Friday, December 7, 2018

A New Kind of Gingerbread Chapter 3


Chapter 3
December 1887

“A great sermon today,” Riley confided on the ride home.
“Mm-hm.” Andi laid her head back and closed her eyes. “Mother’s Sunday dinner was good, too. I reckon you won’t have room for any of that gingerbread you wanted earlier this morning.”
“You falling asleep?” Riley asked.
“Maybe.”
“All you want to do recently is sleep,” Riley said. Anxiety seeped into his voice. “It’s unlike you, and I’m getting concerned.”
“You don’t have to.” Andi’s eyes flew open, and she sat up straight. “It’s nothing. Caring for a baby is new to me—”
   “And so is caring for a raccoon at the same time,” Riley cut in.
   Andi’s gaze fell. “Maybe.” What was he getting at?
“That pet is like the lamb all over again,” Riley said.
From the corner of her eye, Andi could see her husband shake his head. “He’s not. He’s a lot of fun. Unlike Jasper, he’s hardly any trouble at all. He’s never gone after the chickens, and he knows my voice. I enjoy playing with him.”
“I still say it’s too much.” Riley took a breath. “And so does your mother.”
“Mother?” Andi looked up. “What do you mean?”
“She pulled me aside after the meal today, while you were chatting with Chad. She wants to know why you were so languid and unlike yourself. I told her.”
“Told her what?”
“About Gingerbread, and Jared, and the housework. She agreed it was too much for a new mother to take on all at once.”
Andi sighed. “It’ll only be for a week or so more, Riley. Just ’til Gingerbread can take care of himself.”
“No, Andi, I think he’s old enough to look after himself now. I’m looking after you.”
Andi slumped in her seat and stayed quiet the rest of the way home.
***
Riley pulled Ranger to a stop in the Memory Creek driveway and took Jared while Andi jumped down. Then he handed over the baby and leaped to the ground.
“What’s up with Tucker?” He glanced toward the house. The dog was barking at the door.
   “For sure I don’t know,” Andi answered. “Tucker! Come here, boy.”
   The dog bounced and barked, ignoring her. “I’ll see what’s up,” Andi said.
   She made her way toward the house and opened the door. A flash of black and brown caught her eye. 
Gingerbread! What’s he doing in the house?
A moment later, her question was answered.
The kitchen was a mess. Flour and the coffee leftover from breakfast covered the floor. Andi’s pan of fresh-baked gingerbread lay in crumbs, both on tabletop and floor. Worse, as she watched, Gingerbread waddled up onto the table and began to help himself to her large pan of eggs. 
“Oh, no. No, no, no!” Andi glanced behind her shoulder. Riley was coming inside. What will he say when he sees this? There was no way to hide the evidence of Gingerbread’s morning adventures. 
Andi's moans sent Gingerbread running. Egg in hand, he dropped from the table, to the chair, and out the door.
Riley stepped inside. He barely missed tripping over the brown and black streak. The raccoon shot between Riley's legs and out the door just as the screen door slammed shut. strode over.
"What on earth?" Riley stopped short. He jerked his thumb behind his shoulder. "Is that what I think it is? A thieving raccoon with one of our eggs?" 
When Andi nodded, Riley set his jaw. “That’s it. I’m sorry, but this is the last straw. The raccoon is going.”
“Oh, please, Riley, no.” Andi caught his arm. “It’s my fault, really. I left the window open. I guess I didn’t shut his stall door all the way, either. He must’ve left the barn and gotten curious, so he climbed in. I can clean it up—”
“No. That raccoon is nothing but trouble. My mind is made up.”
“What—what are you going to do with him?”
“I’m gonna take him where he belongs—back to the wild.”
With that, Riley left the house. Tucker followed at his heels. Andi bit her lip and stood at the window.
She held Jared and watched as Riley hitched Ranger and Buster to the wagon, then entered the barn. He came out a moment later with Gingerbread in his arms.
’Bye, Gingerbread. Andi’s throat tightened. I’m gonna miss you.
Riley dumped Gingerbread into the wagon bed and climbed onto the spring seat. He flicked the reins.
It wasn’t long before they’d disappeared over a rise.
***
Later that day, Andi went out to spend a few minutes with Shasta. Riley had rocked Jared to sleep, and she had spare time on her hands. At last!
After throwing on a sweater, Andi made her way to the barn. A thick overcast of gray clouds had gathered in the sky.
