai’s bag and motioned him to follow. He stopped at a door at the end of the hall, pushing open the door. It looked like a snapshot, hardly touched since his college years with a pennant from his Alma Mater on the wall, a few trophies that Edith kept meticulously dusted. Granted, it was far cleaner than it had ever been while Ivan lived in it. “Huh…” he remarked. “Never knew there was a rug there.”

    When Kai and Ivan came back down stairs, Heather and Edith were waiting. Heather had a Tupperware container in one hand and a reusable KornerMart 32 oz GrabnGo cup in the other. “Sweet tea.” She said answering Ivan’s unspoken question. “And meatloaf sandwiches.” She continued, holding the Tupperware aloft with an uneasy smile.

    “With mashed potatoes?” Ivan gleamed, taking the container to inspect it.

    “Of course.” The timer in the kitchen sounded, and Edith turned, shaking her head. “Always when I’m in the middle of—“ She shook her head as she kissed Ivan’s cheek and gave Heather a quick hug. “Have a wonderful trip, dears. Stop by Paddy O’Toole’s if you’ve got the chance. He’s got a story about your father and I that will shock you.” She grinned. “I’m coming, you infernal device,” she grumbled under her breath about the tyrannical timer, and bustled off to the kitchen to silence it and check on her baking. “Give us a ring when you get there, will you?”
  3. “Hello, Nana.” Kai responded as the old woman reached up to pat his face. Kai was a quiet child by nature, only yelling when he was angry even as a toddler. He pushed the glasses up further onto his face as his family came into the house. His eyes slid across the walls and he sighed quietly. This was just like in all the movies and books he’d ever read. Old lady décor… and… yes. There it was. No technology. That TV she had so did not count as technology. Kai bad brought his phone and had contemplated a portable DVD player, but in the end hadn’t brought it. Now he wished he had.

    He followed his father up the stairs obediently and then looked into the room with his father. He glanced at the rub and then around the room again. It was kind of weird, being here. None of this stuff was his but it wasn’t like being in a hotel. This was his own father’s things… only it was almost as if it wasn’t his either. They belonged to some other boy lost in time. Kai ghosted his fingers against the old wooden side table and then dropped his book bag onto the bed as his father let go of his suit case.

    When they came downstairs to see his mother with things already in her hands he wrinkled his nose a little at the cup. He was praying his Nana at last had glassware and not just reusable plastic dishes she got form fast food places and gas stations. He sighed as he looked at his parents and his Nana shuffled away into the kitchen after saying goodbye.

    “Please don’t make me stay…” He murmured his last feeble attempt to get his parents to change their minds. It was spoken quietly enough so that his Nana would not hear. His parents barely did, and his mother shook his head with a sigh, cupping Ivan’s cheeks in both hands.

    “We’re already here, and besides. You’ll have fun. Your Nana could use the company and there’s lots of places to explore.” She responded. She kissed her son’s head and then hugged him. Kai sighed and hugged his father too. Ivan went back into the kitchen to tell his mother one last goodbye and then went took his wife about the waist.

    “Have fun, we’ll see you in… about two and a half months.” His father grinned, clearly excited about going off for so long a time with his wife and the UK to explore. Ireland mostly, but they had been planning on popping off to Scotland too. He ruffled Kai’s hair and then walked out of the house with Heather, getting into the Volvo and driving off.

    Kai stood on the porch and watched them go. That car was the only reminder of life back in the city, and now it was gone. Down that road and around the corner. He jammed his hands into his pockets and looked down at Jude. “Just you and me now, buddy.” He said quietly. Now that his parents were gone and they were inside the house, things really seemed to slow down. Even time itself. He wondered if that was what it was always like in the country. There was just literally nothing going on out there. Nothing going on inside the house either, except his grandmother making food. He pursed his lips and then turned back around to go into the house. He wandered over to the kitchen as Jude left to go find a soft spot on one of the rugs.

    He watched his Nana cooking as he leaned against the door frame. “Uhhhh…. Do you need any help?” Kai asked. There wasn’t really anything else to do, he supposed. He’d have to unpack soon, but he’d do that later tonight. He assumed his Nana was like most older people and went to bed right after dinner.
  4. The kitchen was, by far, the brightest room in the house. There were a line of windows against the back wall, and the house was situated so the sun would shine in all day long. The cabinets were bright white and reached the tall ceiling. The stove was ancient, but still worked reasonably enough. The new side by side fridge and microwave looked out of place with the display of antique china in the rustic cabinet or the decidedly retro yellow and white vinyl dining set. It was painted a pale green, with sunflowers plastered onto every surface—sunflower towels, dishes, glasses, a vinyl tablecloth, a timer that sat on the stove.
    Personally, Edith hated the sunflowers. She had made the mistake of complimenting her mother-in-law’s sunflower hat when she was a new bride. The old bat decided that meant that Edith was also fond of sunflowers and sought every holiday to inundate her with the dreadful things emblazoned on every surface known to man. But Gregory liked them, and was proud that his mother and wife had found something in common. So she suffered them in silence, and managed to pare down the forced collection to just this room. Had she thought better, she would have relegated every one of the yellow horrors to Gregory’s office years ago.
    There was a pan of pralines cooling on the stove, and Edith was elbows keep in a bowl mixing dough for biscuits. “Have one.” She said, when she heard Kai come into the kitchen, nodding to the pralines. “But be careful, they’re still hot. Miss Nancy down at the Senior Center raves over my pralines.” She turned out the dough onto the counter and began kneading. “I’m just fixing these biscuits for supper tonight. Fried chicken is alright with you, isn’t it? I can’t remember if it was you or one of your Uncle Victor’s brood who was the….what’s that word they are saying? The people who only eat vegetables? Anyway that.” She nodded to a shopping bag hanging from the pantry door. “I do have a job for you. Shuck some corn will you? That’ll go good with our supper…And if you’re one of those whoozits, you can have extra Just pull off all that green and the silks and chuck those in the trash.”

