Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Just Another Day in Paradise

Woke up around 9:00. Stumbled out to the living room and collapsed on the couch. Dinked around online for about an hour. Read my daily Bible reading. Pulled myself up and brushed my teeth. Made oatmeal for breakfast (with cinnamon and raisins). Showered. Shaved my legs.

And I'm exhausted. And I still have to do my exercises.

Everything is SO HARD that it's ridiculous. I hardly drink anything because if I drink I'll have to go to the bathroom and that's just too hard. I am SO ready for this surgery, I can't tell you. The depressing part is that I really don't expect it to help that much -- I know I'm going to have to have the other knee done before there's any big change.

I called the surgeon yesterday to see what the holdup was -- why they haven't called to set a date. They called me today to say that the only thing they're waiting for is the release form for my dentist. Called the dentist. The release form was faxed on April 12 but they will fax it again. Called the surgeon. They will "look for" the release form.

Don't get me wrong -- I know the end is in sight. I just wish it was a little closer, that's all.

I haven't worked on Caroline at all lately because I've been too busy or too tired. Blechh.

But -- I can share chapter seven with you...

Caroline awoke the next morning much earlier than she had planned. Her body was still used to rising just after dawn each day to get ready for school. She kept still for a minute, trying to recall what it was that she was supposed to do that day. The morning sun peeked through a little gap in her bedroom curtains, making a small oval of golden light on her bedroom carpet. A small gold oval…about the size of the tiny picture frame that she’d hidden in her sock drawer!

Suddenly Caroline remembered everything. She jumped out of bed, earning a dirty look from Mrs. Anderson as Caroline bumped her to the floor, and ran over to her dresser where she slid her hand underneath the socks to reassure herself that the frame was still there. After finding it just where she’d placed it, she dressed quickly and went to the kitchen to grab something for breakfast.

Her father was sitting at the table, reading the newspaper. “You’re up early this morning, Little One.  Got big plans for today?”

“Not really, Dad. Alex and I are going to hang out, go to the library, that kind of thing.”

“Don’t forget to stop by Mom’s office. She’s already in the clinic and I’m sure she has a few things for you to do over there.”

Caroline sighed and poured herself a glass of juice. She poked around in the basket of fruit that was sitting on the kitchen counter until she found the ripest plum of the lot. She took a cheese stick, the plum, and her juice and went to sit on the front porch. Barkley followed her, hoping for a bite of cheese.

She sat on the front porch swing, rocking gently and looking up the street to where the dunes led down to the Gulf. She couldn’t actually see the water from where she sat, but she knew it was there. The sound of the waves provided a constant backdrop to her days, a kind of pleasant static that she missed whenever she was away from it for too long. She inhaled deeply, savoring the fresh salt air. If it wasn’t so boring this would be a pretty nice place to live.

She finished her breakfast, saving the last morsel of cheese for Barkley. She made him sit up and she placed the bit of cheese on the top of his nose. He sat perfectly still, watching her intently, waiting for her permission to move. She said, “Good boy,” and he tossed his head, flipping the cheese in the air and then catching it easily as it fell. 

It was already very warm outside and she was beginning to perspire. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it promised to slide from very warm right into hot and humid before the sun climbed too much higher. She wandered over to the clinic to see what her mother needed.

It was too early for new patients so Dr. Brennan was in the back room checking on supplies. She smiled as Caroline walked in.

“Just what I love to see—one of my children up and rarin’ to go first thing in the morning!”

“I don’t know how much rarin’ I’m going to do,” Caroline said doubtfully. “I’m going to hang out with Alex today so I wanted to get my chores out of the way.”

“All right, Hon. Clean the kittens’ cage for me. You can skip the rabbit this morning—I’m going to release him this afternoon, so you can do his cage tomorrow and be done with it. I didn’t have anyone else stay in the back yesterday—everyone just came into the exam rooms and left from there so you really have it easy this morning. I’m going to spay Mr. Soles’ German shepherd this afternoon, though, and she’ll spend the night tonight. Unless we have an emergency, that should be it for the back room. Just check the feeding schedule and that’s pretty much all I need from you this morning.”

“Okay, Mom. Hey—can I release the rabbit for you?”

“You can come with me if you want. I’m going to take him over to Bonita Point—I want to let him go near the same spot where he was found. You can invite Alex and we can bring Donny and stop off for pizza on the way home if you’d like. Your father has a softball game tonight anyway, and Kael can just fend for himself. He was talking about catching a movie with some of his friends.”

“That sounds pretty good. I’ll ask Alex and we’ll stop by later and let you know, okay?”

Dr. Brennan smiled and went back to her inventory. Caroline made short work of the mess in the kittens’ cage and spent a few minutes playing with them. She took them outside and sat down in a shaded spot next to the driveway. She picked up a couple of palm seeds and set one spinning on the pavement. The black kitten pounced immediately, grabbing the hard, marble-sized fruit between his paws. The next moment he was broadsided by his sister and the two of them tumbled together in a furry ball of tiny sharp claws and soft fur.  

Donny came outside, still wearing his pajamas and rubbing sleep from his eyes. He sat down next to Caroline and snuggled against her.

“Like the kittens, Squirt?”

He nodded wordlessly and Caroline hugged him close. “Mom says we can go out for pizza tonight, after we let the bunny go. And maybe Alex will come with us. Won’t that be fun?”

Donny didn’t answer for a moment. “Make me a waffle?” he asked finally, looking up at Caroline with his big blue eyes.