   More rain. Inwardly, Andi groaned. She’d already seen more than enough of rain over the last few weeks. In California, we don’t get snow. We get rain.
Andi had wanted to travel into the Sierras with her brothers. Seeing mounds of glistening, beautiful snow was a special treat—and so much better than seeing buckets of gray, listless raindrops.
Andi entered the barn…and stopped dead in her tracks. All thoughts of snow and rain flew from her head. “Gingerbread? Is that you? It can’t be…”
But when the raccoon stood and covered his eyes (another trick Andi had taught him), there was no doubt about it.
Her raccoon had come back.
What will Riley say about this?
Andi knelt and rubbed at her pet’s head. The raccoon dug his paws into her long, dark braid.
“Hey, now, quit it.” Andi gently pushed his paws away. “What am I going to do with you?”
The raccoon pulled away and covered his eyes again, as if to say, “I’m sorry, but I just had to come back.”
Andi laughed. “C’mon. We have to take you up to the house. Riley needs to know you’re back.”
From behind her came the sound of dog’s feet treading on the barn floor. A moment later, Tucker was at her side, yipping. 
Gingerbread startled at this new threat. Then he reacted, as only a frightened raccoon could. He snarled and bared his teeth. 
“Whoa, hold it!” Andi reached for her pet. A second later, she felt searing pain rip through her arm. “Ouch! Don’t bite me.”
Gingerbread paid her no mind. He launched himself at Tucker. The two wrestled on the ground for a barely half a minute before the raccoon took its leave. He ran from the barn and practically vanished into thin air.
“Tucker! Bad dog.” Andi rubbed at the bite mark on her arm. Blood oozed. She bit her lip.
Tucker whimpered and stepped forward.
“Did the raccoon bite you too?” Andi looked him over and found a bitemark much like her own on the dog’s left ear. Not good.
If Riley hears about this, he won’t let Gingerbread come back. He’ll take him into the wild and make sure he never comes back.
Andi looked into Tucker’s dark eyes. “Not a word about this, hear?”
The dog whimpered again. “If Riley hears that Gingerbread bit me and you, he’ll be madder than a peeled rattler.” She shuddered. “That wouldn’t do. I want Gingerbread to come back, and if he does, I want to keep him. Riley would not allow it if he knew about our bites.”
Her conscience pricked her. Deep down, she knew it wasn’t right to keep a secret from Riley.
It’ll only be for a little while, she argued. Only until I’m certain that Gingerbread isn’t coming back. It’s not like it’s major or anything—although Riley would say it is.
She looked again at the mark on her arm. It was not a pretty sight. I better wash it off and pull my dress and sweater sleeves over it. It’ll hide it…for now.

10 comments:

  1. Uh oh! I don't think that that was Gingerbread. This was great! I can't wait for more.
    Didi

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  2. Oh nooo! Not a good idea Andi! I can’t wait for next Friday! -Mae

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  3. It might be a rabid raccoon!

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  4. Oh dear... That coon could have a disease and she and the dog could both get sick! :O (Or the cut really get swelled up) I can't wait to hear more!

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  5. Oh no!!! This is terrible! *marks calendar*

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  6. Ooooooooh, Andi!! Gingerbread bites you and your dog, and you STILL want him?! If it were me, I'd throw him out! There's a reason why Chad was so strict about what you were allowed to keep as a pet! And . . . Riley isn't going to be happy. He IS, however, going to end up finding out.

    Great story, Mrs. Marlow! Putting an problem-causing character in your stories (Gingerbread) is one of the reasons I like your books! :)

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    1. I totally agree! There is NO books better then yours! Thanks once again!

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  7. What made him bite her? Will she be okay? Poor Andi!
    Sage

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  8. This was great! I really like it!
    Emily

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  9. I loved this. I'll be counting the days until i can read more!

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Let Andi know what you think!