A Ragged Bunch and A Motley Crew, Chapter One

by Echo Lewis, illustrated by Elaine Blier

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A serialized story for the summer of 2003

"Drink! Drink!" ordered Uncle Don.

A shudder ran through Laura's body and she blanched. Recovering, she obediently reached out and picked up the glass of milk sitting on the kitchen table in front of her.

Uncle Don, seeing the effect of his words, quickly apologized "I'm sorry, Munchkin. I didn't mean to scare you."

Laura smiled tentatively across the table at him, accepting his apology.

"You okay now?" he asked.

She nodded and relaxed in her kneeling position on the chair.

Uncle Don relaxed then too and once more bent over his project. A peaceful late-night winter stillness filled the kitchen and the two of them as Uncle Don worked and Laura watched.

Suddenly, out of the silence, an explosion of words and motions erupted from Uncle Don.

"Oh, no!" he cried, rising up on his toes and waving his arms. The icing gun in his hand dripped a long flapping rope of white frosting from its spout. "Stop! Don't do it!"

Each frantic wave of his arms and each new exclamation brought Uncle Don's voice up another octave. He lifted even higher on his toes, until he almost seemed to be suspended in mid-air.

The flapping rope of frosting, lost its grip on the spout, flew from the icing gun and hit the wall behind Uncle Don, forming a perfect pretzel shape.

Only Laura saw it happen. Uncle Don didn't notice. His voice reaching a high falsetto, he yelled down at his work, pleading with it. "Don't move, I tell you! Don't fall!"

Laura's silent gaze moved from the icing pretzel on the wall to the icing on Uncle Don's giant creation. He had just finished painstakingly adding frosting icicles along all the eaves of an elaborate, three-story Colonial gingerbread house.

The icicles were the final, masterful touch of Uncle Don's many-hour, pre-Christmas present for Laura.

He willed, with voice, gesture and intensity for the icicle to stop sliding downward and stay put.

When it became clear that the icicles were actually going to stick in place and not slip down the sides of the house, Uncle Don dropped down from his toes, placed the frosting gun gently on the table and let out a long drawn-out sigh.

"AAAaahhh. . . That's it," His voice, too, dropped back down to normal.

"You have just witnessed," he told Laura in a matter-of-fact, but rather satisfied air, "a short demonstration of high creative tension."

Laura stared at her uncle in amazement. In her ten years of existence she had never known anyone like him. Was he always like this?

Read on to Chapter Two

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