    Edith clamped her mouth shut then. She was talking entirely too much. And, she realized cooking entirely too much as well. With just the two of them, with the biscuits and chicken and corn, and those mashed potatoes she had made to go with the meatloaf…she could rightly feed an army. They would be eating leftovers off tonight’s dinner for a week.The meatloaf she had made just for Ivan, and she was a mite disappointed he and Heather had not stayed a little while longer. Just to get her used to the idea. She didn’t want to admit to anyone, least of all herself, how unbelievably nervous she had been when Ivan called to ask if Kai could spend the summer there. But she'd accepted without hesitation. She didn’t understand it. She had raised two boys nearly alone, while Gregory was working long hours at the company and scarcely batted an eye. But she had been alone for so long now…she’d forgotten what it was like.

    “There’s not much for you to do way out here, I know.” She said quietly, after a moment. “Not what you’re used to anyway.” She nodded to the back door, rolling out the biscuit dough. “There’s wood to explore. And Mr. Smith won’t mind you running ‘round the cornfield with that dog if you feel so inclined. I’ve got books, and that TV gets a few stations. Most days. Tomorrow we need to ride into town. Maybe we can find something there for you.”
  5. Kai's eyes danced around the kitchen as he waited for his Nana to respond. There were a lot of sunflowers in here... He looked at the weird lumpy things his Nana had called 'pralines' and then moved over to them. He picked one up carefully. They were hot, but they didn't hurt his hands. He'd never even heard of this before, and he wondered if the old woman was pulling his leg. He glanced up to her as she talked about vegetarians. He had met his cousins several times, more than his Nana at least, but he still wasn't sure which one was the vegetarian. "Chicken is good." Fried chicken was even better. At least not everything Nana was making was weird country food. Fried chicken was perfectly fine with him. He waited until Nana wasn't looking at him to nibble at the edge of one of the pralines. He was surprised to find that the rather repulsive looking things tasted so good. And so sweet.

    He sat down at the table with the praline and ate a bit more of it. "Vegetarians, Nana." He responded quietly just before she could launch into what he could do for her. He was about to tell her he didn't know how to shuck corn when she explained it to him. He'd rather she show him, but he did not complain. He was pretty sure he could figure something like that out. Finishing the praline, he moved over to the sink to wash his hands and then took the corn and put it onto the table. He sat down again and took one. He started to pull of the green just as Nana started talking again.

    All he could think was that at least she knew there wasn't much to do here. That would make things at least marginally easier. Hopefully. He didn't think there would be much of anything to explore in the woods or the corn field, but then again he'd never really done either. He'd scarcely left the city, and when he did it was just to go to other cities. Maybe there were... interesting things... in a corn field. He supposed he'd give it a shot once he got bored enough. He had, at least, brought his Nook. It was wifi enabled but he knew for certain that there was no wifi out here. He could still read the books and comics he had on that though, and that was something. "Is this hair stuff the silks?" He asked as he pulled it off the corn, hoping it was. Because he'd gotten most of it off the corn ear in his hands by then. He was making a pile of it and the greens on the table to throw away all at once later. Kai pushed up his glasses with the back of his hand. "What are we going into town for?" he added, curious what she didn't have here. He, like her, had realized they were making a ton of food. What more could his Nana need or want? He also wondered if she thought his parents had been going to stay longer.

    His parents were often gone, so he didn't get why he couldn't stay back at home by himself. They weren't usually gone for a few days, of course, but at least one of them was nearly always missing. Despite that, he had an alright relationship with his parents. He just... didn't know them very well. He did know that them leaving before dinner wasn't surprising. He'd learned to take care of himself pretty quickly. Even so, he did not know how to cook at all. He knew how to get food delivered, or if he was feeling adventurous he could make himself a sandwich or even ramen noodles. Shucking corn was not in his skill set for cooking yet.
  6. The biscuits were rolled and cut and ready for the oven. Edith turned from the counter, going to see how Kai was doing with the corn. “That’s it, the white things. You can eat them, but they get stuck in your teeth.” She chuckled, wiping her hands on her towel, and set about the tidy up the kitchen while he finished with the corn.

    “I need to go and give a tin of those pralines to Miss Nancy. She’ll be 87 tomorrow.” She grinned, glancing back to him. “She’s old.” Edith said, as if in confidence. And to her, 87 was old, since Nancy was nearly 15 years her senior. “And I suppose I’ll take some chicken and corn over to Walter and Anna at the retirement home. Their children don’t visit much. And we’ll have too many leftovers. Of course, you needn’t come along on all my errands. Talking with old folks will get mighty boring, I know. I am one.” She tapped her nose, picking up an ear of corn to assist Kai. With the two of them working together on the corn, they would get finished in no time. The kitchen was still a wreck, to Edith’s high standards, but she figured she would help with the corn, and let the poor boy go on his own merry way for a bit. She shucked it rather quickly, outlining her plans for the following day in town. “There’s a few nice stores downtown you can visit. One of those comic book stores. And you can get some of what you want to eat at the Grocery. I’ve got…Nana food mostly. We can meet for a late lunch and then come on home. Sound good to you?”

    One might accuse her of trying too hard. She didn’t much care. She was bound to let him enjoy himself while he was here.
    When the corn was finished, she dumped it all into a colander to wash, gesturing to the back door. “Why don’t you head out for a bit, go explore? Might find the country isn’t all that bad. Just don’t lose sight of the house, and come in before it gets too dark. The mosquitoes will eat you up.”
  7. Kai was quiet as his Nana talked. She seemed to like to talk which he didn't mind since he didn't talk much at all. He finished up the corn with her and then threw all the silk and green away like he was told to do before. He was at least a little happy that she wasn't going to make him stay by her side like she would a toddler. This was much more his style at least. She was going to let him just wander around town until lunch. He was grateful for that. He nodded at the question. "Sounds good." He answered. Maybe he would check out that comic book store. He had enough on his Nook but he was always looking for more. Thinking about that, he made a mental note to bring his Nook out to town also in case he got bored.

