January 12, 1966
Jocie Brooke here reporting from Hollyhill, Kentucky. It’s January. Do you like January? Dad says you should like every day. That every day is a gift from the Lord, but somehow January days can feel like grab bag gifts that don’t have anything in them but broken crayons. I got a grab bag like that once. It was at the school fall festival when I was a little kid. They had this bunch of brown paper bags in a big box. For a quarter, I got to pick one of the bags.
I imagined the most wonderful things in those brown paper bags. Perfume that actually smelled good. Or maybe a miniature doll. A set of jacks. The prettiest marbles in the world. Or maybe a gold locket or an ID bracelet. I’d always wanted an ID bracelet with my name engraved on it. I don’t know how I thought my name would be on a bracelet in one of those bags, but nothing seemed impossible as I looked at those brown paper bags full of imagined treasures.
I didn’t imagine broken crayons. Judy Wilson’s mother was working the grab bag booth when I made my unlucky pick. She said surely the crayons weren’t broken when they were put in the bag, but even unbroken, the crayons wouldn’t have lived up to my expectations. I looked at the crayons and burst out in tears. It was so embarrassing, but you’ve got to remember that I was just a little kid then. Only six.
Mrs. Wilson wanted to let me pick another sack, but Aunt Love said no. Said I should be happy with whatever prize I got and it would be a good lesson to teach me not to let my imagination get carried away.
I thought Mrs. Wilson was going to cry with me then, but what could she say with Aunt Love so determined to teach me a lesson about not getting my hopes up so high? Mrs. Wilson knew about my mother going off and deserting me and I guess she thought that was enough lesson about how things can go wrong.
She didn’t give me another bag, but she did take my hand and walk me over to a different game. One where you picked up ducks out of a tub of water. I was much luckier with that draw. Mrs. Wilson looked at the number on the bottom of the duck and dropped it back in the water without me seeing what the number was. She said it was for the best prize there. A necklace with a glass heart that sparkled in the light. I don’t know if she cheated on the number or not, but I did know that I’d been given a gift of kindness. Even then when I was just a little kid.
Have you ever been given a gift of kindness like that? After you got a grab bag of bad luck?
Are you ready for the next part of Bailey’s story? Well, here goes.
Bailey’s Bug by Jocie Brooke
(Continued from last week. The whole story is under the Bailey’s Bug link up top.)
The country went on and on. During the day, they walked until their feet hurt, then napped in the sun. At night, they stopped wherever Lucinda found a tree with good limbs for sleeping because the coyotes made her nervous.
Bailey was used to the coyotes’ howling now and to the owls that hooted and screeched. Once he quit jumping at shadows and got used to the woods being a noisy place, he slept almost as good out in the open as he had on his rug back at the Robinsons’ house.
When a noise did wake him, he blinked open his eyes, sniffed the air and tried to sort out what made the noise. They had been in the woods a couple of nights when Bailey decided silence was the noise to worry about the most. As long as the frogs and bugs kept singing, everything was the way it was supposed to be. When they fell silent, that’s when Bailey got up, a growl deep in his throat, just in case something was out there in the dark.
The daytime held dangers too, both in the woods and in the wide open fields where what Lucinda called cows ate grass. Lucinda made them walk wide circles around the big clumsy looking animals.
One day when they forgot to listen to Lucinda and walked too close to the cows, one of them lowered its head and ran at them faster than Bailey thought possible. He skittered out of the way, but Skelley wasn’t quick enough. The cow gave the old dog a good toss.
Bailey barked at the cow who shook its head at him and went back to eating grass.
When Skelley caught his breath, he stood up and shook his skin back in place over his bones. “I’ll take an elephant any day. Ye can reason with an elephant.”
“I told you to stay away from them,” Lucinda said.
“It appears you were right about that, Miss Lucinda.” Skelley looked around. “Do ye see where my baton might have landed?”
“I’ll find it.” Lucinda was off before the dogs could stop her.
Bailey and Skelley inched along behind her, ready to charge to Lucinda’s rescue, but the cows paid no attention to the cat. She found the stick and dropped it at Skelley’s feet.
“I do thank ye, Miss Lucinda. I wouldn’t be wanting to go on without me master’s baton.” He ran his nose up and down the stick to make sure it hadn’t been damaged by the cow.
“I don’t know why any of us are going on.” Lucinda sounded cross. “We’ve gone miles and miles and what have we found? Cows and coyotes. Dirt and thorns.” She licked one of her sore feet.
She stopped and stared off across the field. Somehow Bailey knew she was thinking about cushions in windows.
He wanted to tell her they were close, but he didn’t know whether that was true or not. The hum in his ear was steady, always in his head except when thunder boomed above them and crowded out everything but the need to find a place to hide until the storm blew past.
Bailey wanted Reid to be close. Each hill they came to, he hoped Reid’s new house would be just on the other side. But then there would be another hill. He looked across the field to where the trees met the sky. “Do you think we’re in another state yet?”
“I wouldn’t be doubting it,” Skelley said. “The states, they just run one right into another, and I never knew how me master could tell when we were in a new one, but he always knew.”
“Then we’re probably almost there.” Bailey tried to sound as sure as he could.
But Lucinda knew him too well. “You don’t know where we are. We’re probably going in circles.”
“He’s not doing that.” Skelley took up for Bailey. “We’ve been heading toward the sunrise every day. Never the sunset. We’re keeping a straight line, for a truth.”
(To be continued)