Chapter 8: Charming
Est. Reading Time: 7 mins
A little boy in a faded green t-shirt sat on the stairs leading down from the front porch of his house, tanned legs sticking out of denim shorts, nicked and bumped in the way so many summer-busy children's legs are. He had a recorder on the stair next to him, ignored for the moment as he gazed down at a large gray and white bunny sitting on the walkway in front of him. As Almondine walked by he called out, "Hey, would you like to see something amazing?"
Always game to see something amazing, Almondine stopped and turned towards the boy and said, "Absolutely." She walked a few steps up the dirt path between banks of wild flowers, and closer to the rabbit and boy.
A woman appeared in the screen door behind the boy and smiled at Almondine who nodded in return. The woman turned away from the screen door and walked straight back to a kitchen table lit by the afternoon and sat down to shell peas into a large white bowl. She could still see and hear her son without making him feel like he couldn't be the wonderfully welcoming and offbeat little boy he was. She did not want her son to be afraid of the world, but she knew enough of the people in it to be cautious for him.
Almondine stood with her thumbs hooked under her backpack straps and waited as the boy placed his fingers in their precise spots on the recorder. He began to play, a reedy, if sort of plastic sounding music started to flow and soon the bunny, who had turned his attention to some leaves on the edge of one of the banks of flowers, turned and began to hop toward the boy. The rabbit hopped up three steps and then flopped over onto its side next to the boy. The boy stopped playing and ran a hand back and forth over the smooth down of the rabbits stomach. The rabbit stretched its back feet and Almondine could see tufts of white fur sticking out from in between the rabbits toes, and she wondered if they felt like feathers.
"I'm an animal charmer! Or a bunny charmer at any rate," the boy said.
"That's very impressive. I didn't know that such a skill existed and now that I have seen it, I am a little jealous and a little charmed myself. May I pet your rabbit?" Almondine asked.
"Sure," the boy said and Almondine climbed the few steps. She glanced into the kitchen just down the hall and waved at the woman at the table before pointing down the rabbit. The woman nodded once. She thought the girl seemed rather guileless and strangely hard to define age-wise. When she saw her smile through the mesh of the door she thought she looked very young, not all that older than her own children, but when she had first seen her standing in the path with her dusty shoes and bag she had thought her to be college aged.
Almondine sat down on the stair and gently ran a finger along the bridge of the rabbit's nose. The fur was soft and warm as it wriggled beneath her finger.
"What's your bunny's name?"
"This is Pip. My sister and I named him Pipi before we knew he was a boy, and then we had been calling him by that name for so long that we couldn't change it all together, but luckily Pip worked just as well."
"Hello, Pip, it's very nice to meet you," Almondine said, now running her hand along his smooth side. Pip lazed on the warm stair, a small twitch of his nose his lone activity.
"And I'm Auggie and that's my mom inside, and somewhere is my sister Aggie. We're twins. Mom named us August and Agatha. Aggie's an animal charmer too," he said in a long rush, kicking heels against the step below.
"That's amazing," Almondine said, referring to both a chance to meet twins, but also twins who were animal charmers. Almondine supposed she was a bee-charmer and made a note to consider this title the next time she introduced herself to someone, but she had never thought about charming animals with music.
"Aggie," Auggie yelled into the house.
"August, please don't shout inside," his mother said from the kitchen.
"I'm not inside, Aggie is," Auggie said back.
"You know what I mean," his mother said, hands never stopping from the shelling.
There was a rapid thunder of feet on stairs and when a girl with Auggie's eyes and the same hair color but in two sprouting pigtails at the top of her head arrived at the entry floor she said, "What?"
"I was just telling, um what's your name?"
"I was just telling Almondine that you can charm animals too. I showed her what I could do with Pip. Do you want to show her how you can charm Pepper?"
"Sure," the girl said with a shrug and then scurried into the next room. She returned holding a ukulele in her right hand and then pushed the screen door open with her left.
"Mom we're going in the backyard to see Pepper," Auggie called in to his mother.
"Okay," she called back. She picked up her bowl of shelled peas and brought them over to the counter where she would be able to keep an eye on the children through the kitchen window.
Almondine followed the two children, they walked in sync, their blonde hair the same corn silk color. Auggie pushed a gate door open and Aggie and Almondine followed. Aggie latched the gate behind them. In the back corner of the yard that was a little wooden building surrounded by thin circular wire. Inside the cage were two chickens pecking at the feed on the ground and occasionally stopping and staring out at the world, thinking chicken thoughts.
"Hello, Pepper, hello Red," Aggie said to the two chickens standing outside.
"Rock A Doodle is probably inside," Auggie said.
"I see," Almondine replied.
Aggie walked over to the wire and pulled a section back, untying a loop of ribbon that had been holding it shut. The chickens went about their business until Aggie started to play.
She strummed her fingers against the ukulele her head bobbing back and forth as a lively little tune started up. Almondine felt her foot tapping to the beat. Suddenly, one of the chickens beat feet to zip out of the pen and into the open grass at Aggie's feet. "Yeah, Pepper," called Auggie.
The chicken popped her head out and back, ruffles of feathers along the front of her neck likea flouncy shirt appearing and disappearing to the rhythm of the music. She hopped from one clawed foot to another and began to circle around the children while Aggie strummed and Auggie clapped to the beat. Almondine grinned and clapped as well, foot still tapping, watching Pepper the chicken dance her feverish dance. Auggie and Almondine began turning in circles with Pepper, popping their heads back and forth too. Almondine shook her shoulders from side to side enjoying the music.
Aggie stopped the song with a final forceful strum of the uke and then settled into a deep bow as Almondine and Auggie clapped and Pepper went back to searching the grass for things to eat.
"That was one of the most magnificent things I've ever seen," Almondine said, "Thank you so much for sharing that with me."
"No problem," Aggie said with an air of nonchalance and a shrug, but the grin on her face showed that she had enjoyed the performance and the praise.
The twins walked Almondine back up front and their mother came to stand in the front screen door encouraging them to come inside and wash their hands before helping her get supper ready. Almondine thanked the woman for letting her stop by and hear the music and the woman nodded. She waved goodbye to Aggie and Auggie and then set off down the road. Aggie's music followed her in her mind as she shuffled and hopped along the road in between her usual strides. She thought she'd like to take up an instrument, see if she could charm her bees into dancing.