    When Nana suggested he go outside he started towards the back door but stopped, looking back at her. "Er... is there anything I should know, though?" He asked. "Places I shouldn't go or dangerous areas...?" He was used to avoiding shady parts of the city, but he had no idea how it worked out here. What he was even going to find on his exploration was something he didn't have a clue of. He called to Jude just afterwards and the old dog meandered over from the living room towards Kai. He sat down and Kai pet his head as he waited for an answer.

    If nothing else, he figured he could just check his phone if he got bored out there. He would soon find out he had basically no reception, but for now he was operating under the assumption of having that distraction.
  8. "Beware of banjo music. Oh, and the scarecrows in the cornfield look a bit shifty." Edith said mysteriously, and then shrugged with a smile. "I'm teasing. Just watch out for the mosquitoes. But, if you stay close enough where you see the house, there shouldn't be any trouble." She waved him off then to go and do whatever it was that young men did nowadays and set about cleaning the kitchen up.

    It didn't take her long. It never did, since she tended to clean as she went. She wiped her hands on her towel and wandered to the kitchen table to finish the crossword she'd begun that morning. The silence was just what she needed. She thought so anyway. While it had been nice to have someone to chat with, she wasn't sure just what she and Kai would say to one another, aside from her prattling on and on about her day and the hoards of old folks she knew. It wasn't long before she was up again, being busying with breading the chicken and boiling the corn and warming the mashed potatoes.

    Edith looked to the clock, realizing she had told Kai to be back before dark...but dinner was ready now, and the summer sun would be up a good deal later than she wanted to wait for dinner. She pushed open the screen door, gathering her best shouting voice to call him. "Kai! Dinner!" There was once a time she could silence a room full of rowdy children with that voice. Now, probably not.
  9. Kai's eyes widened a little when she said the thing about the scarecrows. What in the world was she talking about? But then she said she was teasing. That was still creepy though. When she said he could go he shrugged and went, taking Jude with him. Just because of the scarecrow warning he decided to go into the woods rather than the cornfield. Jude wandered along with him, sniffing at the underbrush and marking trees here or there as they went.

    Honestly Kai had no idea what he was doing out there. He tried stopping to check his phone but it had zero reception. He sighed. Figured. He put it back into his pocket and picked up a stick, poking at some of the underbrush to see what he could find. He found some mushrooms he knew better than to try and eat and ran across some wild life too which Jude happily scared off. Occasionally he'd throw his poking stick so Jude could bring it back to him. Before the sun went down though, he heard his Nana's voice.

    Looking back towards the house he called for Jude and the two of them came back to the house. Jude had a stick in his mouth which he tried to bring into the house. Kai didn't tell him otherwise, figuring his Nana would say if it was allowed or not. Jude listened to most people. He'd listen to Nana too. He was a good dog.

    Kai went to the sink to wash up first and then went to the table and sat down. "So...." he said, figuring he should make some sort of talk. "Uh... what do you do around here when you're not cooking?" To him it seemed like there wasn't much. And even though old people did different things than younger people he thought maybe she could enlighten him as to what else to do around here.
  10. “Nuh uh, Dog.” Edith warned. “Out you go with that.” She pointed, holding the screen door for Jude. She shook her head. “Outside stays outside.” She smiled to Kai. “You should pick up some proper indoor toys for him. Don’t want him getting bored and chewing my drapes or something.”

    She didn’t think she should be so surprised that Kai washed up without being asked. Ivan had always done so without her prodding. No, Victor was the troublemaker. That boy was constantly covered in dirt. It was as if he rolled around in it on purpose just to irritate her.

    Edith had already laid out everything on the table and filled some glasses with lemonade, so she sat down, wiping her wet hands on a towel. She bowed her head quickly to say grace, and then answered Kai’s question, spooning some mashed potatoes on her plate before handing it over to him. “That’s it.” She said, grinning. “I just cook.” But then she outlined some of her day, passing the rest of the food around as she talked. She went to bed early so she could get up with the sun and tidy the house, and water her plants and feed the birds, then she would make her coffee and eat, take a shower. She only left for town on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Sundays she would attend services at the tiny church in town, and then go to lunch at the diner. Tuesdays was grocery day, and Wednesdays was Bridge the Senior Center with the ladies. Otherwise, she’d do her crossword until lunch, eat and then find a book and read, and maybe catch a little local news in the evenings before Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune, and then go to bed. In the winter, she’d fill her days with knitting scarves and sweaters and mittens and then give them to the old folks at the home or deliver them to Pastor Tom for the shelter in the city. Summers were for baking in the mornings.
    She shook her head when she was finished. “It’s not much, I know. I’m a standard Nana. I haven’t any secret interesting things about my days that would interest a young man.” Edith grinned, glancing up from her emptied plate. She hadn’t eaten much, but she hadn’t taken much to eat in the first place. “It’s rather lonely, and sometimes I wish your father would suggest I live in a Home, just for the company. But I’m much too stubborn to let those nurses “take care” of me. I don’t need be taken care of, not yet. I can still walk, and talk and feed myself.”

    When they had finished, Edith busied herself with putting away the leftovers, and making some plates for Walter and Anna in Tupperware, and tinned the pralines for Miss Nancy after handing Kai another one. With the kitchen in order, Edith motioned to the living room. “I’m going to watch a bit and then head up to bed, if you want to join…if not…feel free to explore. All but that room there.” She said, motioning to the closed door in the hall between the kitchen and the living room. “It’s your grandfather’s office. I’ve stashed all kinds of junk in there over the years and it’s a bit of a mess.”

