Honeycomb wakes with the sun. She allows her eyes time to adjust to the morning light, then lifts herself from the bed and takes her daily, calculated steps to Corro’s bedside. Brushing the hair of her slumbering grandmother, Honeycomb reflects on the days when the white hair beneath her fingertips was the type of grey a storm brings; and, long before then, when Corro’s hair was a young, vibrant black.
Honeycomb leaves her grandmother to welcome the morning into the family home. She opens all the blinds. She opens all the windows. Then she sits on her favorite chair, smiling, with the morning sun warming her legs.
Spook is the first to trudge into the living room, sleep still in his eyes.
“Morning, nephew,” Honeycomb says.”
“Grandma is talking again.”
“She is?!” asks Spook excitedly, brushing the sleep from the corner of his eyes and perking up noticeably at the thought of his great-grandmother speaking.
“Mostly mumbles. But sometimes she says things only she can know…things from her childhood and my childhood. Sometimes her whispers make me young and I am sneaking out to the Badlands and playing tricks on Porter-Bar and your father.”
“You snuck out to the badlands?
“Of course. I was young like you, once.”
Spook has never considered the adventurous side of his aunt. For as long as he has known Honeycomb, she has taken care of his great-grandmother. Honeycomb leaves the family house to buy groceries or to visit the family restaurant a half-mile away. But most days she quietly goes about her business, tending to homely matters that, to Spook, seem trivial and mundane. Years later, though, when Spook is in his twenties and his great-grandmother has passed, he will understand Honeycomb more genuinely, and will cry many tears for his aunt’s compassion and care-giver strength during the days when Corro grew old and wrinkled, like layers and layers of folded laundry.
“Was grandma always as weak as she is now?” Spook asks after a time.
“Not always, nephew. No, when we were young she was stronger than any woman I had ever met.”
“She had muscles?”
“No,” laughs Honeycomb. “Not strong like that. A different kind of strong. It’s inside you. Not outside.” She sits in her chair, the sunlight laughing itself around her, and gazes out the window in remembrance. Spook does not press her for more answers. He understands the way his aunt works. In and out of conversation. Eyes sometimes aware, sometimes glazed. Her duality fascinates him. Indeed, there are times Spook wonders what goes on in her mind, why sometimes she will stop mid-sentence to admire a passing butterfly or to take note of the way a tree leaf falls to the ground. But her genuine kind-heartedness, infinite supply of happiness, positive spirit and positively aloof demeanor have earned her a special place in Spook’s heart, and he takes his aunt for who she is, quirks and all.
Spook leaves Honeycomb to her pondering and walks by his great-grandmother’s room. All is dark. The sounds of Corro’s steady dream-breathing competes with the chirping birds outside her closed windows. The soothing scent of Mentholatum, the family’s “cure-all” ointment, fills the room. A topical analgesic rub with aromatic vapors, Spook is under the impression that the pungent substance works on everything…bruises…broken bones…sickness…death. It saddens him, then, and confuses him to hear of his great-grandmother’s decline, since Corro has rubbed Mentholatum on herself as long as Spook can remember.
Feeling the urge to wake his great-grandmother, Spook opens all the blinds and windows. Summer comes through in a rush of fresh air and sunshine. Corro’s old necklaces and rings sparkle in the light. Her bibles and crosses and precious heirlooms hug the warmth and look livelier. The summer wind tickles Corro’s face, intertwining itself in her grey hair and tickling her cheeks like a feather. The softness of the wind causes Corro to stir. Then her eyes open to take in the light Spook has given her.
For a minute…two…three…Corro breathes in the scents of her room, the Mentholatum, the dust-bunnies swirling on the ground and the flowery scents of her newly washed linen sheets. She tests the movements of her limbs. She starts with her fingers, her delicate, weathered fingers and ends with her toes, all ten of them, wiggling and wiggling like all the piggies that went wee wee wee all the way home…
Then she sees Spook.
And he sees her.
“My Spooky,” she says, desperately looking at her great-grandchild like the collapse of her era is imminent, and the face in front of her is the only messenger to carry her tale. It is the first time Corro’s coherence has pushed through the disorientation in weeks. It is the first time she has recognized Spook in months.
“I’m here Grandma,” Spook replies with tears in his eyes. He holds Corro’s hands, which are even smaller than his own. A teardrop from Spook’s face falls on Corro’s wrist and blends in with her age spots. She is frail but her voice is strong. Healthy. Alive.
“This house, we built it for the children and grandchildren,” she says. Everything is quiet. Even the chirping birds have paused for this moment. “The house is for the children…the grandchildren…promise me…” her voice trails off and the wind wraps itself around her soft linen sheets, frilling them up and around Corro like white Downy wings, freshly pressed.
“Nothing will happen to this house, grandma,” begins Spook. “I promise. We all live here. We eat in the kitchen, remember? And Porter-Bar sleeps upstairs and keeps the lawn fresh and green. And Spayho throws yarn balls in the trees out back. And Honeycomb makes sure to light all the candles and makes sure the windows are open. This house won’t go anywhere. It doesn’t have legs.”
Corro seems satisfied with his response. Only for a second, though, before the alarm creeps back into her eyes, like a robber is in her brain attempting to bag her memories, and her blue eyes focus on Spook, and her lips move and her voice comes through in rasps and crinkles.
