After leaving the pond, Daniel didn’t go back to the farmhouse right away. He spent a lot of time wandering around, looking at everything which, since his encounter with the frog, seemed perfectly ordinary.
He played “fetch” with Towser until the boy got bored (the dog never got bored with “fetch”), he found Fearful Symmetry and two of her three kittens (the pink one was still missing) near the barn and petted them for a while. He even peeked into the henhouse only to find it was still an ordinary henhouse with ordinary hens.
Finally, he slipped back into the backdoor of the house and into the kitchen.
“Is that you, Danny?” He heard Aunt Abby’s voice coming from the living room.
“Yes, Aunt Abby.”
Presently, she entered, opened up the refrigerator and produced a bowl of grapes. “Thought you might be hungry for a snack by now.”
The boy sat at the kitchen table. “Thanks, Auntie.” He hadn’t called her “Auntie,” at least not regularly, since he was little. Daniel was feeling little right now.
Abby sat down next to him. “I know that look, Danny. What’s bothering you. Are you feeling alright?”
The ten year old smiled slightly at how insane the question sounded to him just now.
“I’m…not sure.” He munched a few grapes as his Aunt waited patiently. She was a great listener, almost as good as Towser. He liked Fearful better, but cats don’t hang around long enough to listen like dogs do.
“I mean…have you ever seen or heard things that couldn’t be real?”
“Like what, child?”
He stared at the bowl of grapes half expecting them to do something impossible.
“Like…like seeing a pink kitten or hearing a frog talk.” There. He said it. Now she’d know he was going crazy.
“It just sounds like you’re letting your imagination run away with you.”
“That’s never happened before, Aunt Abby,” he pleaded. Daniel was beginning to wonder if even seeing anomalies where everyone else saw people was some kind of illusion, too.
“You’re getting older, Daniel.” He was slightly surprised to hear her address him by his preferred name. “A lot of things are going to be changing in your life in the next couple of years. You’re not so little anymore.”
Mom and Dad decided that at age ten, he was still a bit too young to have the “puberty talk,” but just in listening to adults over the years, he pieced it all together. Was that what Aunt Abby was trying to say?
He looked at the bowl again and realized he’d eaten all of the grapes just as Towser barged in through the dog door. The canine was a notorious mooch in the kitchen.
Aunt Abby stood and scolded the dog. “Now you just get, Towser. You got fed this morning.” Towser let Abby take him by the collar and escort him outside. Did Daniel see a fleck of red on the retriever’s face?
His aunt sat down next to him again. “I’m pretty sure you’re going to be okay, Danny. You only come out here once a year. Maybe you’re still adjusting to the change of scenery.”
Daniel could tell he wasn’t going to get much mileage out of his aunt. She didn’t seem the keen listener he remembered, and she was too determined to minimize his concerns. If he told her anymore, she might even accuse him of making up tall tales, though he never did before, even when he was much younger.
The boy stood up. “Thanks for the grapes and the talk, Aunt Abby. Where’s Uncle Ethan anyway.”
“Oh, he’s over at the Swigert farm. Ben’s tractor broke down again and he went to help get it going. I swear, Ben should just get a new tractor.”
“Okay. Thanks again for the grapes.”
Daniel went back outside and heard his Aunt calling, “Have a good time. Just be back by supper.”
He was given a lot of freedom on the farm, far more than he ever got back home. The trouble was, no one was ever around to witness what he’d been seeing for the past couple of days.
“Now where did that dog go? Towser. Towser, come here.” Daniel figured he and the dog could walk up the road. It wasn’t far to Ben Swigert’s place, and he’d like to see the two men try to breathe life back into that aging John Deere.
But Towser was too far away by now to hear the child. He had run back to the pond following another voice. He stopped short of jumping in the water and sat as if on command.
“Good boy,” a baritone voice said from behind the reeds. Then the frog emerged holding something, pink fur covered in red. “Here, boy. Bury this.”
The dog took the lifeless pink kitten gingerly in its mouth and proceeded some yards away from the pond. Then he dug a hole as dogs are wont to do, and deposited his prey at the bottom.
“Put the dirt back, Towser. Good boy.”
Once the job was done, the frog continued.” Looks like you’ve got a little evidence on your face.” The frog noticed drops of the kitten’s blood on Towser’s whiskers. “Wash it off.”
Towser walked to the edge of the pond, inserted his snout in the water and shook his face several times. Pulling back out, he shook some more to get the water off.
“Good boy, Towser. Now go find, Daniel. Go on. He’s looking for you.”
Towser barked and ran back toward the farmhouse.
“That’s two down,” the frog muttered to himself. “But that’s only the beginning.”
Back near the barn, Daniel still had the taste of fresh grapes in his mouth as he kept calling Towser. Then he spotted the dog running at him. After fulfilling the animal’s requirement of petting, they walked out front and turned right at the main road.
“If I must have an adventure, maybe I’ll need you with me, eh?”
Towser barked and ran around Daniel, his dog’s simple mind untroubled with the thought of recently executing a kitten.
This concept is loosely based on Iain Kelly’s recent A to Z Challenge 2017 story series. Every day, Iain crafted another puzzle piece to his murder mystery that had me and his other readers spellbound. I doubt I can create the suspense he conjured up, but when my wife got a giant A to Z jigsaw puzzle for our two-year-old granddaughter, I thought I’d give it a whirl.
I don’t have a lot of time, so I think each “letter” will be shorter and I’m not sure I can write one every day, but I’ll do my best.
The previous story is F is for Frog.
The next one is H is for Hen.
Let me know what you think.