Off to College
Gunter’s right; she is a spoiled darling. He blames me, but – born of my body, fed of body – how can I cut the apron strings when she is always at my leg as I cook, eager to stir, giddy to hold the knife? And did I spoil her by myself? Who sewed her scarlet cape? I have no time for that! What I’ve done is teach her the necessities: berry-picking, baking, sweeping the hearth. If I sing and tell stories so doing, I see no error. It’s isolated here. Are we to be bored out of our minds?
Anyway, to quiet them — and I say them, because I know he gets it from his mother — I am sending her out!
My oven mitts swallow Red’s elbows as she takes the bread out all by herself. Its smell wafts through the cottage. Mmmmm. Her eyes grow round, “What big loaves these are!”
“The better for your trip to grandma’s,” I say.
“What a big jar of jam!”
“So granny can’t call me stingy,” I don’t say; I am not looking for trouble. We wrap the bread in fresh linen. Mamma Gunt derides this as wasteful, but she refuses to eat anything wrapped in rags, and if I know her – and I do! – she’ll send the same linen back to us at yuletide, embroidered with everything Red loves.
Red digs her fingers into the loaf and gobbles a handful of bread which she promptly spits on the floor. “Too hot!” She dances with her tongue out and her cape swirling. I tell her the bread won’t cool until she reaches Grandma’s, but the smell will attract every bird in the forest. She’ll have a chirpy stroll!
“Should I leave a trail, like the boy in the story?”
“And what will be left for you and Grandma?” I ask.
At the door, Red pulls my hand and begs me to come. I nearly relent, but Gunter promised me new thresh today which means not only a sweet-smelling cabin, but a sweet-smelling Gunter. In the afternoon. Alone.
“I promised Granny she’d have you to herself,” I say.
“But I’ll get lost.” She means it. I realize Gunter’s mother is right; Red needs to grow up.
“Impossible,” I soothe, “just stay on the path; it winds straight to Grandma’s. You know that.” My heartstrings pull as Red bounces off like a sparrow. So happy, so full of life. I feel a tear in my chest, but I must let her go. It’s half a mile, what can happen? When Gunter brings the thresh and finds me alone, he will be amazed. I’ll tell him that I pushed one bird out of the nest so a new egg might well inside me.
Then again, Gunter’s not one for poetry. I’ll just thrash about in the thresh ‘till he gets the idea.
Then tonight Red can tell us about her adventure!
MFC Feeley lives in Tuxedo, NY and attended UC Berkeley and NYU. She recently completed a series of ten stories inspired by the Bill of Rights for Ghost Parachute and has published in SmokeLong, Northern New England Review, Brevity Blog, Liar’s League, and others. She was a Fellow at the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing and twice received scholarships to the Wesleyan Writers Conference. Winner of the 2018 Raven Prize for Creative Non-Fiction, she has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, The Pushcart Prize, and was an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Quarter-finalist. She has judged for Mash Stories and Scholastic. More at MFC Feeley/Facebook and on Twitter MFC Feeley @FeeleyMfc
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