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The International Writers Magazine - Our Tenth Year: Feathers

Water Colored Memories
Marcia Dumler

"Buttercup! Stop that! You're going....." too late, the glass of water top heavy with my water color brushes had already tipped onto my therapy painting for today. I was painting a fall scene, trees with colored leaves. Now it reminded me of something else entirely. Buttercup had transformed the trees outside my window to a memory of long ago. My fat yellow tabby cat was an inspired artist. With a slinky purr, she placed one foot on the soggy painting.

"No, Buttercup, you've done enough for today. I'll give you something to eat so you can find another project," I cautioned her, as I limped slowly into the kitchen. My knee and hip joints weren't what they used to be but what did it matter if I just painted.

After feeding Buttercup, I returned to my work. I suppose I'll have to burn the lot of them, I complained to myself. Who would want the musings of an old woman, no real talent anyway, but in its own way, amusing. This one, that Buttercup had helped me with.........Hmm, a touch of blue in the sky, Yes, it reminded me of those days when I was very young, before the rigor of school, but not like most children because my parents were custom cutters, and we followed the harvest from the south to the north.

I could see my mother, prim and proper as she always was, never a hair out of place with a colorful house dress. She fried tons of chicken, made the best doughnuts, and always had time to sing and play games.

My older sister, Gerry, though only nine liked to flirt with the teen-aged boys. They liked her tom-boy attitude, and that blonde hair and the freckles across her nose.

I couldn't remember a time when Gerry wasn't noticed by boys. To be fair to her, we met few girls on our march from west Texas to North Dakota. I think she had girl friends when she went to school in our mid-plains home base, but with starting the year late and leaving early the friendships were hard to maintain.

I didn't know this at the time before I started to school in the first grade. I was always within sight of my watchful mother. There was always a new farm kitchen to explore or a fenced in farmer's yard. It was in just such a yard that I acquired my life-long fear of things with feathers.

Mother was baking pies. They smelled wonderful, cinnamon and apples, the aromas floated heavily on rthe air. "Go outside and play," she said. I knew she was afraid the warm pies might be irrestible.

I wasn't unhappy because I'd wanted to get a look at the side of the house where grass and weeds grew over the bump of a storm shelter. I had no idea what a storm shelter was but it sounded exotic so I set out. Mom watched from the window. I could tell by her expression, with her full lower lip stuck out just a bit, that she was concentrating on the task at hand.

After drawing in the dust with a handy stick for a short period of time, I was off on an adventure. There was the shelter, with the door, wooden, grayish boards, lying comically on its side. I thought about giving the metal opener a pull. I looked around in case anyone was in sight. No one. I leaned over and just then, there was a cackle and something heavy landed squarely on my back.

I screeched louder than the cackle, flung my hands to my back, felt the unmistakable feathers and started running in a bent over position.

By the time I'd turned the corner of the house, the bird had moved up toward my shoulders and was hanging for his life with claws digging in and wings flapping. What a sight we must have been! Mom came running out of the kitchen, her untied apron flying behind her.

She grabbed my arm in one hand and the wing of the bird in the other. She let go of the bird and wrapped me in her arms. Through my tears I watched the rooster, running and flapping his wings. He was as glad to be rid of me as I was him. I think he flew back over the fence to the chicken run and his group of hens.

Mom dried my eyes with her apron and escorted me back inside mumbling, "I turn my back one minute, and now I burned the pie!"

She sat me down at the tablle with a glass of milk still warm from the morning milking. "I guess you may as well have some of this pie," she grumbled. "The men won't eat crust this brown."

I was not unhappy with that development.

That night at supper on the long tables set up on saw horses, I was the topic of conversation. "You should have seen Jean-Ann," mother chuckled. "Her face was redder than it is now! That rooster will think twice about flying over the fnce."

I wanted to disappear. I could feel my nose beginning to run. Unfortunately, unlike my older sister, Gerry, I had inherited my father's rather large nose. Gerry and I had often said he reminded us of a walrus with his large nose and full mustache. My pale skin and light blond hair--the same color as a palomino horse's tail--intensified the red of my blush. Of course, everyone laughted at that too.

I could eat no more and slunk off to the make-shift bunkhouse and room I shared with my parents. The shame of the whole affair with no place to hide.

"Well, Buttercup," I said to the cat, "it has taken me sixty years to find the story of the rooster and the caped super Mom funny. I guess that's because I only have you to tell it to. Nearly everyone else is gone now. I think it is time for one of those 'cat naps'. We'll paint more later."

© Marcia Dumler September 2009

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