Followed by the smell of Chanel Number 5, Judith Summers rushed into the white painted house grasping her five year old, wild haired son Tommy by the wrist. So hurried was she that she did not even notice the smell of fresh dewberry pie that wafted through the living room. But Judith Summers was constantly hurried and her sister Jo told her so.
“Child, you need to slow down,” she said standing in the doorway of the kitchen, fists on her wide hips. A bright red apron that stretched across her thick midsection was covered in flour and her dyed blue hair was just as crazy as her nephew’s.
“Sorry Jo, my flight leave in a few hours and you know the nearest airport is an hour away,” Judith said readjusting the Coach purse draped over her bony shoulder. “Thanks for taking care of Tommy again.” She ruffled her son’s hair and without another word rushed out the door back into the dusty wind.
Jo shook her head. “That girl,” she mumbled. Her eyes, the color of blue bonnets, turned to her nephew who was teetering backward under the weight of his ripped, red duffle bag. “Well, Tom looks like it’s just you and me son. Let’s get you settled upstairs and then you can have some pie.”
Tommy grinned revealing a large gap between his teeth.
The two of them clomped up the stairs, Jo pausing every once in a while to help Tommy who constantly stumbled over his Superman shoelaces. When they reached his ‘special’ guest room, a room Aunt Jo had made up pink in anticipation for a girl; Tommy dropped his bag and flopped onto the frilly bed, a sigh banishing the air from belly in a loud whoosh.
Jo looked down at her nephew. His chubby cheeks were red from heat stair climbing. She sank down next to him, springs protesting her weight. He looked up at her. By some chance God blessed him with her blue eyes rather than Judith’s brown ones. She smiled at him. “Ready for some pie, hon?”
“Can I have milk?” The boy asked.
“Of course you can honey.”
Tommy jumped off the bed and ran down the stairs toward the kitchen, shoelaces flopping like dog-ears. Jo followed his bouncing, blond head. The boy slipped on her bristly red and blue rug but recovered quickly and darted into the black and white tiled kitchen. He hopped up onto one of the wooden chairs surrounding the table. His legs dangled above the freshly cleaned floor. As Jo sliced into the golden crust he flicked the fake berries that hung from a wax plant at the center of the table.
From the living room came the rusty song of the old grandfather clock. Tommy’s eyes darted through the door and he gasped slightly. That clock had always frightened him.
Jo placed the piece of pie in front of her nephew on a plastic purple plate along with a glass of milk. She then sat beside him with her cup of coffee, black. “So Tommy, how is school going?”
“It’s ok,” Tommy said through a mouthful of dewberries and piecrust. He swung his legs back and forth and berry blood stained his finger tips. “We just had career day and there was this guy who was a fireman, and a guy who did something with rocks, and a guy who wrote stuff. It was pretty cool. Aunt Jo, what did my Daddy do?”
Jo raised her brows. Judith hadn’t ever told him, of course, why tell the child something like that? Mark Summers had died of a heart attack when Tommy was two. He had been out mowing the lawn and it just happened. One minute there, and then the next…“Well sweetheart,” she said. “Your father was a teacher. He taught high school Chemistry.”
“What’s Chem-ch- what’s that?”
“Chemistry,” Jo said rather slowly. “Is when people study tiny little things that you can’t see with your eyes.”
Tommy cocked his head to the side. He was still holding his fork in his fist and sucking on one of his very purple fingers. “What kinda things?”
Jo thought for a moment taking a long sip of her coffee. The tips of her fingers traced the raised outline of the blue cat on the front of her mug. “Small things,” she said. “You’ll learn about it one day.” She watched her nephew as he licked the bluish juice from the plate and shook her head. “Child, were you raised to lick your plate clean?”
The boy grinned.
“You silly boy.” Jo stood and took his plate. She walked to the sink and ran the water. Steam rose up into her face fogging her glasses. “So Tom, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
Blue fore finger still flicking the fake berries on the plant and chin resting on his palm Tommy rolled his eyes up to the white ceiling, Jo’s glow in the dark stars yellow in the day light. “I wanna go to the moon,” he said finally.
“So you want to be an astronaut?”
“No, I just want to go to the moon.”
Jo smiled. “How are you going to get there?”
“Aunt Jo,” the boy said as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “I’m gonna fly.”
“Well Tom I didn’t know you could fly.” Jo dried the plate and put it back in the cabinet. She covered her pie with saran wrap then walked back to the table and put her hand on her nephew’s head.
“Of course I can,” he replied.
Jo poked him in the ribs. “Oh really?”
“Come on kiddo you wanna play outside or something?”
Tommy slid off the chair and ran to the back door. Jo laughed and unlocked it watching him run outside. The boy turned around and looked at her. “Aunt Jo, can we play with your marbles?”
“Sure we can dear.”