Essie Leaves a Message
“Wow! This is pretty Kick Ass!” Maddie burst out tossing the bat on the sofa and flopping down next to it so she landed in a perfect lounging position hands behind her head. “What brings ya to this part of the world anyway?”
Essie smiled in spite of her deeply anxious feeling.
“I, too, had a dream. I had to find a farm that was a school and I had to find eet on my own. Eet was a turtle that tol’ me thees.”
“Wow! And I thought my dreams were weird. But, I know a woman that runs a farm up in the hills that used to be a hippie boarding school.”
“Yes! Dat ees why I come here!” Essie’s voice gained urgency and hope. “I hear my fren’ talk of thees place before, on Highway 9.”
“I don’t know xactly where it is, but we should be able to call. It’s like Eagle sumptin’ farm or ranch. I’ll get a phone book.”
Maddie immediately went about on a high velocity search of shelves and end tables which were all cluttered with various papers, beer and soda cans, pizza boxes, and dirty dishes.
“Here it is!” Maddie yelled. She held up a thin phone book and jumped over the couch landing in a sitting position already leafing through it.
“E, e, e, a, g. Here she is Eagle Tree Ranch. You wanna call. There’s the phone.” She held up the phone book and pointed to the phone.
Essie dialed carefully looking at the number. It rang several times and then came the message machine. Essie asked Maddie for her number and Maddie wrote it on a scrap of paper and handed to Essie.
“I hope eet was OK to leave, dees number. I dint know the number for the motel.”
“Oh yeah, I’ll take the calls tomorrow, but you’ll have to come back here in the morning. Maybe we can drive out there tomorrow.”
“I haf no car. I heech hiked here.” Essiee shrugged, “Eet ees far, dis place?”
“About 5 or 10 miles I guess. Like I said I been there once on a field trip when I was in 6th grade, and I know the ranch chick from some stuff she did at our school a cupla years ago. I think her name is Emmajean or sumptin like that. Walkin’ would be hard it’s all uphill, and I know there is no sign on the highway for the ranch. It’s off on some dirt and gravel thing way the hell outen the middle of nowhere.”
Essie smiled in spite of the bad news. Maddie was like an electrical outlet charging Essie low batteries.
After getting to know each other a little, Maddie and Essie played a game of gin rummy for peanut MnMs that Essie had in her bag and talked aimlessly about life and this and that. Essie let Maddie win most of the MnMs.
“Well, I should be on my way, now,” Essie said at about 9:30, picking up her bag and moving toward the door.
“Yeah, you must be beat, bein’ on the road and all.”
“You are one sweet keed. Tanks for letting me een. Eeseet OK eef I come by tomorrow and take you out for a burger or somethin’,”
“That would be super di fuckin’ duper. I got nuthin’ to do on Sunday. Debbie hangs out all day watchin’ football and drinkin’ beer. Matt’ll probly be here too, and what a loada’ thrills that is.” Maddie rolled her eyes.
Essie gave her a little hug at the door.
Maddie received it stiffly at first and latched on a little. Essie smiled and peeled away.
“Oh yeah you gotta come back to get your message anyway. Maybe I can help ya find the place, or drum up a ride. Ya’ know you could always stay here. Debbie would hardly even notice.”
Essie smiled a little again. “No, but tank you anyway, I’ll sleep bedder at de motel once I get in and seddled.”
“Go quick. Oh you should go out the back that way if whoever is followin’ you won’t know you’re gone.”
Maddie showed her to the back door, and Essie disappeared into the night without looking back.
Maddie stood and listened, but could not even hear Essie’s footsteps. She went out front and stood on the porch peering out into the dark. She thought she caught the reflection of a light down the street in two amber eyes. They winked out and were gone without a sound. Maddie shivered a little, stepped back in and locked the door. She turned the TV on and flipped channels for a while gave up and went to find her schoolbooks. Debbie’d have a conniption sure if she didn’t have her homework started.
A Message From the Black Bird
Maddie lifted her head off of her science book that lay open on the coffee table as her mother unlocked the front door.
“Hey, sweetie, why aren’t you in bed,” Debbie said as she came with a bag of something from work.”
“Doin’ homework . . . I musta fallen asleep a little.”
“Well its one a.m. and time for bed. Get up there baby and don’t forget to brush your teeth.” Debbie walked over and gave her a pat on the back.
“Alright,” Maddie agreed sleepily and shuffled with half closed eyes to the stairs and up slowly.
“Ganight, princess,” Debbie said and got no answer.
Debbie went to the door and waved to a man sitting in a pick-up parked on the curb out front. He got out carrying a bag full of bottles. He came in as she was getting glasses from the cupboard. He grabbed a piece of her butt as she stretched up for the glasses.
“Now you cut that out, Matt. You’ll make me drop these and she’ll hear us. You know that ruins it for me.”
“Sorry Hon, you jus’ get me all hot and bothered. I jus’ can’t wait.”
“Well, you won’t hafta wait much longer. Jus’ let me get in there and get these clothes off.”
“Now, thas what I liketa hear,” Matt growled and followed her into the bedroom.
Maddie fell into her bed after running a toothbrush over her teeth, more ritual than cleaning. She was asleep before she could cover herself.
The dream came immediately. She was standing in a big field of long dry yellow grass in the distance were oak and scrub bordering the field in all directions and low hills beyond. The grass was tall all around her with no hint of how she had come to this spot. She gazed into the distance and saw a black speck in the gray sky growing larger and taking on a shape. It was a black bird and it came swiftly. She could see it was very large like a raven only larger. It circled around her and flew in a straight line away. Maddie followed trying to keep it in sight. She finally came to the edge of the field, and there was the bird perched on a fence post turning its amber eye to her and croaking. On the other side of the fence was a broad meadow of low green grass. A huge ancient tree twisted low and massive in the middle, its roots like tremendous wooden serpents writhing in and out of the ground around the tree. On the bluff at the far end of the field a yellow house perched. Maddie looked back to where the black bird had been. There was nothing but a cloud of dark mist. A croaking echo came from inside the cloud, “Tegethnot, tegethnot . . . “ Over and over fading with the dream as the mist dissipated in a breath of breeze.
Maddie woke a little, crawling under the covers, and settled in for the night.