The starting sentence for FFF # 15 was suggested by the Frumpy Professor. FFF is organized by Cormac. I have enjoyed this series very much. Anyway my entry this week is late. So without any further comment........................
"He/she saw the orange Necco wafer on the counter top and started to cry."
She saw the orange Necco wafer on the counter top and started to cry.
“What’s the matter with her?”
Boss John turned and looked at his wife. “Huh?” He was busying sorting through the mail that had finally made into their mailbox.
His wife repeated, “What the Hell is wrong with her? She’s crying.”
“Jeezum Martha, I dunno. I found her wandering in the storm up on Hurd Hill near pump station #4. Just appeared in front of the plow between white outs. Almost flattened her. Couldn’t leave her out there in the middle of nowhere, so I brought her home. She ain’t said a word since I picked her up and put her in the truck. You know what I know.” Boss John focused on the mail again.
Seated at the kitchen counter on one of those tall kitchen chairs, sat a very young wisp of a girl wrapped in a blanket, shivering with soaked shoes dripping on the cracked linoleum floor. She was sniffling, saying nothing and had her arms wrapped tightly around her sides. Her chest began to heave as she began sobbing. The tears on her frightened face were the first response of any kind Boss John had heard or seen since he almost ran the plow truck over her in the storm. The orange Necco wafer sat uneaten in front of her.
Boss John tossed the mail in the trash. The one piece he kept he handed to Martha. “Phone Bill. Kinda ironic doncha think? Phone’s been out now three days, but they found a way to get the bill to us.”
He looked at the girl. “So, little one, are you going to tell us your name? Maybe give us a hint where you belong? My names John, this here’s Martha, my wife. She’s a tad contrary, but she’ll warm up to ya if ya give her a chance.”
The tiny waif just sat and shivered. She looked up at John with tear filled eyes. She continued to shiver and say nothing.
Martha came over and parked next to the girl. In what appeared to be an act of warmth and nurturing, she wrapped her arm around the child and bent down to whisper in her ear.
“Lookee here little Miss”, Martha hissed. “Answer the damn question. We got no time or energy to be fooling with children. I spit out six ungrateful pups and I have no notion to deal with a seventh. If you won’t tell us your name I’ll kick your scrawny butt right back out into the snow.” And then she smiled.
This got a reaction from their wet guest. The child’s eyes grew wider and her sniffling stopped as if a switch had been thrown. “Millie………..Millie Johnson ma’am.” She turned to search Martha’s face for the truth of her threat.
“Now that wasn’t so hard now was it ….uh Millie?” Martha turned to Boss John and gave him “You are such a loser” look. Boss John shrugged his “Whatever” shrug. Someone had to bust through the child’s shock. Might as well be Martha. She always did have a way to cut through the Bullshit.
Martha focused on Millie again. “So Millie, where are your folks? And why were you out in this godawful storm?”
“I don’t remember Ma’am.” Millie turned to the counter again and stared at the Necco wafer still sitting there. Her crying had stopped. She looked at the wafer, and then glanced up at Martha.
“Go ahead dear, take it.” Millie grabbed the wafer and put it in her mouth. Martha plopped a few more wafers on the counter. Millie scooped them up. Martha placed the open pack of Neccos in front of Millie.
“John, make your self useful. Heat up some milk. This young lady could use something warm in her belly. And then maybe a bath. What you think Millie? Some hot coco and a warm bath?”
Millie nodded but kept her attention on the remaining Necco wafers on the counter. Martha got up and rummaged around one of the cupboards. Pulling out an old dusty can of Hershey’s Cocoa and a can of Chicken n’ Stars soup.
“Fix her up John. I’m gonna draw up the bath.” Martha left the kitchen. Boss John followed orders and fired up the stove. In quick order Millie had her small hands wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate and a steaming bowl of Chicken n' Stars waiting to finish what the cocoa didn't. Soon Martha came for her. “Bath’s ready little one.”
Some moments later Martha shouted from the bathroom, “John! Get in here, Boss John dropped the dish rag and hurried to the bathroom. In the mirror facing the door, Millie’s anguished face could be seen. Martha stepped to the side so Boss John could see her back. It was covered in welts, healed scars, and new bruises.
“Jesus Christ Millie……..”, Boss John couldn’t finish.
