“It’s HOT!” said Aunt Abby.
“No it isn’t!” shouted Bruce with that sparkle in his eye that said he disagreed to tease.
Aunt Abby scooped him up and tickled him until he screamed.
Joshua laughed and laughed. “Tickle me, tickle me.”
From the front steps of the Grammie’s porch, Jules and Constance watched while they blew big, beautiful bubbles.
“Aunt Abby. Aunt Abby,” Ellie said tugging on Aunt Abby’s jeans. “Tell us a story.”
“Yes!” said Imogene dancing through Grammie’s pumpkin patch.
“NOOOOO!” squealed Bruce almost unable to speak through his giggles.
“Yes!” said Jude unsure of what he wanted but knowing it was the most fun to disagree with Bruce!
“Oh no! Bruce and Jude disagree!” Aunt Abby said theatrically with her hand to her heart.
The seven cousins stopped every busy thing they were doing and stared at her.
“What?” Aunt Abby said.
“You’re silly,” said Bruce.
“So are you!” said Aunt Abby.
Once everyone who wanted to be tickled was tickled and even a few who didn’t, Aunt Abby herded them all inside for some cold water and a story.
Once upon a time, there was a drought over the land. It seemed like summer would never end. It seemed like the long hot days that bleached the sky white and trapped every Texan inside would continue forever. Seven cousins sat on the back porch looked out over the brown grass, the giant grasshoppers, and the wilted trees. Jules, the oldest, sighed.
“I wish it wasn’t so hot.”
“Me too,” said Constance, the second oldest. “It’s too hot to even go find bugs and things.”
“No it isn’t,” said Bruce who couldn’t believe there was ever a time when it wasn’t a good idea to go find bugs. His baby brother, Jude, completely agreed.
“I don’t think it’s too hot to go find bugs,” Jude said.
“Me either,” said Joshua, Constance’s little brother.
“Let’s go bug hunting then!” said Ellie. “It can be an Adventure! Adventures are the best!”
Imogene leapt up ready to go. The sun glinted in her red hair. “I’ll go with you!”
The giant scramble off the front porch didn’t result in any injuries, but did produce quite a few yells and screams and laughter.
Out into the grasshopper infested yard, the children ran wild. The hot sun beat down on their fair skin. Jules wiped the sweat out of her eyes as Bruce charged up with a three-inch grasshopper wiggling in his fingers.
“Look! I got one!”
“Me too!” said Joshua.
Constance, Imogene, Ellie, and Jude danced and dashed after their intended prey but the grasshoppers stayed a few hoops away from the cousins.
“Gross, Bruce!” Jules said.
“I don’t say that,” Jules hissed. “That’s what Aunt Liz always says.”
“I know,” Aunt Abby said. “But since this is a story about all of you and not about Aunt Liz, you get to say what she always says.”
“I guess that’s okay,” Jules said.
“Good,” said Aunt Abby.
Imogene stopped chasing her grasshopper and stepped under Grammie’s tree.
“My skin is warm,” she said holding out her arm for Constance to inspect.
“It’s a sunburn,” Constance whispered.
“My eyes hurt,” Jude said squinting up at the bright sky.
“Don’t look at the sun!” Jules said. “It will make you go blind.”
All the cousins immediately looked down at their toes and only peeked up at the sky.
“It’s too hot to chase bugs,” Ellie said, her face red and warm.
Bruce brushed his hair back out of his face. It stuck out heavy with sweat.
“We should go in,” he said. “It’s just too hot.”
“Look!” Imogene shouted. “A butterfly!”
A huge orange and black butterfly fluttered by the seven cousins. It headed back towards Grandpa and Grammie’s shaded porch. The seven children chased after it. Just as they came up on the porch, the butterfly twisted in the air and flew back out in the yard. Grammie came out the door with a bucket full of ice.
“Look Grammie,” Constance said pointing. “It’s a butterfly.”
“It’s a monarch butterfly,” Grammie said. “Do you know what that means?”
Seven serious cousins shook their heads.
“It means fall’s coming.
“Fall?” Imogene said.
“Yes, and after fall, after pumpkins, leaves, and cold east winds, comes Christmas!”
All seven cousins cheered!
“Christmas is the best,” shouted Jules.
“Yes it is,” Grammie said. “Now, who wants to play in the pool?”
“Me!” A chorus went up. Grammie turned on the hose, filled the pool, and added the bucket of ice to keep everyone cool.
“The End!” said Aunt Abby.
“Is it true?” asked Constance.
“That fall’s coming?”
“I hope so,” Aunt Abby said. “And I did see a Monarch butterfly the other day.”
“No,” Constance said. “Not today. Maybe fall can come tomorrow.”
“Oh,” Aunt Abby said. “Okay. Maybe tomorrow. But today is still summer.”
“Then fall,” Aunt Abby said.
“Then Christmas,” Imogene, Jules, Constance, Ellie, Joshua, Jude, and Bruce all said at once.
“Then Christmas,” Aunt Abby agreed.
And the seven little cousins did just like their make-believe selves and hurried out to play in the pool singing Jingle Bells all the way.
Just a few Notes:
1) I’ve been on vacation and realized half way through writing this short story that this post was supposed to be about the Secret Agents. My sincere apologies to anyone I left hanging who has patiently waited for the next part and now must wait for another week. I’m very sorry.
2) A very very happy birthday to my baby sister Liz who is not only one of my truest and dearest friends in the world, but also one of the most beautiful mothers I’ve ever had the privilege to know. Love you! This Christmas story is for you.