“Catch them,” she says to Spook. “At the pond…catch them.”
“The fish? Catch the fish, Grandma?”
Corro shakes her head. Something else, then. But what?
“Catch what? Grandma, catch what? Catch what?!”
Tears puddle in Corro’s eyes, those blue eyes that sparkle like Mariano’s Pond on a crisp morning; a morning with a dazzling sun dripping itself on the placid water, spilling itself on the trees and whistling grasses surrounding the pond so that everything is clear, see a thousand miles clear, with hints of golden dust particles flying in the sky as dawn raises its banners in the east, eager to repair any damages the night has left. Corro’s energy sputters out. She releases the tension in her arms and legs and snuggles more firmly into the bed and her wing-sheets. Her eyes close. Summer sleep takes her before Spook can get an answer to his question.
Spook wipes the tears from his face. He sees a pencil and notebook lying in the corner, and briefly considers writing Corro’s words down, but decides some things are better left unwritten. Before leaving the room, he lifts the lid of Corro’s jewelry box to watch the spinning ballerina, and to listen to the box’s scratchy, almost inaudible music. Corro told him years back that the music never played properly. She said she purchased the box knowing its fault, that its defunct somehow made it more charming. Spook laughed at her, then, and called her silly, wondering how anyone could ever find peace in a splintered song.
But now, with the archaic sounds of the jewelry box tussling his emotions, his half-broken great-grandmother sleeping in her bed, and her words mysteriously spinning confusion webs in the expanses of his imagination, Spook understands why Corro thought a nickel a reasonable price to pay for a jewelry box with a ballerina that continues to spin despite the broken sounds threatening to end her dance.
Nighttime brings with it annoying mosquitos and flying insects. Everything cannot be perfect in paradise, or so Aunt Cake says, as she uses a rolled up newspaper to swing and miss at the aerial threats trying to use her hair as a landing strip. Lamplights flicker around the family yard, spotting it with shadows. Spook and Spayho lounge on a wooden table causally placed on the lawn, so they can lay and watch the summer night surprise them with shooting stars and other astronomical ways to cast wishes that may or may not come true.
“What did you wish for?” asks Spook after the seventh shooting star winks out.
“Can’t say,” replies Spayho.
“We’ve been over this before…see, you can’t tell someone your wish because then it won’t come true. And wasted wishes are the worst, since you selfishly took a wish away from someone else who may have seen the same shooting star and maybe that person needs the wish more, like Old Dumpey on Main St. who lives in a box, or Mrs. Spindle who always loses her cat in the tree…and you wouldn’t want to steal a wish from Mrs. Spindle, right? I mean, you play with her cat and she gives us lemonade when it’s hot and why would you steal a wish from a kind lady? Get it?”
“I guess. But maybe Dumpey and Mrs. Spindle are wasting their wishes too?! This could get bad if everyone starts wasting wishes? What should we do?”
“Not sure there’s anything we can do,” says Spaho dejectedly. “Besides, we have more important things to consider, like what bait to use at the pond tomorrow.”
“Well, I am starting to second guess our entire approach,” replies Spook. He tells Spayho about his earlier conversation with Corro. “Seems to me like Corro thinks there is more than fish in the pond- mermaids or alligators or piranhas or…or…anything!- and whatever is in there definitely doesn’t like the bait we have used.”
“What are you suggesting?”
“That we come up with a plan to lure them out. For bait we can try peanut-butter, or tortillas. Maybe dribble some soda on some french fries…I don’t know…whatever is in there could eat anything.”
“Soda french fries? Really?”
“Shooting star!” shouts Spayho, shutting her eyes real tight, making the proper wish, then opening them to see the streaking star wink out.
“What did you wish…” starts Spook, “…I mean…sorry…I forgot…wasted wishes…right….anyways…about our bait problem…let’s make a list of all the things we like…things that we can use as bait. If the things in the pond are anything like us, they will definitely appreciate Ice Cream and Candy and basically anything with sugar.”
“You sound like Porter-Bar. Delusional.”
“You sound like an adult. Stupid.”
“Fine. I’ll help you. Not because I believe there are aliens or witches or submarines in the pond. Only because I am interested if the fish in there will go for the absurdities you are talking about using as bait.”
“You laugh now.”
“I am definitely laughing.”
Spook eventually catches Spayho’s giggle fit and soon the two of them are laughing on the grass, having rolled right off the table, neither able to breathe while the other is still laughing; like magnetic forces bouncing off the energy of one another until the giggles end. Then the contemplation comes, and the starry night reflects in Spook’s eyes as he thinks about what else could be in the pond, and the starry night reflects in Spayho’s eyes as she sits on the fence of her own imagination, trying to discern the silly seriousness of the situation, of Corro’s words, of Spook’s innocent enthusiasm, of her declining adoration of all things imaginative and the increasing rationality overtaking her adolescent mind. Ghost fish? Alien Fish? Mermaids? With the last of Spayho’s childhood grains dropping through time’s hourglass, she decides that this summer, and this crazy adventure, will be her last time to run with all things wild, creative, imaginative, and, most importantly, irrational.
“I’m in,” she finally says. “But about those soda french fries…”
End of Chapter 2