Martha picked up where he left off. “Please child, who did this to you? Your Daddy? Mommy?” She turned Millie around to face them. With her hands firmly gripped on Millie’s shoulders she asked again, “Who did this to you? And please tell us how you ended up out in the storm. I’m not fooling around now child. Tell us.” And she shook Millie hard.
“Easy there Martha. The child is scared witless.” Boss John bent down to eye level with Millie. “Please Millie tell us. We just want to help.”
Millie looked at the two of them. With tears streaming again she began, ”They put me out on the road. Daddy was in the back sleeping and Mommy put me out. Then I heard them crash.”
“What you say Child? They tossed you out of the car?” Boss John was getting agitated. “Who would do that to a child in this weather? And what about your back? Jesus Christ…………” And John shut his mouth with a snap.
Martha broke the awful silence of the moment. “Well Millie, let’s get you that bath now. We’ll figure out what to do tomorrow.” Boss John was not moving. Martha looked at him and snapped her fingers in front of his face. “Now go on John, get on out of here. The lady needs her privacy.”
In a few minutes Martha joined John in the kitchen. He was just wringing out the dish rag. “John, she said something about a crash. Maybe you ought to head up Hurd Hill to see what’s up. Hate to pull two frozen bodies out of the banking come Spring even if they were lowlifes.”
Boss John considered what she said. He started to speak up but one look from Martha told him she was serious. Without a word, he grabbed his jacket, wool cap and headed out into the blowing snow to the plow truck parked near the barn.
This storm had to be on it’s last legs he thought as he headed up Hurd Road in the town plow. Nor’easters like this one never seem to last longer than 36 hours or so. But Jesus, didn’t it dump some snow on them. Based on the nonstop plowing of the last 24 hours, Boss John figured there had to be a couple of more feet on the ground.
Lost in his thoughts about the storm, Boss John had nearly crested the hill before he began to give any thought about where he had run across Millie. Was it on this side or the other? Half way up or halfway down?
Frustrated, Boss John threw the tranny in low/low and crawled up the hill all the while trying to see through the blowing snow for any sign of an accident. The plow truck crested Hurd Hill and began it’s descent into Lincoln, the next town. About halfway down, he noticed something odd about the guardrail on the left. It was missing or covered with snow. He stopped and ran back. Shining his huge flashlight up the snow bank, he spotted it. The guardrail had a missing space. The parts he could see on either side had raised up higher than the rail before or after. He muscled his way to the top of the banking and shined his light down into the ravine. Down some yards buried hard was the red glimmer of what had to be a tail light. Dimly it flickered between white outs.
Snow blowing in his face, he stood at the top considering what to do. No way around it, he would have to go down there. Shit. Snow must be 5 foot deep here. With a shrug, Boss john headed down the side of the embankment.
It was a week later the State Police finally located the next of kin. Seems Millie came from Indiana. Leastways, that’s where her closest kin lived. Her parents were on the move more than they were still, what with her father being a proven deadbeat and convicted wife beater. The kin had no interest in Millie, having failed repeated requests over the following months to drive the 950 miles to fetch her. Millie was taken in by the state and fostered out.
Early in the spring, an elderly couple stepped into Ms Jansen’s office over to the Health Human Resources Building in Lincoln.
Ms Jansen looked over the top of her glasses at the pair standing in front of her desk. “Now you folks understand this is on a trial basis. For both of you. If Millie has any trouble, we’re taking her back. I’ll be by to check on how things are going.” She studied the older couple hard. “If you’ll just sign here. Name and date.” She held a ball point pen up for one of them to take.
Two days later a nondescript black Dodge Caravan showed up in the door yard of Boss John and Martha’s spread at the foot of Hurd Hill. Ms Jansen stepped out of the driver’s side. Millie jumped out of the passenger side. Boss John came out of the barn. Martha opened the front door. Awkward moments passed as everyone stood looking at each other.
Martha headed down the porch steps just as Millie broke from the side of Ms Jansen. Running towards Martha, she hollered, “Ma Martha, they said I could come live with you. Can I? Please? She wrapped her small arms around Martha’s legs.
Martha looked frustrated and flustered. Pushing Millie back and holding her by the shoulders she looked down at this child who had won her heart. She held her finger up across her lips. Bending down, Martha whispered in Millie’s ear, ““Lookee here little Miss”, We got no time or energy to be fooling with children. I spit out six ungrateful pups already and I have no notion to deal with a seventh. If you don’t behave I’ll kick your scrawny butt right back out into the next snow storm come next winter.” And then she smiled.