Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Day Three-Fifty-Eight: A happy chat

When I trekked into the forest today and was sucked into June's home I found two surprises waiting for me. Their existence wasn't the surprise, so much as their presence in June's home.

"Hey," Libby said offhandedly as she bent over June's writing table. "What're you doin' here? Thought you had to help uproot more winterweed."

I hesitated. Something in her voice bugged me. Accusation? "Uhh… I switched with Lonnie. What're you…? Where's Grayson…?"

Libby pointed. Grayson was sitting in front of the fire, cross-legged, looking deeply into the swirling, weird eyes of June, who was similarly cross-legged. Neither spoke to the other.

"They've been like that for almost an hour," Libby said, preoccupied with the spread of parchment on the desk. "She's a damned good babysitter. He hasn't made a peep."

"… great." I tried to peer around Libby's shoulder. "Whatcha doin'?"


"On what?"

"Parchment. Before you ask, I'm usin' a pencil." She waggled a stubby orange shaft for me to see.

"Pencil?" I arched an eyebrow. "The hell is a pencil?"

"You here for somethin', Dragomir?" Libby turned to glare at me. "June asked me to draw up a schematic for her. I'm drawin' it up. You're makin' it hard to do that. You got business with her, you go talk to her."

Libby turned back to her drawing. Exhaustedly sticking my tongue out at my wife's back, I went and sat by the fire, watching Grayson's stare-down with the witch.

They still hadn't moved, hadn't acknowledged my presence in the room. That worried me. Grayson hardly looked sick or ill or otherwise uncomfortable, but he had a mischievous smile on his face that hinted at something deeper than a simple staring contest. I might have been more worried if June's eyes had been glowing orange, but they were her usual greyish-white, her pupils spinning crazily in angled arcs.

I poked Grayson experimentally. He smiled, but he still had his eyes on June. "Hi, daddy."

I smiled, despite myself. "Wow. You're getting' good at talkin', kiddo. Whatchaaaaaa doin' here, eh?"

"June is teaching me. I'm teaching her."

"Oh yeah?" I went down on my haunches and waved a hand between their locked gazes. No response. "Ain't that something. What're you teaching her?"

"Not to dig."

"… okay…" I thought back to Grayson's weird words, so long ago. His first words. In the shadow of the mountain range. "And what's she teaching you?"

Grayson's smile deepened. He looked far too old. "To dig."

A hand caught me in the back of the head, then, and as I whacked my forehead off the chair by the fire June's shadow fell over me. She kicked me once in the side, her foot too small and weak to cause any damage but nevertheless knocking me away from my son.

"You twit," she said, glaring at me as I picked myself up. "We were talkin'. You don't interrupt a good conversation. What the hell do ya want? Eh? Eh? Speak up, mayor, speak up."

"You're all too loud," Libby said behind us, grunting. "Knock it off."

"Yes, momma," Grayson said happily, hopping onto the chair and kicking his feet. I hadn't realized he could hop like that. Wasn't he in my backpack less than a week ago?

"I wanna know," I said, seating myself in a corner and accepting a steaming cup of tea from Julius, "a lotta things. Like, too many things."

"I see." June accepted a different cup, this delivered by a hand that emerged from her hair. 

I shivered and stared, watching the hand recede into her messy tresses. No one else seemed to care. "… you… willing to talk straight, for once?"

"Naw." June sipped her tea, coughed, and angrily poured the remainder on the floor. She wagged a finger at her own head. "I TOLD you not to use bloody chamomile, Maurice! I'm not gonna be able t'sleep tonight! You idiot!"

I'm fairly certain I twitched. Grayson, who appeared to be enjoying the spectacle mightily, said "Maurce lives in her hair."

"… yeah… listen, okay, June, I need you to tell me things. Like why - "

"Shut UP!" Libby yelled. "I'm BUSY! Take it outside, dammit, or the old woman doesn't get squat from me!"

"We don't have to. The mayor was just leaving. Weren't you, Dragomir? Here, take your son with you. He's a pest."

June picked up Grayson, handed him to me, and motioned with her hands. Some invisible force slammed into my side, and moments later I was sprawled in the snow outside June's hut, Grayson sitting on my side and laughing. The door clicked shut in our wake and vanished.

Pushing myself into a sitting position, I looked at my son. He beamed back at me.

"Don't worry," he said. "I won't let her dig."

In summary, I'm now more confused than I was before.


Dragomir the Clueless

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