    She went to the TV, turning it on before sitting. It hummed and then came on. Alex Trebek looked rather green at first, but then the colors slowly righted themselves. “Who is Ashurbanipal?” Edith said, settling herself in her doilied chair as she answered, correctly, the clue that had popped up on screen.
  11. "Oh, he won't do that, Nana." Kai responded about Jude. "He's a good dog." Jude, who seemed to hear them, heaved a sigh and then dropped the stick before coming inside. He didn't even try to beg at the table. Instead he meandered around the house for a little bit. "But if there's anything in town tomorrow, he probably deserves a toy..." He added, agreeing with his Nana that Jude needed something to chew on even if he wouldn't chew on her drapes.

    The spread on the table was a lot more than Kai had been expecting, even when he had been helping to shuck the corn. He took quite a lot more than his grandmother. He was always a big eater, even if he was more than thin. He had a good metabolism rate when it came to things like that. He did like to go on runs and was on the track team, which probably helped with that, but he wasn't excessive about it. He was thinking, however, that he was going to go on runs a lot more this summer than his other summers just because there was nothing else to do here.

    Kai listened to his Nana talk while they ate. Her days sounded pretty boring, but he wouldn't say so. He was more polite than that. He was really loving the chicken and got seconds on just that, finishing what was on his plate. He had barely spoken the entire dinner, but that suited him just fine. He liked it better when other people talked anyway. "You know, you could take care of yourself in a city and not be lonely." There were tons of people there and she'd barely have to walk out of her door if she wanted to stay close to home. But she'd never find a house like this in the city. He glanced around as he thought about that, thinking that Nana would not like that at all. He was pretty sure there was a movie about moving a house into the city with a big crane or something, but it was purely fiction.

    Kai sat at the table as the older woman busied herself again. He took the praline offered to him, nibbling on it as she told him he could explore if he wanted. His eyes traveled to the place he was not supposed to go poking about it. Instinctively, he thought that because the office was 'messy' was not the reason he wasn't supposed to go in there. It was probably just too personal for her. Kai had never known his grandfather. He had died shortly after he was born, and there was a picture of him holding Kai as a baby in their house. That was all he knew. "I'll stay out of it." he responded. And he likely would. There was no reason for him to be in there and he felt that he should respect his Nana's privacy on top of it. He was a pretty easy going guy, really. And besides that, Nana had called him a 'young man' earlier during dinner, which showed him that at least SHE recognized he wasn't a child. He watched as the old woman went to her chair, figuring out the first clue on the screen of the tv easy enough. Jude padded into the living room and promptly curled up at Nana's feet with another sigh.

    That left Kai by himself. He finished his praline and then got up. "Goodnight, Nana." He said before leaving to go upstairs. He had no intentions of sleeping, it was just likely he wouldn't come out of his room to say goodnight some other time. Picking up his suit case, he put it onto the bed and unzipped it. He put the clothes away in the empty drawers he found or hung them up in the closet. Once the suit case was empty he put it under the bed. It clunked against some other things under there, but Kai didn't bother to check what. He just hoped there was nothing under there that was breakable. Since that was done, he picked up his book bag to unload that too. He got out his chargers, searching everywhere for a place to plug them in before just following the lamp's plug on the bedside table. The outlet ended up being behind a dresser, so he had to squeeze his hand between the wall and it to put his plug in. He hooked up his useless phone and put his Nook on the bed. It was charged up, and he figured he'd just read for the rest of the night. He put his headphones on the night stand, figuring that at least his phone had music on it so perhaps it wasn't that useless after all. The rest of what was in his book bag was odds and ends, so he just put it at the foot of his bed on the floor and then leaned back on the old, creaky bed himself. Turning on the Nook, he waited for it to power on before flipping through his library. There was a good variety of books and comics in there, and he congratulated himself for downloading lots of new content before coming here. Normally he'd just download one at a time, but he had been forewarned about wifi here. He just hoped that he had downloaded enough. Despite all of the new content, he decided to tuck into The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy, which he'd read dozens of times before. The ridiculousness of what happened in that story and the interesting writing style thrilled him, and had quickly made it close to the top of his favorites list. He would read that until he got tired enough to sleep. He had left the door cracked for Jude to join him later whenever he was done snuggling up with his Nana.
  12. Edith waited until Kai went upstairs to sit up, leaning forward in her chair, and turned to watch the stairs. When it was clear that she was alone again, she sighed a little, turning back to the TV. Since she was leaning already, she gave Jude a scratch behind the ears, before settling in her chair again, righting a doily that had scooted out of place, and reached for her knitting. It had been sitting there in the basket by her chair since February, but perhaps she should finish it sooner, rather than wait for winter. “What do you think, Dog? Just us two old souls sitting around. What do you really think of Kai? He’s a good boy isn’t he?” She glanced to the screen for a moment. “What is a Great Pyrenees?” She said, looking back to Jude as he flopped his tail a few times. “The next one will be Newfoundland, just wait.” She grinned and then gestured to the TV when she was right. “See?” She said, triumphantly.

    She was quiet, appearing to be listening to Jude as she knitted another row of the scarf she’d been working on. “Yes, I agree. You, know Dog, his daddy and Uncle couldn’t handle it. And his Granddaddy never understood. And Victor’s offspring are all morons, at best. Maybe Kai can handle it.” She scoffed, shaking her head. “No, of course not! He doesn’t need it now. I’ve had it over sixty years without incident, a few more weeks won’t kill me. Later perhaps, once he’s gotten used to being here. You’ll keep him from the cornfield won’t you, once he has it? They won’t bother him now, the shifty things, but once I’ve given it to him… Oh, I know how to handle them, but he…might not understand so much.”

