Scenes from the novel VIII

Emily inched her way around the house. She looked carefully where she placed her feet, trying not to step on any twigs. She could hear voices from inside. The voices sounded pretty close, but if she was very quiet, maybe they wouldn’t hear her. She knew that her footsteps were leaving impressions in the muddy ground, and so they’d be able to tell that she’d been here. But by then it shouldn’t matter anyway, since she’d already be gone.

She inched along the wall, trying really hard to be quiet, not even to breathe too much. When she was sure of the next footstep she would look up at the mural along the side of the house. She could tell from the pictures that she was getting there, slowly but steadily. The voices inside were even louder now. It sounded like an argument.

Finally she found it – the painting of the two white chickens – a hen and a rooster, a girl chicken and boy chicken. It was the same funny picture she’d seen in the book, with the chickens looking into each other’s eyes, like they were on their honeymoon. She wondered whether chickens have honeymoons. And if they do, where do they go? Maybe there’s a resort somewhere just for chickens in love. For a moment she saw an image in her mind of the girl chicken wearing a two piece bathing suit, and she felt herself starting to giggle.

Quickly she stopped herself, wondering if the people in the house had heard. This was a really bad time to get silly. Focus, think, what was next? The wheel barrow turned out to be right where Grob had said it would be, hidden just behind the azalea bushes. It was still wet from the morning’s rainfall. The once shiny red paint was rusting off in places, but she could tell it had been really pretty once.

Something was funny about it though, and she tried to figure out what it was. Then she realized – there was no water inside the barrow. That shouldn’t have been possible, so soon after the rain. And that’s when she knew everything was ok. Carefully she climbed in, being careful not to tip it over. Some of the wed mud clinging to the outside of the barrow got onto her skirt, but there was nothing she could do about that. It was only as she sat down, steadying herself, that she became aware that the voices had stopped. She tried not to think about that now. She focused, like she’d practiced, looking up at the picture of the two chickens, focusing on it, thinking about the book like she was supposed to.

Then there were voices again, but now they were much clearer, outside the house. Steps running toward her, angry, shouting, getting closer. She held on tightly to the wet sides of the wheel barrow, resolutely looking only at the picture, putting everything out of her mind except the two white chickens. And then everything went shimmery, and she was back in the library.

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