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Stories from the Verse
Re Verse All
Chapter 14: Takano 17
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Hastings 190
Tommy slept quite comfortably in the provided bed. She realized she was awake while the house was still rather quiet, and decided just to enjoy being in the soft, warm blankets. Then she heard someone in the adjacent bathroom, deduced that it was almost certainly Mrs. Billings getting Tammy up (because there was another bathroom off the master bedroom), and waited for them to be finished. Then she used the bathroom herself and headed downstairs.
“Oh, good, you’re up,” Mrs. Billings said. “How do you like your eggs?”
Tommy saw that she was plating scrambled eggs for Tammy, along with bacon. “Scrambled is fine,” she said, “or whatever’s easy.”
“Scrambled is certainly easy enough,” Mrs. Billings said. “Bacon?”
“Orange juice, milk, coffee?”
“O.J. is fine.”
In a few minutes Tommy had a plate of eggs and bacon with toast and a glass of orange juice. As she paused a moment wondering whether to say grace (they did that at home, sometimes), Mrs. Billings spoke.
“Is everything all right?”
“Oh--oh, yes, just pausing to be thankful.”
Mrs. Billings nodded, and in the following silence Tommy started on the eggs. As with everything so far, Mrs. Billings was a decent cook, and the eggs were, well, about as good as you would expect of scrambled eggs, probably with a bit of cheese, milk, butter, salt, and pepper in them.
Mrs. Billings spoke.
“I know you’re hoping to get back on your adventure, but--well, I have a problem. Mrs. Wilson, who usually cares for Tammy while I’m at work, called to say she’s sick today. I could call out, but I’d rather not. If you could delay leaving for a day and take care of Tammy, we would pay you something for your trouble and you could stay another night. After all, Tammy likes you, and you seem able to do what needs to be done.”
Tommy nodded and thought a moment. “What needs to be done?” she asked.
“Well, she needs to be supervised so she doesn’t hurt herself or wander away. It looks like a nice day, so at some point a couple hours playing outside would be good for her. She will have to be fed lunch, and that will have to be cleaned up--there’s bread in the breadbox, peanut butter and honey in the cabinet, jelly and cold cuts in the deli drawer of the refrigerator, and if you’re ambitious canned soups in the cabinet by the stove. She doesn’t like mushroom. If she starts getting cranky, you should put her down for a nap, but that’s not a regular thing for her anymore. When I get home I’ll see to washing her and feeding everyone dinner, so that’s pretty much everything.”
Again nodding, Tommy said, “I can do that. When do you leave?”
“Oh, I’ll clean up breakfast and be gone before nine.” Mrs. Billings glanced at the wall behind Tommy, who deduced that there must be a clock there which she had not yet noticed. Listening, she heard it ticking quietly, and turned to see it. It was apparently an electric clock, plugged into an outlet high on the wall for that purpose. It was an analog clock, and she decided not to show her ignorance of analog time. She would be able to read it; it would just take an effort she didn’t need to make right now.
“O.K., let me go make my bed and straighten my things, and I’ll be down in a few minutes to take over.”
Mrs. Billings was soon out the door, apparently carpooling with a neighbor to some job downtown. Tammy had finished breakfast and was playing in the living room, this time with dolls and a tea set. “Shall I join you?” Tommy asked.
Again the child gave her thoughtful pause, and said, “O.K.”
Tommy settled on the floor near the tea set. “So, what’s happening?” she asked.
“We’re having tea,” Tammy replied, not the least suggestive that this was obvious.
“Cool,” Tommy said. “How do we do that?”
“You don’t know how to have tea?”
“Well, I’ve had tea before, but different people do it different ways. How do you have tea?”
Tammy nodded as if satisfied with this answer, and then thought before she spoke. “We have the tea set in the middle and we all sit around it. Someone pours the tea into teacups, and we all drink and talk about things.”
“Sounds good,” and between them they settled the two dolls--the same dolls that had been giants destroying the castle the previous day--in roughly seated positions to either side, and the girls sat across from each other. “Shall I pour, or would you like to?”
There was that decision making moment again.
“I’ll do it,” Tammy said, and picking up the empty toy teapot she pretended to pour something into each of the four plastic cups.
“Thank you,” Tommy said, as she picked up her saucer and brought the cup to the lips, the saucer positioned to catch any imaginary drops. “Hmmm--this is good tea,” she said. “Where do you get it?”
Tammy laughed. “There’s nothing in the cup, silly.”
“Oh, I know. I just thought that if we were going to pretend we were drinking tea, we might as well pretend it was good. Let me cut you a bit of this cake,” she said, setting down her teacup and pretending to pick up a knife and grab a block of something invisible. She went through the motions of slicing something, and handed the invisible nothing to Tammy. Tammy quickly fell into the game, taking hold of the nothing as Tommy proceeded to slice another piece for herself. They both pretended to bite and chew the non-existent cake, the younger girl hardly able to contain herself from giggling. “So, what kind of cake is it?”
“Oh, yes, coffeecake, with cinnamon crumb topping and walnuts?”
“Good choice. I like that.”
They put away the tea set after a while, and Tammy turned on the television and expertly navigated the channels to find cartoons. Tommy wandered into the kitchen, leaving the connecting door open. She rummaged a bit, and then called, “Would you like peanut butter and jelly, or peanut butter and honey?” It occurred to her that they were both a bit messy, but if she couldn’t contain the mess she wasn’t a very good babysitter.
“Oh! Honey!” came the enthusiastic response, which caused Tommy to wonder whether this was something mom didn’t usually offer because it was more trouble than it was worth. Still, she had offered. She got out the necessary ingredients and equipment, and proceeded to toast four slices of bread, two at a time. When the first two popped, she put them on separate plates and spread peanut butter on them, then she put the honey on the next pair, put them together, and sliced them into four triangles each.
“Lunch is ready,” she called. “What do you want to drink?”
“Milk,” came the answer, and Tommy dutifully found the sippycup and another and filled both with the white cow juice. As they ate, Tommy asked, “Shall we play in the yard this afternoon?”
“I’d rather go to the park,” Tammy answered.
“Me, too, I think, but I don’t know the way yet, or the way back, so I think until I learn where I am a bit better we’re going to have to stay close to the house. Do you have any friends in the neighborhood who might come over, or whom we could visit?”
Tammy nodded, and that settled the matter.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with five other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #357: Characters Connect. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: