Late on Saturday of the following weekend, Dusty and Smoky were rummaging through some of the stuff we had found at the junk yard. They had spent the day at the beach with their friends, and were still full of energy. Dusty came across a game console that we had brought back; but had tossed aside for parts and scrap; and showed it to Smoky.
“Hey, Smoke, look at this!”
“Ah, cool, Dust! Should we see if we can fix it?”
“Ummm…duh…Why else would I have brought it to you, Mr. Fix-it?”
“It was a rhetorical question, you Berrybrain!”
Smoky continued, “We’ll need to go to the junkyard and see if we can find a few more parts; some salvageable wire and leads. Oh! And a controller or two if you actually want to play!”
“You must think I’m a real potatohead! I wasn’t born yesterday!” Dusty shot back, defensively.
“I know, but sometimes you don’t think things through! You come up with great ideas and all, but you have little knowledge of how to make them work; which is where I come in,” Smoky winked.
The boys came and asked if they could go to the junkyard and looks for some parts, although they were reluctant to tell me what they were for. I wasn’t too terribly busy, so I said I’d go along and help.
The boys started digging around like Moonberries on a mission! I still had no clue what they were actually looking for, so I wandered around culling through the piles of junk, looking for – whatever.
Dusty didn’t seem to have a clue what he was supposed to be looking for either, I guess, as he was getting some nasty looks from Smoky when holding up various pieces of junk. It was a good thing it was dark and Dusty couldn’t see the sneers and grimaces. I have to commend Smoky for holding his tongue and not berating Dusty at every turn.
I couldn’t help but chuckle every time Dusty pick up a piece and examined it as if he were looking for the secrets of some long forgotten world of ancient Berries. Each item was scrutinized thoroughly as if it were some artifact; a clue to the past. He may be bright; quite logical, in fact; but he had the common sense of a radish.
I knew it wouldn’t take too long, as Dusty got tired and fed up and headed home. I stayed behind with Smoky; more to keep an eye on him than to be of any help. I STILL had no clue what they were up to. Smoky found me and said he thought he had everything he needed and that we could go if I were done.
I couldn’t be more proud of the boys. Each one with their own personality, yet they get along
As I was there for no real purpose in the first place, we immediately headed home. At home, Smoky headed for the shed to stow his treasures, while I made for the house. It was late, so we cleaned up and went to bed.
“HELP! What’s happening to me? Someone help!”
I could hear his screams; shrill and cold; sending shivers down my spine.
“HELP! I can’t brea…”
I raced toward his voice as his voice trailed off into an eerie silence.
I reached the bottom of the stairs with everyone else on my heels. The room was dimly lit. What was happening?
Smoky floated above the floor in an eerie translucent form; sparks and ash literally jumping from his body, as if in search of a new host. The smell of burnt flesh filled the air; thick and nauseating.
The Grim Reaper floated opposite Smoky, his exposed, bony fingers tightly wrapped around the handle of his symbolic scythe. If he had had flesh and blood, they would surely be white from the taut grip. He smelled of death; there was no other word for the stench that invaded my nostrils.
I must have been in shock as I had not noticed right away that El and the other boys were sobbing heavily.
Suddenly, a defiant Smoky thrust his arm out; straight towards the Grim Reaper; a dying black blossom tightly clutched in his hand, the likeness of a skull in the center of the charred petals; a death flower.
The Grim Reaper gently took the flower from Smoky’s hand; as if the blossom was a delicate piece of crystal; afraid he’d crush it with his deathly grip. Although he spoke not a word; uttered not a sound; I could “feel” a tear rolling down his hood-covered cheek.
Smoky rose further into the air and began spiining in full circles; his back arching, thrusting his soul towards the heavens.
As his body slowly touched the floor, his translucent form was replaced with the fleshy bag of bones and blood that was once again my son. The reaper had restored Smoky’s life; just as the legends of the death flower depict.
The Grim Reaper vanished into the floor with the bloom tightly clutched in his claws; weeping; for surely he had not wanted to release Smoky back to the world of the living.
I rose from my pillow, sitting bolt-upright in bed; drenched in a cold sweat. Was I dreaming? I hurriedly got dressed and literally ran down the stairs. To my relief, Smoky was standing there; very much alive.
I recounted the events to Smoky and he assured me that it must have been a dream, as he had no recollection of dying or the Grim Reaper. He confirmed that he still held the death flower in his possession; the death flower that I had given him on his birthday.
He rolled his eyes at me and went to the shed to putz around at the work bench with some ideas he had. Call me foolish, but I released a sigh of relief as he walked (not floated) out the door.
I soon heard that piercing scream from my dream, clearly coming from the direction of the shed. The events of that dream once again flooded my mind as I expected the worst. Although Smoky had electrocuted himself, I was relieved that it was not life threatening and that he would be fine.
I don’t know how many times I could get through a scare like this, but I was sure this was not the last.
After several more yelps of pain as he smashed his fingers while working, Smoky snuck into the house with his completed prize. He had refurbished the game console for Dusty and wanted to surprise him by setting it up. He connected it to the TV and loaded a game, and prepared to hand Dusty the controller as he walked through the door after school.
As I had hoped, Dusty walked through the door, having stayed late at school to feed the fish in the biology department or some such. I sheepishly grinned and handed him the controller. His eyes grew wide as they moved from the controller to the TV and finally to the console on the shelf below the TV.
“You did it!” he exclaimed.
“Just like you asked,” I grinned in response.
“Oh, drat! I brought someone home with me,” he frowned.
“No problem, Dust, I’ll entertain them so you can play.”
To my surprise, he set the controller on the table and pulled out his homework. What a nerd!
“Sorry I didn’t get a second controller,” I said as I walked out onto the porch.
I was shocked to see HER coming up the steps to MY porch, but it was a pleasant surprise.
“Err…hi,” I stammered.
I’ve had a crush on Cotton since middle school. Probably from the first time I’d seen her.
“Dusty is inside doing his homework at the table. Just go on in; make yourself at home,” I said, hoping not to sound too disappointed.
“HOMEWORK! He brought a girl home and does homework? Ewww! Mind if I hang with you, then?”
Oh, God! That smile makes me melt. This isn’t a good idea. I should make an excuse and get away.
“Sure, I don’t mind, but I’ll probably bore you to tears.”
“Well, I’m sure we can think of something mutual to talk about,” she cooed, placing her fingertips on my vest.
“Oh…umm…maybe…we could…go to the deck and play a game. How about that?”
“Now THAT sounds boring; don’t you like me?”
“Well, yeah, I do, but you are here with…”
“Oh, you are such a berrybrain! I’m really here to see you, you know.”
“I feel…like such…a dolt. I’m glad…you’re here to see…me. I’ve…like…wanted to talk to you…for forever.”
“I know, silly! Dusty knows I like you; so he suggested I come home with him. He really cares about you. I think it’s sweet.”
“Dusty and I would do anything for each other. I’m really surprised he orchestrated this, though. Just doesn’t seem like him. But I’m really glad he did.”
I slid my arms around her waist. She did not pull away or seem to object. I looked into her eyes; mesmerized.
I took her hands in mine. I felt myself leaning in closer; compelled. Our lips met; fitting together like pieces of a puzzle; hers, warm and inviting. A surge raced through my body; a feeling I’ve never felt before; one I didn’t want to end. From hers soft moans, I could surmise that it was just as pleasant for her.
I wanted to blurt out that I loved her, but was afraid it would scare her off.
“Wow!” was all I could muster.
“It’s everything I imagined it would be,” she said.
“Yeah! Just wow!” I said, wanting to crawl under a rock as soon as the words slipped past my lips.
“Such an expanded vocabulary; it’s a wonder you made it to high school!” she teased.
“Sorry; it’s just…you know…trying to take it all in; it seems so surreal. You know – you – me – I wouldn’t have imagined,” I laughed nervously, ”I mean I’ve imagined it all the time; I just never thought it would actually happen. I don’t know what you could possibly see in someone like me.”
