One lovely cool night in the ovens of August, Mum said,
‘Children, sleep in tomorrow. The heat’s drained us all.’
Oh, joy and excitement! Not to get up at seven!
The richness of privilege when you weren’t even sick!
We went to bed early, my sisters and I, and giggled for
hours, milking the marrow of : You can sleep late.
But Nan, who was two, dropped off like a stone, and woke
with the twittering birds before dawn. She remembered
the whisperings under the sheets: SSHSH! Isn’t this GREAT!
and left all our bumps in the bed. The sun barely glowing
she crept from the house. It was a clear morning still dewed
from the night, the best time to play with the puppies: no one
to boss her, or tease her, or comb her hair! Upstairs in our
dreams we drifted with leisure when an outraged shriek
rent the air, then yipping and yowling in cacophonous chorus.
We heard Dad’s feet hit the floor, with Mum hard at his heels.
Stumbling and pushing we raced down the stairs, trying to
focus through sleep-bleary eyes. ‘Wha’zhappn’n!’ All of us
tumbled out into the sunshine crying together, ‘What’s wrong?’
Nan lay on the grass in her wee white nightie, the blood spots ripe
in the dazzling light. Her fair brows knit darkly as she crawled to
the porch scowling ferociously under the steps. The big male pup
shrank back, whining faintly, licking its paw with a sloppy pink
tongue. Nan sat on her haunches and noticed her gown. ‘Ooh,’
she said. ‘What on earth is going on?’ our dad demanded, still rather
addled by sleep and confusion. ‘Well,’ answered Nan, her gamin eyes
brightening, and turning on us a self-satisfied smile. ‘He bited me first, so I
bite him back.’ She glared at the drooling pup. ‘No pancakes for you today!’
Cynthia Buell Thomas