She planted a kiss on top of Donny’s golden curls and nodded. “Let me put these guys back inside and I’ll come right in.”

She was spreading peanut butter on a waffle when Alex knocked on the door.

“Have you eaten anything?” she asked. “I can pop another waffle into the toaster for you,” she offered.

“No, I ate already, thanks. What do you have to do before we can get out of here this morning?”

“I’m just about ready to fly. Hey—Mom’s invited us to join her on a release this afternoon and then we’re going to stop for pizza. Wanna come?”

“What’s a release?” Alex asked.

“Mom works with a wildlife rescue group. People find hurt animals—birds or rabbits or whatever—and bring them to her to fix up. She always tries to release them near the same place where they were originally found, if it’s safe. She’s got a cottontail to set loose this afternoon over on Bonita Point. Mr. M’s Pizza is over there—he makes the best pizza around.”

“We had a deer here once,” Donny interjected through a mouthful of waffle, wanting to be a part of the conversation.

“We’ve had a couple—Donny just doesn’t remember them all,” Caroline explained. “They end up here for all kinds of reasons—dogs, coyotes, cars, guns—and Mom works her magic on them. Sometimes they stay for a couple of weeks—that’s a long time for us to have something that big. We’ve had to go all over creation to let them go.”

“That sounds great,” Alex said. “It’s really nice of you to include me the way you have.”

“Oh, Mom’s thrilled you’re here. Three days ago she had to listen to me complain about how there’s never anything to do in this place over the summer.” Turning to her little brother Caroline said, “Donny, Alex and I are going to the library. Do you want to come?  I think Miss Abby is reading stories this morning. You don’t mind if he tags along, do you?” she asked Alex.

“Yes, yes, I want to come!” Donny crammed the last of the waffle into his mouth and drained his glass of milk with a satisfying, “Ahhhh.”

“Go get dressed and I’ll let Mom know you’re coming with us. Alex,” Caroline turned to look at him. “Will you please go into my room and get the thing we need to take to the library?”

Half an hour later the trio walked into town. As they passed the Sweet Thing Bakery, Caroline waved through the front window to Ruthie and Mrs. Griffith. Mrs. Griffith waved back, a spatula in her hand, and Ruthie smiled at them from behind the counter.

“Ooh, Caroline—can we get a cookie?” Donny pleaded.

“You just finished breakfast! How about if we stop in on our way back home? You can’t bring a cookie into the library anyway.” 

Donny nodded, satisfied, and ran ahead to the steps of the library.

They reached the building just as the children were beginning to sit down for story hour. Donny skipped over and sat next to a little girl from his kindergarten class and soon the group was entranced by Miss Abby’s tale of dragons and brave knights.

Caroline showed Alex where the photocopy machine was. “I forgot to bring quarters! Do you have any? I brought two dollars for the bakery but didn’t think about change for the copier.” she added.

Alex had two quarters in his pocket and by placing the pictures near the bottom of the second page of the letter they were able to copy everything they needed for his fifty cents. Alex had just finished replacing the pictures of Cassie and Chris inside the locket and was putting everything back into the envelope when Caroline remembered that she’d wanted to check for old high school yearbooks.

They sat down at a computer to check the library inventory. Caroline couldn’t find anything useful. Finally Ms. Palmer finished reading to the kids and returned to her place at the information desk. Unfortunately, she didn’t have good news for them.

“We don’t have any yearbooks. They might have copies at the high school—I’m sure they do,” she suggested. “You’ll have to wait until school starts again, I guess.”

“That was a dead end,” Caroline sighed as she and Alex and Donny left the library. 

“It’s okay—we’ll think of something,” Alex said encouragingly as he opened the door to the Sweet Thing Bakery for Caroline and Donny. “Why don’t we take Donny back home and maybe we can find something to do this afternoon. I haven’t been swimming since I got here,” he added.

Mrs. Griffith was behind the counter as they walked in. She smiled and tucked a stray strand of light brown hair behind her ear. “Caroline and Donny and someone I need to meet! It’s so good to see you!”

Caroline introduced Alex to Mrs. Griffith. “Alex—how wonderful to have your family join our community! It’s been so exciting to watch the changes taking place down at your end of the street. I’ll be forever grateful to your parents for bringing that beautiful house and the grounds back to life. How’s your mother, Caroline? Tell her to call me—we haven’t had a ‘Girls Night Out’ in ages!”

After making their selections the three children strolled back to the Brennan house. Barkley was on the front porch, sleeping. He wagged his tail lazily as they tromped by. 

Kael was packing some snorkeling gear in the family room. As they came in he looked up and said, “Donny, Mom wants me to take you to Andrew’s house for the rest of the morning. She’s going to come and pick you up later this afternoon.”

“Andrew’s house! Yay!! I want to wear my Woody hat!”

“Wear whatever you want, Noodle—I need to be out of here in ten minutes.”

“Guess I can leave then,” Caroline looked at Alex. “Why don’t I grab my bathing suit and we can go swimming down by your house, Alex?” She gave Alex the photocopies that they had made at the library and kept the frame and letter for herself. He glared at her for a moment, but then he chuckled and took the papers from her while she went into her bedroom to hide the originals in her sock drawer.

She kept a bag ready with a big beach towel and some sun screen so she quickly slipped on a bathing suit, pulled on some shorts, and stuck her feet into a pair of rubber flip flops. In just a few minutes they were headed down the street, ready to introduce Alex to the Gulf of Mexico.

More later...

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