    Edith rose in the early morning as always, and dressed first thing for a change of pace. She was now shuffling about the kitchen to make coffee. She let a cabinet bang, wincing a little, but then decided it didn’t matter too much. She was determined not to wake Kai by pounding on his door, but she’d not creep around her own house either. Breakfast could wait, however, until Kai was out of bed. She hadn’t needed to water her plants, and she had already cleaned the house in anticipation of Kai’s arrival. So there was extra time to do her crossword puzzle.

    She sat with her coffee in a mug that read World’s Best Nana. She had gotten it for Christmas about ten years ago. The last time she had seen Kai before this summer. She had pulled Ivan aside and had told him everything that year, and he’d decided that he wanted nothing to do with it. And he put it out of his mind. He’d apparently decided that she had gone senile, and was talking nonsense. Even so, he kept his family from her until she had recanted everything, chalking it all up to belated grief over Gregory’s death.

    Edith had gone to bed straight after Jeopardy; were she on the show, she would have won enough money to live comfortably the rest of her years and provide a decent inheritance to the grandchildren. Perhaps she’d leave a little more to Ivan than Victor, since she favored him. Jude hung around, but wasn’t particularly chatty, and had trotted off to Kai’s room after he followed her upstairs.
    Once Kai joined her in the kitchen, she passed him the crossword. “G’morning! See if you can’t get some of those.” She said, getting up to fix some breakfast. This morning, it was to be eggs and toast, and perhaps some of that bacon she’d been salivating over. “I’ll want to leave by 11 at the latest to go to town. You’re alright with that?”
  13. Kai didn't sleep in too late. He would prefer to, but he was also mindful of his grandmother's rising at the crack of dawn. As it ended up, he woke with the slam of the cupboard door, but didn't care too much about the premature waking. He rose and rubbed at his eyes with a yawn. He thought about going to take a shower now versus going downstairs, and decided to go ahead and shower now after all. He wasn't sure, if he went down now, if his Nana would be geared up and ready to leave right away or not. He gave Jude a quick hug around the neck and a pat before getting up and crossing the hallway to the bathroom.

    The shower/bath tub combo in there was ancient. Chipped white porcelain was covered with typical Nana-style shower curtain. He pulled it aside, studying the faucet and handles a moment before figuring them out. He tested the water and then undressed, getting in. His shower was quick and simple, and he used the soap Nana had in there. He came out smelling like strawberries, but he didn't care. He pulled on boxers and a pair of dark wash jeans after he dried off. He used his shirt to dry his glasses as they had gotten wet during his shower and then pulled on the short sleeved plaid button down too. Moving back to his room after hanging up his towel, he put on socks and tennis shoes and then finally came downstairs.

    "Morning." Kai responded, still a little sleepy even after his shower. He looked down at the cross word as he sat down at the table, raising one eyebrow. "Yes, thats fine." He responded about what time to go into town. He was ready whenever since he had taken his shower. His hair was still damp against his head, but if they were to take the truck he was assuming they'd roll the windows down and then it would be blow dried. Sitting up, Kai looked over the cross word clues. He took a pencil from a collection of different pens, pencils, and markers from a sunflower cup on the table and rolled the utensil slowly across the table absentmindedly as he worked in his head some of the words.

    Words and letters were always easy for Kai. He did not have a great many talents, especially not with numbers, but things like this he could make sense of easily enough. He wiggled his nose to push his glasses up instead of using his fingers and then started to mark in some words. Why, exactly, he was doing this cross word he wasn't sure, but he had nothing else to do while he waited for breakfast so there he was. He pushed the pencil across the paper pretty quickly as he filled in words, glancing from the boxes to the hints as he went. By the time breakfast was ready he had the majority of the puzzle filled, but he set it aside to focus on food instead. He would never be caught dead doing a cross word in the city, but there was no one here to judge him for doing an old woman's pass time here so he didn't really mind.

    Like any teenager, what his peers thought of him was everything. Staying at his Nana's for the summer was bad enough as it was. But there was no way they'd figure out he had done cross words while he was there too... and if he was being honest with himself it wasn't really a bad pass time.
  14. Edith had nodded, and set off again to prepare breakfast. The bacon was soon sizzling in the pan, and she did not resist the urge to take one of the finished pieces while it was still piping hot. She took another one for Kai, setting it beside him on a napkin, and pointed out one of the clues he had not already solved. “Aral.” She said, before going back to preparing breakfast. She was duly impressed with how much he had done. Ivan never touched the crosswords. Victor was too busy dangling from trees or rolling in mud to enjoy intellectual pursuits. But she didn’t say anything out loud and just wriggled her eyebrows at Jude before tossing him a cooled piece of bacon.

    Once breakfast was eaten and the dishes were all cleared, Edith was ready to go. But she had said eleven, and it was only ten. So she puttered around the house some, letting Kai do what he wanted. But she only puttered for a few minutes, gathering the food for Walter and Anna and the pralines and putting them near the front door so she would not forget to take them. With a sigh she shook her head, looking to the clock. “Let’s go now…We can take the scenic route.”

    The truck had a little trouble starting, as always, until Edith clambered out of it, threatening to get her shotgun (which she didn’t own anymore), cursing and kicking the tires. She went around the truck, striking every tire in an angry loop, and then got back in the cab, buckling up. “Should be better,” she said, with a smile, and the truck started up without an issue. She rolled the windows down immediately, and threw the pickup into gear. Even though it was still early, it was shaping up to be a sweltering summer day already. “It’s acted up since your grandfather passed. He cursed at it near every day, on the way to work.” She said above the wind. “I think it misses him.” She was aware she sounded insane, but she winked. She was teasing, of course. Of course. There wasn’t much to say that needed to be shouted while they were on the way, so she was quiet.

