A Ragged Bunch and A Motley Crew, Chapter Twelve

by Echo Lewis, illustrated by Elaine Blier

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A serialized story for the summer of 2003

Uncle Don, wandering out behind the garage, came upon Andy, sitting on the grass, leaning up against the garage wall. His long legs were stretched out in front of him and he wasn't doing a thing. He wasn't reading, working on a project, or even sneaking a bag of cookies (which he had been known to do on occasion.)

If it had been Tony sitting there, his father wouldn't have blinked an eye. Tony might have been studying cloud formations, comparing the different styles of flight that distinguish various types of birds, or any one of a hundred different pastimes.

But Andy's interests usually took a more active form, like trying to build a two-story, A-frame tree house or making a swinging bridge to span the river.

"Good grief!" his startled father said, when he found him sitting so still. "What are you up to? Or, more to the point, what are you thinking of being up to?"

Andy ignored his father's accusation that he must be plotting mischief.

"Dad," he said seriously, "I've been thinking. Why does Laura still act so strange sometimes? Usually she's okay now, but she still keeps starting to run away for no reason, like she suddenly gets afraid of us, or something. And when we ask her what's the matter, she acts as though she doesn't even know."

"Like yesterday, for instance."

Andy told his father about Laura's flight from them at the beaver dam.

Uncle Don dropped down and sat next to his son, listening attentively until Andy finished his story. Then he tried to explain as much as he felt his young son could understand.

"Andy," he said, "Laura hasn't had the stable kind of life that you kids have. Her father was a very unhappy man and he didn't know how to be a good father for Laura."

"What about her mother?"

"She did the best she could, but a lot of her energy was taken up with her husband's unhappiness and trying to keep the household together. So she couldn't give Laura very much attention."

"She must have been pretty lonely."

"Yes," his father agreed. "And scared. It's frightening to feel so alone, especially when you're very young. And Laura has always been afraid that she caused her father's unhappiness and anger."

"So she tried to be very good. But even when she was doing her best, he still got angry and often left home. That hurt and confused Laura a great deal."

"Once in a while," he continued, "Out of nowhere, he was nice to Laura. That confused her as much as his anger did, because she never knew which way he was going to react to her."

"It was too much for Laura to handle. So, she often withdrew into her own world, where it was safe and not so threatening."

Uncle Don stopped for a second. "Are you still with me?" he asked.

Andy nodded. "Go ahead."

"Well, because of all that, every day in Laura's life was a problem. She had to be on her guard at all times, waiting for an explosion and preparing to protect herself."

"When she seems to get scared for no reason sometimes, it's probably because she's caught herself beginning to relax and that makes her feel afraid and defenseless all over again.

"When someone has been as hurt as Laura has in her heart, it takes a long time for her to learn to trust in people's love. We have to be patient."

Andy's father studied his son's face, wondering how much he had been able to understand.

Andy thought it all over carefully, then said, "Dad, we love Laura already. She's like our sister. If we keep loving her, even if we don't understand her sometimes, is that a stable environment that she can learn to trust?"

Uncle Don smiled. His young son understood enough "Yes, Andy," he said, "It is."

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