Friday Fiction "Spring Cleaning"

For today's Friday Fiction, I thought I'd post another excerpt from "A Home for Phoebe." I hope you enjoy spring cleaning with Granny and Phoebe. Check out other great stories at Karlene's Homespun Expressions .


Maseppa began wandering each day among the trees and fields, searching for roots and gathering sprouts that dared to show their faces above the soil. Cattail shoots grew along the banks of ponds, and wild asparagus sprouted on the sunny side of the meadow. Pale green birch leaves and the red maple buds filled in the spaces between the dark evergreens, which had tender new needles growing on the tips of each branch. Each evening Maseppa returned with her feet and hands caked with mud and her basket filled with spring treasures.

Sometimes Phoebe went too, but usually she stayed to help Granny. The water in the well had thawed, and Phoebe was learning how to draw it up with the big wooden crank. You had to drop the bucket just right and shake the rope, so to set the bucket on its side, letting it fill. It took all her strength and Granny’s help to turn the handle, winding the rope and pulling the pail of water to the top. But, it was worth the effort. Phoebe loved taking a sip with the tin dipper. It tasted sweeter and colder than any other cup. She would often lean far over the edge and holler into the well’s echoing depths. Granny would grab Phoebe’s skirt because it made her nervous.

The old rain barrel, out back in the corner where the kitchen and the shed roofs met, was overflowing. Granny said rainwater was soft and best for washing her hair and clothes. Phoebe didn’t see how it could be any softer than the water in the well or in the creek. Around the old barrel was always shady where you could occasionally find an orange salamander or bumpy-skinned toad.

With the abundance of water, Granny was cleaning everything in sight. Well, in Granny’s case, everything in touch. She had the wash tub set up near the clothesline and filled with hot sudsy water. She sang loudly as she rubbed the sheets up and down on the ribbed washboard.

“Amazing love…how can it be?”

Phoebe’s first job today was beating the braided rugs, fifteen in all; counting the ten little ones on the stairs, the big one in the front room, and the others in the bedrooms and by the kitchen doors.

Then she dusted the shelves in the front room, filled with fragile porcelain bowls and teacups, and polished the windows that had lots of small panes of wavy glass. The door at the foot of the stairs was flung open, the smells and sounds of spring flowing into every corner of the house.

For a blind lady, Granny sure seemed to let a little dirt bother her. Her fingers could find the tiniest bit of dust and grime. “Wash it again, dear.” She tapped the top of Phoebe’s head. “You missed the corners! When I’m done mopping the floors, we’ll bring in the bedding off the clothesline. It’s fixin’ to rain soon.”

Granny swished the rag mop down the hallway feeling the dirt with her bare toes. Phoebe turned back to the bedroom window with a groan. Granny sure Is fussy. What does it matter if the back window  Is perfectly clean? No one ever looks at it, especially Granny! I hate washing windows!

Ashamed of her attitude, Phoebe put some extra vigor in her scrubbing. That last bit deserved filling the wood box! Phoebe loved Granny, even the way she could feel your thoughts with her bare heart.

Finished with the job, she found Granny sitting on the back steps and sat down next to her. Granny seemed to be listening to something. Phoebe could hear it too. It was the village bell. It seemed to go on and on.

When it finally stopped, Granny whispered, “Eighty-four … Farewell, Ida. God bless you.” She sighed and wiped her hand over her blind eyes. She then tipped her head up and took a deep breath. “The smoke is lying low. Are the swallows swooping close to the ground?”

Phoebe looked closely. Sure enough, the birds flew low over the fields, barely missing the grass. “How did you know?”

“I could hear their rain chirps. ‘Tis different than their sunny songs. I can feel the heavy air too and smell the rain coming, do you?”

Phoebe breathed in the sweet fragrance that hung over the valley. She noticed big, black clouds billowing over the western hills. It’s like the sky is sad for Ida Perkins too. I wonder if she got to see her new grandbaby.

“Granny, will they ring the bell when you die?”

“I reckon so, but not today. The Good Book says, ‘This is the day, which the Lord hath made. We will rejoice and be glad in it!’ Come, let’s get the bedding down before the storm hits.”

Sure enough, with their arms piled high with sheets and blankets, the first drops pelted them as they scurried back to the house. Phoebe buried her nose in the bundle of bedding. She closed her eyes and smelled the soft scent of sunshine. Dropping the clothes on the table, they rushed from room to room, pulling the sashes and doors shut against the rain.

They could hear Shadow barking as he galloped home, the rumbles of thunder nipping at his heels.


Sherri Ward said...

Love your descriptions, Vonnie!

Hoomi said...

I agree - definitely wonderful, vivid descriptions.


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