    The scenic route was, as it turned out, the only route to town. That was just her way of saying, ‘I drive like an old lady in a Sunday parade.’ She didn’t necessarily go below the speed limit the whole way. But she stuck to it as if moving the needle just a tiny bit in either direction would bring the law down on her. The woods turned to fields as they got onto the potholed main road which was made bumpier given the shocks on the truck were direly needed to be replaced. Soon the fields became the brick high school, and the lone Kmart in 60 miles in any direction. But she didn’t stop yet. They passed a few ancient houses and then rode over the tracks, slowing when they came to the downtown area. A sign just before town proclaimed an establishment date of 1889, and boasted 5,142 residents, just after the town’s motto “Gateway to the South” emblazoned in gold.

    They passed the barbershop, beauty salon, florist, one of the small playgrounds and the Baptist Church on the way in. Edith smiled and waved to a few people here and there, including Pastor Tom and his wife, Mindy, in front of the church. Mindy was hugely pregnant, but was still managing to wield a broom while Tom weeded the flower beds out front. Edith parked just in front of Lucille’s Diner in the center of town, and turned off the truck. For the first time that morning it was quiet. Edith felt strange interrupting the silence, but pointed out a few areas of interest for Kai. “Now, you won’t get lost, so long as you see the steeple. Church is in the center of town after all. The comic store’s on the end of this block here, and the grocery is round the corner from that. There’s all manner of other places to go as well, if you want.” She smiled a little. “You’re a sensible young man after all. Ah,” She grabbed her wicker pocketbook from where she’d stashed it under her seat, and withdrew a few dollars from her wallet and thrust it at him. In all it was about fifty dollars. “Spend it on what you want.” She looked at her wristwatch, which read a quarter past 11. “Meet here at Lucille’s around 2:00 or so? Sound alright?” She waited for Kai to get out of the truck, smiling and waving as she pulled away, heading down the street toward the comic store. The home was further down that same road.

    Edith caught the eye of a tall redhead just outside the store. The girl raised her brows at Edith and then smiled, giving her a little wave. Wonderful. Edith thought, shaking her head slightly.
  15. Kai's favorite breakfast was bacon. It didn't matter what came with it, bacon was the important part. When Nana gave both himself and the dog a piece he was secretly thrilled about that. He guessed that Nana liked Jude too, which was good. He filled in 'ARAL' onto the crossword in all caps as he chewed on the piece of meat.

    After breakfast, Kai really didn't mind if Nana wanted to leave early. He pat Jude on the head to say goodbye and then followed her out into the truck, climbing up into it and then waiting. He had to admit, he was not surprised when the old thing coughed and spluttered and didn't want to start. He didn't think that the truck would start at all, but he waited patiently in the cab while Nana went about beating the thing anyway. It occurred to him, as he watched the older woman kick at the tires for probably the third of fourth time, that his Nana was probably a lot more vocal than he was, even. That was kind of sad, but it didn't other him too much. He did not get angry or frustrated easily, and beyond that he didn't really see a need to get loud.

    Finally the truck roared to life, and they were on their way. Kai's eyes were on the scenery until his Nana started talking to him over the wind. He looked back at her and then gave her a lop-sided smile. He didn't think she sounded insane, but he also didn't think she was being serious. Well, she was probably serious about his grandfather yelling at it every day. He'd probably yell at it every day too if it didn't work, but then he'd likely have just bought a new truck all together, and he wondered why Nana didn't. Kai didn't ask her.

    The two of them fell into silence with just the wind whistling through the truck and the engine droning. Kai paid attention when Nana pointed things out to him, and made sure he wouldn't get lost by simply following the church steeple. That seemed easy enough. He looked back at Nana again just as she pulled out some cash and handed it to him. "Oh." He said, and was about to tell her he didn't need it but she was already telling him to spend it. "Thank you." He said instead, nodding when she suggested meeting back here at two. He didn't have a watch, but his phone didn't stop keeping time just because there was no reception. "Alright, see you then." He slid out of the truck and then shut the door behind him, having to slam it some in order to close it all the way. Kai moved over to the side walk and put his hands in his pockets, simultaneously putting the cash there as well. He hadn't even realized just how much money his Nana had given him. He watched the truck rumble off, waving back, and then glanced around.

    The town was pretty dead, as far as Kai was concerned. The only person on the street besides himself in that moment was the red head. Not really interested in making friends here, he decided to head straight to the comic shop. He passed the girl on the way to it, giving her a little nod of acknowledgement as he went. Entering into the comic shop, the bell on the door announced his presence as he pushed it open. It was a little dim in there, and smelled musty, but otherwise looked just like any other comic store. The books were organized according to publisher and then title name in alphabetical order, but there was a section of comics on one wall in a white, open faced case that proudly proclaimed NEW! in red comic sans on a yellow action bubble. Kai went there first, but didn't even have to pick one of the issues up to know that it was about a month or two old.

    He wandered over to the Marvel section then, figuring he might as well see if they had any of the good classics instead. He picked up Ghost Rider before remembering he'd been wanting to check out some Doc Savage. He'd heard online that it was pretty good, so he moved away from the Marvel section to find it. He chose several issues of that and then decided to just hang about for a bit. It was a long way until two o'clock.
  16. If there was one thing Emma Jean liked, it was novelty. That was hard to come by in such a small town. It was literally the same thing every.single.day. She had to constantly make up ways to keep herself engaged in novelty, which usually mean dyeing her hair a strange color, (it was red now, like an Amy Pond or Jean Grey red, which was as close to her natural color as she would ever come) or sneaking into the city an hour away to get try to dupe a tattoo parlor into giving her one. It’s worked three times in three different parlors, even though she showed them her id, which had her real age on it. Perhaps it was her dazzling smile. Or the way she’d talked circles around them. But she was betting it was the long legs and short skirts that did the trick. She wasn’t ashamed of using her good looks to get what she wanted, and if they thought that her 17 really meant 18, then so much the better.