“I really should go. My father will be home soon, and I need to have my homework done before he gets there.”
“Will I see you again? That’s a stupid question! D’oh! What I mean is...”
“I know what you mean, and you can count on it,” she said, flashing that winning smile of hers.
“Great!” was all I could muster as I pulled her into a hug.
She turned and left. She had left her parked car on the street. As this was a dead end, there was no danger of anyone or anything hitting it.
I felt my knees buckle a she drove off, wondering how I had managed not to collapse in her arms this whole time. I took a minute to collect myself, and then went into the house. I, too, still had homework to get done.
Dusty had finished his homework and was playing the game I had set up for him.
“Thanks, Smoke! I love it!” was all he managed between button mashes.
“No problem! I’m glad I was able to fix it for you. Does that game have a two-player mode?”
“Yeah, it does! We’ll have to play together sometime,” he said, reading my mind.
“What happened out there, Smoke?” Onyx asked impatiently.
“What; where?” I asked, trying to avoid talking about my awkward evening.
“Gah! You know what I’m talking about! Outside; on the porch; with the girl? Hello? Earth to Smoky!” He chided.
This kid was well ahead of his biological clock. I’ll bet I could learn a thing or two from him, but I wasn’t about to discuss tonight with him.
“Dang, I never get to hear the good stuff. Might as well go to bed,” he huffed.
“Sounds like a plan, squirt!” I said absently, as I continued to work on my homework.
Onyx padded off to bed and I finished my homework in silence. Dusty wasn’t the least bit interested in what happened; and I was glad for that.
With the help of the twins, I was able to get the nectar machine polished and shining; looking like new. I had a few more adjustments to make on the more before heading up for the triplets’ birthday.
“Yay for more cake in the fridge!” I thought to myself.
I finished up and headed upstairs. I found El waiting in the kitchen, looking alluring, as usual. I couldn’t help but scoop her into my arms. She was always so affectionate, I couldn’t resist.
We embraced and had just begun to kiss when the boys came in voicing their disgust at our amorous behavior.
“Eww; yuck; gross! Go get a room!” they said in unison.
I held El a little longer just to egg them on. El enjoyed the little taunting as much as I did, I’m sure.
We retrieved the cakes from the fridge and got out the party favors. I can’t believe the triplets are getting ready for middle school. They grow up all too fast. On a selfish note, I’ll have three more bodies to help with the business.
The boys just went down the line; Grey taking the lead. I can’t believe that he had THAT much to wish for that took him so long.
I spoke too soon; Onyx match his lengthy wish process.
Coal seemed to know exactly what he wanted to wish for, taking the least amount of time. It could be that he had the most time to think about his wish, too.
I’m surprised we haven’t been plagued with dental bills; what with all the cake we’ve consumed in this house over the years.
I looked around the table at each of the boys, thankful for such a healthy, good looking brood. I only wish I could have given El the daughter she so badly wanted.
In the coming days, we moved the work bench down to the lower level. I still don’t know what to call this space; a shed; basement; cellar; barn.
All of the boys pitched in and helped build a second nectar machine. It took just over a week to complete with all of working together.
Dusty was the first to volunteer his assistance. Although he wouldn’t mash the fruit, he would get the machines running after I had.
The process ran a lot smoother now and we are able to produce great nectar at a much faster pace. We’ve been able to keep the shelves at the Consignment Shop filled while catering to our private requests as well.
After clearing away all of the brush, we were left with a bare slope heading down from the back of the house. We spent many evenings mulling over what to do with that space, coming up empty most of the time.
Smoky was the one who finally suggested moving the garden to the slopes as the ground wasn’t of much use for anything else. Not only was this a prudent use of the space, but it brought the crops closer to the nectar machines.
Now that all of the boys were able to fend for themselves, El was finding herself a bit lonely in the house all day by herself with nothing much to do. Many days, she help me in the garden.
“It gives me a sense of well-being, knowing I’m replenishing the Earth,” she would say.
Who was I to argue? I was happy that she wanted to help; to be with me.