Aunt Abby watched the wide-open Texas sky fill with heavy gray clouds. They rolled in on a hot, humid wind that thundered as it came. Around her gathered her nieces and nephews: Julie with her flowing hair and pink boots, Constance with rocks in her pocket and a leaf in her hair, Bruce with a race-car track and motorcycles, Joshua with trains, trains, trains. Ellie laughed at the storm as it tossed leaves and rolled little pebbles. Imogene blew bubbles and smiled with a bright sparkle in her big blue eyes completely unafraid of storms and rain and lightning. Jude watched it all taking in this place his cousins and brother called the world.
“I don’t think we should go out for a picnic today,” Jules said.
“No,” Aunt Abby agreed. “But if the lightning stops, we could go play in the rain.”
“But then we’d get all wet!” Jules gasped.
Aunt Abby bent down to the seven cousins. “Yes, we would! Isn’t it exciting?”
“I don’t know Aunt Abby. . .” Jules said, unconvinced.
“What about the rest of you? Who wants to go play in the rain when it’s safe?”
A quick vote showed that those in favor of getting soaking wet far outnumbered the one dissenting vote. Jules frowned.
“Cheer up, Julie-bear,” Aunt Abby said. “I promise it will be fun.”
“I think it will be fun,” Constance said.
“Can we go now?” Ellie asked with a wide grin.
“Nope, we have to wait for the lightning to go away. It’s not safe to play outside in the lightning in Texas.”
“Why not?” asked Bruce.
Joshua turned big, blue eyes on Aunt Abby that asked the same question.
“Because lightning strikes whatever’s the tallest, and out there there’s not much that’s taller than us.”
“The trees are,” Jules pointed out.
“Yes, but there aren’t a lot of trees. Grammie and Grandpa have lots of open grass without trees where little cousins might get hurt. So, we stay inside until the lightning goes away. Agreed?”
“Will you tell us a story while we wait?” Constance said.
“Story!” Imogene shouted. She knew that word. Aunt Abby made sure of that.
“Yes I can, and I think I know just the one.”
Everyone piled on Grammie’s oversized leather couch, gathered up blankies, dollies, teddies, puppies and a few extra trains. Grammie gave everyone a box of raisins except Jude. Aunt Abby sat on the floor and told her story.
“Once upon a time—
“Western,” Ellie said proudly.
“Is it?” Jules whispered.
“Yes,” Aunt Abby said.
“Once upon a time, seven cousins were trapped in the house with only Grammie and Grandpa. They had eaten raisins, watched movies, played with all the toys three or four times, taken naps, eaten more raisins, and they still could not go outside.”
“What are we going to do with all this excess energy?” Grammie asked Grandpa.
“What’s excess?” Joshua asked just as he lost one of his trains.
Aunt Abby picked it up for him and said, “Excess is when you have too much of something. You have an excess of trains right now.”
“No I don’t,” Joshua said. “I still don’t have Emily the train.”
“I have it!” Bruce said.
“I want it,” said Joshua.
Grammie came sort out the scuffle.
“Back to the story,” Aunt Abby said.
As Grandpa and Grammie pondered how to get rid of all the energy of seven cousins, Bruce spoke up, or rather, he yelled from the far side of the love seat.
“Chase me, Grandpa and Grammie, chase me!” he said, saving the day.
Grammie and Grandpa shared a smile. With a roar much like a mighty lion, Grandpa charged after Bruce, his heavy feet echoing on the tile floor. Bruce squealed and ran off down the hall.
“Get him Grandpa,” Grammie yelled.
With a quick dodge to the right, Bruce managed to just escape Grandpa’s outstretched arms and run back up the hall. He ran ran ran very fast down the length of the house towards the kitchen. The girls—Julie, Constance, Ellie and Imogene—were trying to color on brown paper but couldn’t think of anything to draw when Bruce came running ever so fast around the end of the table. Grandpa’s heavy feet came after him. The girls leaped up with wild yells and ran after Bruce.
“I’ll needs some help, Grammie, rounding up all these wild kids,” Grandpa said in his best ‘John Wayne’ voice.
“Who’s John Wayne?” Constance asked.
“Do your parents teach you nothing?” Aunt Abby said with a theatrical gasp.
“Yes, they teach me to write letters and to read books and play with Joshua.”
“Is John Wayne in Cars?” Joshua asked.
“No, John Wayne is one of Grandpa’s favorite cowboys. When you get older, he’ll tell you all about John Wayne.”
“We can do it!” Grammie yelled running after Grandpa.
Bruce darted around the end of the table, past the kitchen island, and into the living room. The girls followed him, some fast, some tottering on little legs, but all of them giggling and giggling. Joshua dropped his cars, took one look at Grandpa’s outstretched arms and Grammie coming behind him, and raced after his cousins.
“They’re coming!” he yelped.
“Get me! Get me!” Bruce chanted.
All six cousins raced past Jude who waved his little fists to cheer them on, past Great-Gran who watched them go, and down the hall.
Grandpa was coming!
A loud crash shook the house. All six cousins stopped clutching one another in fear. Had a real monster come? Or maybe this John Wayne guy?
No. It was Grandpa. In his stocking feet, he had slipped on the tile and fell right on his backside. The kids watch as he pulled himself up using the back of the love seat.
“I think that’s enough chasing,” he said stiffly.
“Was he okay??” Jules said clutching her leopard tightly.
“Grammie checked on him right away and he was fine,” Aunt Abby said.
The six cousins weren’t ready to stop. They looked at Grammie, waiting with bated breath to see if she would come for them. Grandpa sat down and Grammie turned to the six cousins.
“Here I come!” she yelled.
Screams, gales of laughter, and twelve pattering feet raced away from her. Up the length of the house, she chased them. Down the long hallways they ran.
Bruce slipped on the tile landing on his backside. He lay there for a moment looking up at the ceiling. Everyone crowded around him including Grammie.
“Are you okay?” Grammie asked.
“I think that’s enough chasing,” Bruce said. He climbed to his feet and joined Grandpa on the couch, no longer full of excess energy.
Grammie decided it was time for a quiet movie.
“Cars?” Joshua asked.
“Yes, probably Cars,” Aunt Abby said.
“The end,” Aunt Abby said.
“Is there still lightning that can hurt us outside,” Constance asked.
“Let’s go see.”
Everyone crowded out onto the covered porch and watched the skies. Not one flash of lightning or boom of thunder could be heard or seen.
Only soft showers fell pitter-patter from the sky.
“Looks safe,” Aunt Abby said. “Ready?” She held out her hand to Imogene and shifted Jude to her hip. Jules and Constance clasped hands while Ellie ran out after the boys. They stepped into the gentle spring rain. A great waterfall ran off the corner of the roof. In moments, everyone was soaking wet, laughing, and dancing in the mud and rain. All seven cousins and Aunt Abby lost lots of excess energy.
(This story was brought to you today by Bruce who asked me when we went to the Zoo to tell him a “Once upon a time story about Bruce”. He then proceeded to tell me about Grandpa chasing him and falling down followed shortly by Bruce falling down. I promised him the story, so here it is with the rest of his cousins added in.)