    And so when Emma saw who Miss Edith brought to town, she was quite intrigued. Someone new, and what’s more, a relative. A male relative. Of Miss Edith’s. Who appeared to like comics. Where she happened to work for her second job. It was almost as if Miss Edith had gift-wrapped him and set him on her doorstep. This could be fun.

    She waved, flashing Kai a brilliant while smile. But she didn’t go inside. Not yet, her shift didn’t start for another…ten minutes, and she didn’t want to be early. Monroe would have a heart attack and die, and then she would be out of a job. She grinned a little.
    She was wearing her uniform now. Well, there were no uniforms, per say, at the comic book store. Monroe noticed an uptick in sales on the day she went to apply for a job there. Then when she started wearing the summery tank tops and the shorts which showed a little more flesh, he nearly promoted her to assistant manager. That’s what she was wearing today, of course. Her shorts were dark jean material, and her tank was green and had John Deere emblazoned on the front, and she had cowboy boots on. She knew her audience. Most of these boys who frequented the comic store loved their tractors just as much as their comics, and she could go from country to geek in an instant to suit their needs, and keep them around long enough to buy.

    Emma Jean pushed open the door to the comic store at 11:29:30, waving a little to Monroe who looked up from his Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 1 to eye her. He looked between her and the clock, and then looked at her again, shook his head and went back to reading. “Nice talking with you, ‘Ro.” She said, in as country of an accent as there ever was.

    “Now that,” she began, sidling up next to Kai, “is a very interesting choice.” She tapped her chin, sizing him up. She was nearly as tall as he was in her boots, but the heels weren’t ridiculous. “The classics don’t get enough love.” She smiled. “I’m Emma Jean.” She said. “You must be Miss Edith’s grandson…?”
  17. Kai was just hanging around the store. He was feigning interest in other things now that he had his purchases picked out. He was surprised when a girl - probably only a little older than him if he was guessing - came up next to him. The red hair reminded him that she had just been out on the street near the diner when he had passed her. He glanced at the comics he was holding and then back at her again. He was not so easily head-over-heels than most of the other guys who came to the comic shop here. He was no stranger around girls, the city was full of them - hot, sexy, cute, whatever else.

    He shrugged. "Looks like this whole store is mostly the classics..." He responded, raising one eyebrow. He gave her a smile though. Miss Edith? It took him a moment before he remembered who that was. "Oh, yeah, I am. I'm just in town for the summer..." He said, making it a point to let her know that he was not here for forever or something. He was thinking about just paying for his stuff and leaving, but then he figured the summer was a long time and it wouldn't hurt to talk to a few people here...

    "I'm Kai." It was about then that he realized that even his name sounded weird in the country. Edith and Emma Jean and ... what were his Nana's friend's called again? Walter... someone else, he couldn't remember. Either way, 'Kai' was not quite the same as any of those. He leaned back a little. "What would you pick?" It was telling, if you had a good taste in comics. Kai himself preferred Marvel over DC with that age-old question, but further into the indie comics and such were even better options. Even so, Kai was careful not to be a snob about it. Spider Man and Super Woman were just as good, although if she went for Batman he couldn't help but to be judgmental over that.
  18. “Me?” No one ever asked her opinion before. They didn’t want her opinion, not really. She was a pretty girl, so what did she know? They just wanted her to agree with them. She readily did, playing the part. She could not remember how often she had said that she really liked Iron Man, even though she honestly found him to be a prat. Monroe didn’t care if she knew what she was talking about, or if she was somehow compromising her interests, so long as she was selling.

    “Oh, I don’t know. While I do enjoy a good classic like Doc Savage, I’ve always been bit partial to X-Men, especially the Dark Phoenix Saga. ” Or, it appeared her parents were the ones who were partial. Who else would name their daughter Emma Jean, as if after Jean Grey and the White Queen? Oh, that’s right, backwater country folk, that’s who, even those who had never heard of the X-Men. Emma shrugged a little. At any rate, whether inspired by the country or by mutants, the name seemed to fit her.

    She lifted her eyes to the ceiling, ticking off comics on her fingers as they came to her. “Or East of West…ooh Fables! And anything by Neil Gaiman. Love him. Neverwhere is my life.” Emma grinned a little, glancing past Kai to the dusty store window and her smile faltered. It was just Old Man Farley who caught her eye, staring into the window as she stared out of it. He had always frightened her, ever since she was a child, and just because she was older didn't change that fact. Farley leaned forward, as if he were trying to see through the window, but stopped just short, scratching at a spot just near his white beard, and went on his way.

    Emma let out a breath, and turned abruptly to the shelves, seeking out the hardbound copy she’d demanded Monroe to stock. “Here…” She said, in a little more of a shaky tone than before. She withdrew the Neverwhere omnibus from the shelf and pressed it into his hand. “Educate yourself.” Her smile was back, and her tone was a teasing one. What ever had rattled her for that moment seemed to have faded away again.

    Monroe leaned over the counter, calling to Emma Jean. She shook her head a little, rolling her eyes. “The Bossman calleth.” She waved a little, going to see what he wanted. “Later Kai.”
  19. Kai nodded when she questioned him about whether or not he wanted to hear her suggestion. He waited, smiling a little. The X-Men were a favorite too. He owned a lot of those. When she named a few others he nodded. He'd admit to having never heard of East of West, but Fables was good and Neil Gaiman even better. Kai wasn't sure what she was looking at after she said that though, and he casually glanced back also, but all he saw was a guy. Maybe they had bad blood between them though, and he kept his nose out of it. He was perfectly fine without that.

