A Ragged Bunch and A Motley Crew, Chapter Thirteen
by Echo Lewis, illustrated by Elaine Blier
A serialized story for the summer of 2003
"But I don't want to!"
"It's your turn!"
"It is not!"
"It is too!"
"I'll do it myself, then! '
The tail end of a full-scale argument and the sound of shattering glass greeted Aunt Amelia's ears as she strolled past the kitchen doorway on her way to the living room.
Taking a quick right, she walked into the kitchen to survey the scene.
Three children with stricken looks on their faces stood around jagged pieces of broken glass lying on the floor "Okay," Aunt Amelia confronted Laura, Tony and Andy, "what happened?"
They all turned their gaze from the floor to their mother and aunt.
"It's my fault," Andy piped up immediately.
"No, it was my fault," Tony insisted.
"No, sir, it was mine," Andy glared at Tony.
"Mine!" Tony glared back.
"Stop!" demanded Aunt Amelia.
A breath of silence ensued.
"Now," she said calmly, "Let's try this again. What happened?"
Tony and Andy looked at each other stubbornly. Then, in a single inspiration, they turned as one to face their mother again.
"It was our fault!" they confessed gleefully.
Another short silence followed their cheerful admission.
Laura, sinking all the time into deeper and deeper misery, whispered into the stillness, "It's my fault. I did it."
"Laura, no!" exclaimed Andy.
"Don't listen to her, Mom," Tony chimed in. "She doesn't know what she's saying!"
The twins, moving closer to Laura, hovered protectively one on either side of her. They faced their mother with a grand combination of defiance and chivalry.
Aunt Amelia was unintimidated by their stance. Thinking quickly she reached a decision.
"There's only one way to handle this," she said. "I will use a famous Old Testament trick invented by a young man named Daniel. You will remember him from the lions' den, I suspect."
The boys nervously stood their ground next to Laura. Their mother somehow always seemed to get the better of them. They could already feel the ground slipping out from under their feet.
"Tony," she said. "Andy. Out with you. Come back in fifteen minutes. I want to talk with Laura alone."
The twins' dismayed voices had no effect. She had made her decision and that was that.
Giving Laura helpless looks of sympathy, they left the kitchen and wandered out into the back yard. There they stuck close to the house, in case Laura should need them.
Inside the kitchen, Aunt Amelia looked at Laura. She felt badly for the child and her obvious misery, but she was sure there was something good about all this, too, if she could just put her finger on it.
"Laura," she said, "What really happened? The boys are so protective of you that I know I won't get a straight answer from them."
Laura, afraid to look up at her aunt, stared at the broken pieces of glass on the floor as she related the details of the accident.
"I dropped it," she said so softly that Aunt Amelia had to strain to hear her.
"I was washing and Tony and Andy were drying. They started arguing about who was supposed to do the putting away and I got mad at both of them and grabbed the glass out of their hands and it slipped and broke."
Now Aunt Amelia knew what was good about the situation. Laura had gotten mad at the twins. That was a sure sign that she was beginning to feel comfortable, at least with the twins.
But when Laura finished her tale and forced herself to look up at her aunt, she asked, "Are you going to send me away now?"
"What!" exclaimed Aunt Amelia. Would this child ever stop surprising her? "Why in the world would we send you away?"
"I was very bad. And I broke your glass. Now you won't want me to stay with you anymore."
Aunt Amelia stared at Laura in disbelief. Was she still trying, after all the months she'd been with them, to be extremely good so that they wouldn't send her away?
Praying that she'd reassure the child and reaching past Laura to pick up a glass from the counter by the sink, Aunt Amelia said, "Accidents can happen because of misbehaving all right, but they usually don't bring on the end of the world. Watch."
Laura felt so heavy and weighted down that it took all her energy to lift her bowed head and look at Aunt Amelia
As she looked up, her eyes suddenly opened wide in amazement. She jumped backward, startled out of her misery. Aunt Amelia held up the glass in her hand. As soon as Laura got a good look at it, she let it go. It crashed to the floor and lay there in pieces, mixed in with the pieces of the glass Laura had dropped earlier.
Aunt Amelia, with a slight smile, said, "Well, I see I've caught your attention. Now, tell me, did the world fall apart when the glass hit the floor? Are they going to send me away too?"
Laura, still gazing at her aunt in wide-eyed amazement, almost laughed. She could picture the two of them, suitcases in hand, wandering off down the road together.
Aunt Amelia chuckled. She knew what her niece was thinking. "I am getting a little too old and chubby for that sort of thing, aren't I?"
Laura blushed with embarrassment at having been caught with the picture of the two of them in her mind. But it would be a funny sight.
"Feeling better?" her aunt asked.
"Yes," Laura admitted. She knew nobody was going to send Aunt Amelia away. So maybe they wouldn't send her anywhere either.
"You see, child," Aunt Amelia explained, as she fetched a broom and dustpan from the little kitchen closet, "It's necessary to get a proper perspective on things. That means finding the proper discipline to fit the crime. If we sent away our children every time they were bad, pretty soon we wouldn't have any children left to send. What do you think of that?"
Laura, holding the dustpan in place for her aunt to sweep the pieces of glass into, didn't know what she thought of anything. She was entirely bewildered. Aunt Amelia was a peculiar and hard to understand as Uncle Don!
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