    Kai reached out to take the Neverwhere comic from her. He only owned this on his Nook, and he wasn't sure that he wanted it in hard back but he felt awkward having taken it only to put it back. Besides that, she seemed pretty shaken up which just made the whole situation even more awkward. "Thanks." He responded, glancing at the hard back and then up at Emma Jean. Then again, she seemed to be okay now, so maybe things were alright after all. He glanced at the guy near the cash register as he called to Emma Jean, only just then realizing that she worked here. He raised an eyebrow in interest and smiled.

    "See you. But you know, Sandman beats out Neverwhere in my book!" Neverwhere was really good though, and if it was Emma Jean's life then he supposed it was better than Sandman for her. Since he had said so though, he put Neverwhere back on the shelf. He milled around for a little bit longer before decided to just go ahead and check out. Before he went, however, he moved behind a comic stand to block him mostly from view and then dipped his hand into his pocket to pull out the cash Nana had given him. He really only expected ten dollars at the most, and wanted to know how much he had before he went to pay. He was shocked to find the fifty instead. He glanced around, pulling out most of it to put into his wallet rather than his pocket.

    He came up to the cash register afterwards with enough cash to cover the comics he was getting. He glanced at Monroe with a small smile. "Hi." He greeted, putting the comics down on the counter. He figured after buying things, he'd just wander around the town, get his bearings a little. It was a straight shot to get here, so maybe he'd run here tomorrow or something. Although it was quite a distance... he could test it out.
  20. Monroe mumbled something unintelligible at Kai’s greeting. It might have been, ‘Emma, there’s a customer here, ring him up, I’m a complete moron, blah blah blah,’ because Emma Jean popped up from behind the counter with a huge red binder in hand, and Monroe walked away. He disappeared to the back to do…whatever it was he did back there. It wasn’t work, that much was certain. Emma had once caught him leading a raid in WoW on company time. He was livid when the internet “mysteriously” went out, and screamed into the phone for a half-hour at some hapless customer service rep from the cable company. Emma nearly keeled over with laughter. At any rate, he’d abandoned the front to her, as he was wont to do.

    She rolled her eyes again, but then smiled, setting the binder down on the counter. “Monroe doesn’t do well with humanity as a whole. Unless they are on the other side of a screen. He also doesn’t do the books,” she motioned to the red binder and shrugged, “and leaves it in the hands of a teenager who may or may not have paid any attention in any math class ever. How he survives without me, is a mystery.” She eyed his purchases, punching the numbers into the ancient cash register. “No Neverwhere? I’m completely insulted.” She said with a smile that said she was anything but. “But he sticks with the Doc Savage, so perhaps a little redemption.” Emma gave him the total, and made change. She tucked the comics into a thin paper bag, handing them and the change over just as the door opened. Three of the high school’s elite walked in, whistling at Emma Jean. “My public waits.” She said dryly, waving to them. But she turned her attention back to Kai once more. “Tell your Nana I said hi. Oh and…” She grabbed his hand, and a pen and wrote down a few numbers. Her number as it turned out. “Just in case. And watch out for those scarecrows. They are shifty.” She didn’t give him a moment to respond.

    Emma skirted out from behind the counter, sidling up to the three new customers. She put on a brilliant, albeit fake smile, giggling at something one of them said, and then led them over, of course, to the latest Iron Man stock they had.


    Edith idled in the truck out front of Lucille’s. She had said two, but it was only going on 1:00, and she was done.
    Nancy raved over the pralines and talked her ear off for a solid hour about her birthday plans and about her great-grandson getting his first tooth and showed her nearly twenty pictures of the drooly fat little baby in all sorts of posed positions. Edith had smiled, and cooed over the little darling, but by the fifth picture that looked precisely the same, she was done. Walter and Anna were no less chatty, and raved over the food she brought them—ahem, smuggled them, since that testy Nurse Ratchet clone was out front at the Home today. They mostly complained about their blood pressure and their arthritis. It seemed they shared every illness that came along, no matter what. Edith had had enough of their complaining, and was very eager to move on. She excused herself, saying she had to get back to town to meet Kai for lunch. Of course, that brought a million questions from the two: ‘Which grandson is he again?’ ‘How is he doing in school?’ ‘Does he have a girlfriend, cause my friend Alice has a lovely little granddaughter…’ She answered or deflected each in quick succession, gave her apologies and nearly fled out the door.

    And now, she waited.

    She hadn’t seen Kai yet, but maybe he had found something else to occupy his time. Her eyes wandered down the comic bookstore. Maybe he’d run into Emma Jean. She wasn’t entirely sure she liked that idea. Not that Emma Jean was a problem girl…she was just a little different. He didn’t need that kind of different. Not yet. She half wished they had brought the dog so she could voice these concerns out loud without looking like a lunatic. Lots of people talked to their pets. Fewer people talked to their cars.

    A tapping on her window sent her heart into her chest. She rolled down the window the rest of the way, letting in the hot breeze and the scent of pipe tobacco. Old Man Farley stood there, his hands shoved in his pockets, looking nervous. He wasn’t old. He was younger than she was, but his white beard and wrinkled face gave him the illusion of being older. “Lord have mercy, Farley, you’re gonna give me a heart attack!”

    He looked apologetic, and slightly afraid. “They’re here, Edy. Saw them heading for town myself this morning.”
    She breathed out slowly, gripping the steering wheel tight. This was not the sort of news she wanted to hear. “Does she know yet?”

    “Can’t talk to her, Edy. She won’t see me.” He looked around cautiously, and then leaned into the cab, whispering. “You have it, don’t you?”

    “You need to tell her.”

    He ignored her. “Then you know what you have to do. Go back home, until they pass on through again.”

    Edith drew in a breath and nodded her head. “I will. After lunch with Kai,” she said, glancing to his slightly perturbed face. “I’m not getting him mixed up in this yet. He’s been here less than a day. If he’s gonna be trapped in the house until they pass through, then he needs to have a bit of freedom now.” Farley shook his head in disbelief, muttering as he walked off, looking around nervously.